MOSCOW -- The Soviet Union nearly ground to a halt yesterday when millions of people swarmed banks, government buildings and workplaces.
The hysteria was sparked when Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced this week that 50- and 100-ruble notes were being immediately withdrawn from circulation to help cut inflation.
Working people and pensioners -- many of whom stuff mattresses and socks with thousands of rubles in those denominations -- say the order may hit them the hardest. Citizens have until tomorrow to trade in about 250 rubles of the larger notes. Anything over that amount requires a special appeal.