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Russians sympathetic to a central government EUROPE AT THE CROSSROADS: THE TIMES MIRROR SURVEYSO: Washington Bureau of The Sun


WASHINGTON -- Russians emerged from their August revolution with a renewed commitment to the idea of a central union authority -- despite their claim of independence.

Moreover, a large majority believes that nuclear weapons (63 percent) as well as the army (57 percent) should be controlled by the central authority rather than by Russia or the other republics.

In a post-coup telephone survey of 1,035 residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sept. 1-3, 62 percent of the respondents confirmed support found in a poll of European Russia in May (61 percent) for an independent and autonomous Russia remaining within the Soviet Union. Only 27 percent favored Russia's leaving the union to become a separate country, up from 24 percent before the failed putsch.

Despite their interest in independence for themselves, Russians seem less committed to independence for their neighbors. By a majority of 50 percent to 34 percent, they believe that the Ukraine and Byelorussia should be required to join the new nation instead of becoming separate countries.

If the union were disbanded, residents of the two cities were badly divided over the idea of annexing parts of the neighboring republics. Only 41 percent were against, 32 percent liked the idea, and a very large 27 percent were undecided. But a full 89 percent of Muscovites and St. Petersburgers favored binding economic commitments linking the three republics.

While the experience of the failed coup did not appreciably affect attitudes about pluralism or a market economy, it did modestly increase tolerance for political parties that seem undemocratic: 46 percent to 38 percent favored allowing such ++ parties after the coup, compared with split of a 42 percent to 52 percent on that question before the coup.

The putsch also created more concern (30 percent) about the prospect of a Russian civil war than about severe economic conditions (29 percent). Before the coup, these concerns were reversed.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the coup also boosted faith among the city folk in Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin's ability to solve the country's problems (45 percent), compared with the Russian parliament (21 percent) or Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev (6 percent).

Both men's personal popularity rose after the coup. Mr. Yeltsin's soared from 74 percent in May to 85 percent in September, while Mr. Gorbachev's rose from 30 percent in May to 56 percent in September.

Also showing impressive personal popularity were St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak (82 percent) and former Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze (74 percent).

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