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Space heroine as hard-line hopeful Russian election: Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to walk in space, is a top Communist candidate in the once all-powerful party's comeback bid in the Duma.

Sun Journal

November 14, 1995|By Clara Germani | Clara Germani,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

There's nothing wrong with private property -- indeed, she says, she owns a Moscow apartment herself -- but large tracts of land and the forests and natural resources should never be controlled by anyone but the government, she says.

Large-scale private land ownership invites corruption, or, worse, foreign ownership, that skims profits that all the people should enjoy in the form of good salaries, free medical treatment and a good education, she says. Instead, she sees "betrayal" of the people in the way President Boris Yeltsin -- a former Communist, she points out -- has brought about reform.

"It's robbery of the country, the annihilation of the country," she says. "By privatization or privhatizatzia [the Russian word for pilfering], people are trying to acquire a piece of the state. Reform is when life improves. It hasn't."

She sees today's Russian elite, perhaps only 6 percent to 8 percent of the population who have gotten rich on capitalist reforms, as similar to those privileged Russians who were disenfranchised after the Bolshevik Revolution because they'd accumulated their wealth unfairly at the expense of the working masses.

No money for flights

The betrayal of the Soviet ideal must feel incredibly sharp for Ms. Savitskaya. She was forced to retire from the cosmonaut corps a year ago when the Russian space shuttle program went broke before ever having launched a manned flight. A Buran shuttle she might have piloted today sits ingloriously among the carnival rides at Gorky amusement park.

Ms. Savitskaya has instant name-recognition among voting age Russians. And the name carries with it an almost-instant Communist image.

"There's no changing your mind after being that devoted to an idea," says Pyotr Aleshkovsky, a Russian novelist.

He says he'll always remember the cosmonaut as "the woman war machine of the Soviet system strong, very handsome and answering journalists' questions like a real warrior."

Many of that generation will vote for her.

But when he turns to his 13-year-old daughter and asks if she has ever heard of the cosmonaut-turned-candidate, the girl draws a blank

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