Millions of Soviets on Bread Line, Pravda Reports

From Reuters

Millions of Soviet citizens live on the bread line with totally inadequate wages or pensions, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported Friday.

“We write very rarely about poor people--pensioners, labor veterans and invalids living on low incomes, about young families living from hand to mouth--yet there are very many of them in our country,” the newspaper said.

Fifteen million people in the Soviet Union live on a pension of less than $97 a month, it added.

Pravda quoted a letter from a war veteran on a $92 monthly pension who complained she had seen little sign of Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reform plans.


“In recent times they talk a lot about perestroika, (restructuring) but for us pensioners, life has become many times worse,” she wrote. “In the evening, when no one is watching, I go to the garbage cans to see if someone has thrown away any old shoes.”

Officials have denied for decades that poverty existed in the Soviet Union but it has been a major theme in campaigning for Sunday’s elections for a new-style Soviet parliament.

Pravda said it received many letters about growing social injustice in the Soviet Union. As the number of entrepreneurs and millionaires rose, the standard of living fell--especially for low-income groups.

A pensioner from Leningrad wrote to complain that prices charged by new cooperative businesses are sky-high and state prices are going up steadily. “Sometimes, to tell the truth, I don’t even feel like living,” he said. “Yes, but in our times, even dying isn’t cheap.”


The price of coffins had risen to $213 from as little as $64, he said.

Pravda said price rises on essential food and consumer goods should be delayed, pensions should be index-linked and special shops should be created for low-income groups. The state should stop throwing billions of rubles away on grandiose construction projects and showy palaces, it added.