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Russians Working on SSC Face a Dim Future

MANY employees at the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) will have a hard time finding new jobs. But few will face the difficulties confronting two dozen Russian physicists who moved to Waxahachie to work on the giant atom smasher. ``Bread and milk are more important in Russia now than science,'' says Oleg Prokofiev, a physicist from St. Petersburg. Mr. Prokofiev was one of several hundred physicists from the former Soviet Union who invested years of work in the SSC.

``This decision to cancel the collider increases instability in Russia,'' says Lithuanian physicist Guenakh Mitselmakher. Two years ago, Mr. Mitselmakher left a lucrative job in Europe and moved his wife and two children to Waxahachie. With a daughter in college, he is worried about his financial situation and the political situation in Russia. ``The SSC project was a stabilizing factor for Russian scientists,'' he says. ``It was important to keep scientists that worked in the military industrial complex busy with peaceful projects, producing something useful for humanity.''

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Physicist Vladimir Glebov says he came to work on the SSC because ``it was impossible to do good science in Russia. This was the best hope for people doing high-energy physics.''

Mitselmakher points out that the stagnant Russian economy is forcing scientists to take on any kind of project that promises an income. ``There is desperation in Soviet factories,'' he says. ``Making bombs is much simpler than what we are doing here. If they want to make bombs again, it wouldn't be difficult.''

To illustrate his point, Mitselmakher presents a copy of a letter sent to Vice President Al Gore by Byelorussian leader Stanislav Shushkevich. In support of the SSC, Mr. Shushkevich writes, ``It is hoped that this project will allow the technical expertise of some Byelorussian scientists, who used to work on Soviet nuclear-weapons program to be employed in this joint venture, thus ``turning swords into plowshares.''