Siberians Struggling in Post-Soviet Era
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Gregory Feifer reports from Siberia.
GREGORY FEIFER: Novy Urengoy welder Pavil Gavreleuk(ph) says he's now scraping by with piecework and a pension of less than $200.
PAVIL GAVRELEUK: (Through translator) Pensions amount to less than 6,000 rubles a month. What can you buy with that? What's the point of living in the north? And who needs you back home, where you came from so long ago?
FEIFER: Clifford Gaddy of the Brookings Institution says the policy of moving people to places they wouldn't normally go may be the part of the Soviet economic legacy that will be the most difficult to change.
CLIFFORD GADDY: Because you can restructure a factory and you can bring in new management and produce new products that are hopefully better designed for the market and you can retrain people. But historically, and across all countries, it's extremely difficult to downsize very large cities.
FEIFER: Vilely Milelien(ph) of Gazprom's local subsidiary says the company is changing the old Soviet economic model.
VILELY MILELIEN: (Through translator) Gazprom used to be involved in everything, from gas production to farming. But to be profitable, companies have to narrow their focus to what they're supposed to be doing. We produce gas. The city should take care of its own municipal services.
FEIFER: Resident Sitlana Koslova(ph) says that shows if you don't work for Gazprom, you're nobody.
SITLANA KOSLOVA: (Through translator) People live their whole lives in the north, built this place up, developed illnesses and have now been left with nothing. Housing is scarce, rents are high and many are barely surviving.
FEIFER: Gregory Feifer, NPR News.
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