Steeltown, USSR: Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era

By Stephen Kotkin | Go to book overview

Epilogue

If the apparently insurmountable predicament of the once-great Magnitogorsk Works seemed to encapsulate the urgent need to scrap the old order, the spectacular rise of the city newspaper seemed to signal the dawn of a new, more hopeful age. The city’s first-ever competitive elections, although muddled and manipulated, reinforced this sense of positive change. Such were the hallmarks of perestroika in Magnitogorsk.

By the time of my third visit to the city in June 1991, little remained of the circumspect hopefulness that the reform era had aroused, even at the newspaper. Elections continued, but had turned out not to be a cure for the country’s ills. As for the steel plant, it had of course undergone no magical transformation, yet people were deeply grateful that the industrial monster was still there, still operating and providing jobs, deadly pollution and all. The epoch of perestroika was over.

Already in January 1990, when the much-admired Magnitogorsk Worker celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, few on the staff admitted to being in a celebratory mood, despite the paper’s many accomplishments in the past five years. For the anniversary issue, the popular Vladimir Mozgovoi was asked why he did not write more. “How do I continue to write at all?” he responded.

In the same issue, Tatiana Leus forcefully reiterated her deep commitment, her sense of duty to help people in need, and her refusal to give in, to acknowledge defeat—as if trying to hold the encircling sense

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