Seeds of Choice in Soviet Election.
HISTORIANS will long debate the significance of last week's elections in the Soviet Union. The voters' repudiation of Communist Party policy, the success of Boris Yeltsin's rogue-elephant challenge to the bureaucracy, the impact of the vote on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev - these outcomes will cast long shadows on Soviet policy. But there's another, less widely reported meaning to these elections: the response of Soviet citizenry.
During a two-week visit to the Soviet Union ending on the day of the balloting, I spoke with dozens of voters, candidates, informal group leaders, and party members in four cities. I put to each the same question: Just how important are these elections? Three conclusions emerge:
First, these elections must be seen in context. They are part of an unprecedented glasnost breaking out on every side. James Joyce's ``Ulysses'' is being serialized in Russian by a respected monthly, Foreign Literature - to be followed by D.H. Lawrence's ``Lady Chatterley's Lover.'' Lithuanians now speak their mother tongue as their official language.
Pravda, the leading party newspaper, has just published a frank account of poverty - noting that 15 million people live in a condition that, until recently, was not even supposed to exist. Guides for Intourist, the state-run travel service, now speak freely about flaws in the Soviet system. These, coupled with the presence of campaign posters and street rallies, speak to a larger fact: Where once there was only one official truth, now there are many.