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May 26, 1991|Charles Solomon

THE NEW SOVIET JOURNALISM: The Best of the Soviet Weekly Ogonyok, edited by Vitaly Korotich, edited and translated by Cathy Porter (Beacon Press: $12.95, illustrated). During the Brezhnev era, Ogonyok (Flame) was little more than a stultifying outlet for official pronouncements; in recent years, the illustrated weekly has become a sort of Soviet equivalent of Mother Jones or the Village Voice, devoted to controversy and investigative reporting. (As a result, its circulation has trebled, from 1 to 3 million.) The articles reprinted in this anthology include an alarming study of suicide (more than 50,000 Soviet citizens take their lives each year--a much higher rate than any Western country), an expose of the conditions in a Siberian labor camp, and examinations of problems relating to alcoholism, forced abortions, drugs and the government's treatment of indigenous peoples in Asia. Although the writing is often flat in Porter's translations, these revealing discussions of troubles long hidden from the outside world offer valuable information to anyone seeking a better understanding of the current crisis within the U.S.S.R.

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