David S. Broder
The Frustrations Of A Soviet Big-City Mayor
Washington Post Writers Group
KIEV - If you want to understand the frustrations of being a local official in the crumbling Soviet Union, ask Mayor Arnold G. Nazarchuk of Kiev. As the new leader of the nation's third-largest city, he is, in his fashion, the Richard M. Daley Jr. of this country. But that's where the resemblance between the mayors of Kiev and Chicago stops.
Unlike Daley, Nazarchuk is no booster and - most emphatically - no boss.
A smiling, round-faced engineer of 57, he worked his way up the Communist industrial bureaucracy until he became managing director of an electronics complex located here.
In last spring's elections to the Ukrainian parliament, he ran for office for the first time, thinking that ``my experience in economics would be helpful on the commission on industry, as the Ukraine becomes an independent state.'' But he was defeated, along with many other Communist candidates.
At the same election, he also ran for - and won - a seat on the 270-member Kiev city council, ``just to defend the interests of my industry, what you would call a company lobbyist.''
The new council, almost evenly balanced between the Communist Party old-guard and independents, deadlocked for 40 days on the choice of a chairman, or mayor. People from both sides turned to Nazarchuk as a compromise. Like Caesar, he refused three times. Unlike Caesar, he finally accepted the job.
Ask him about his authority, and he says:
``We do not have much power at the moment. Almost all our money comes from the top (Moscow), and they refuse to acknowledge our special needs in caring for the victims of Chernobyl (the nuclear plant near here that was the site of a devastating accident four years ago). We raised 65 million rubles from our citizens as a gift to the Chernobyl victims, and Moscow said it came from the capital. Now those victims are in our hospitals and homes - and Moscow gives us nothing.''
The mayor left at that point to run a meeting. His deputy, Alexander N. Mosiyuk, 35, a professor of theoretical physics and mathematics, took over the narrative.
``At the moment,'' he said, ``82 percent of the industry in Kiev belongs to the Soviet Union, and the profits go there. We do not share their earnings, and we cannot control the pollution from those plants. But our friends are introducing a bill in the Ukrainian parliament to give Kiev special status (home rule), to give us title to all the land in the city and 22 percent of the profits of firms here. That's very low, but after the Ukraine achieves independence, it will rise.''
Mosiyuk is a militant advocate of independence, but he has forged a close working partnership with the older Communist who is mayor. The editor of a local newspaper notes that in the few weeks of experience with the new council, ``lines are softening. The Communists are being radicalized (on home rule) by the independents.''
In Nazarchuk's case, and probably others, it is also the daily frustration of attempting to cope with people's problems that is making these former apparatchiks look more skeptically at Moscow. When Nazarchuk returned from his meeting, I asked him to describe the state of his city.
``Conditions are difficult,'' he said, ``and our people find it hard to have much hope. The after-effects of Chernobyl are particularly visible among the children - and that affects everyone's feelings.
``The economic situation is worsening. Walk through our shops, and you see how little the ruble buys. Sugar is being rationed for the first time, and the lines for gasoline can take you up to five hours. Housing is not what it should be. Our medical services are lacking. Water and electricity service is poor. And crime is rising.
``We were never very rich, but we had a tradition of helping each other. Now our people have no hope or faith in the future. And now there is political instability as well.''
Then, his face brightening, he added, ``We could do a lot for ourselves - if we had the authority. We could deal with the electric- and water-service interruptions, with the shortages of food and medical services. We could create the preconditions for a market system. We have great universities here and intellectual resources that we do not really use. But we lack political skills. For too many years, no one was encouraged to think politically for himself.''
A smile cracked his broad face. ``That's how they end up with someone like me as mayor,'' he said. And he laughed so loudly that an aide came dashing in to see if he was all right.
Laughter is not heard that often in Kiev's city hall.
(Copyright, 1990, Washington Post Writers Group)
Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.