MOSCOW -- Muscovites shrugged indifferently and even reacted with hostility over Mikhail Gorbachev's Nobel Peace Prize, noting the empty store shelves and warning he may face a popular uprising.
'The award comes at a time when his popularity in the country should be high but it is sinking, so I don't think you will find much acclamation,' Sonya, an office worker, said Monday in a sentiment echoed by others.
In Pushkin Square, with its usual queue at McDonald's and cluster of activists in front of the Moscow News building, Muscovites dismissed the prestigious award as a reward from the West for favors rendered.
'He deserves it all right in the eyes of the West,' said Evgeny Sheludkov, a historian. 'But in the Soviet Union he may get a popular uprising.
'Western public opinion of course is in raptures since he signed all agreements and treaties with Western leaders after which the Soviet Union stopped being a threat to the United States and other Western countries.
'But here the population is sinking into poverty and unemployment so it reacts to the award negatively. Besides it may have been untimely and may even compromise him in the eyes of the people.'
Natasha, a kindergarten teacher who mocked the way she still has to treat her wards as part of 'the herd and not individuals,' bounced the question about her reaction to the prize back to a Western correspondent.
'Tell me, do you respect Bush, your president?' Natasha said. 'Well, we don't respect ours. For what do we have to respect him?
'He doesnt care about the country and the people. He has different interests. He cares about a small group that is called the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But what happens, it is all the same to him.'
Despite the decades of Soviet citizens telling foreigners their chief concern was 'that there should not be war,' most people interviewed scorned Gorbachev's moves to end the Cold War and even said he weakened the country.
'He has weakened the country, there is lawlessness everywhere, break-ins to apartments. The other day someone tore a necklace from a woman in full daylight,' said a driver.
'Everything can fall apart in a minute,' he said. 'The authority in the country has slackened. You see what we have come to. And he gets the Nobel Peace Prize money for this? I would not give him a ruble.'
Alexander Kovalenko, former popular spokesman for Chernobyl brought in after the initial official stonewalling about the April 1986 nuclear accident, forecast Gorbachev would inherit a whirlwind inside the country.
'I consider that he deserved the Nobel Peace prize on the world scale because of the correct position he took about war and peace,' Kovalenko said. 'But now his problem is keeping war from breaking out inside the country.
'In achieving peace on the world scale, he could lose his own country and a civil war could break out.'
Yuri Mitunov, who was fired from his job at Moscow Radio and Television but has become a succesful indpendent journalist under glasnost, said the real Nobel winner was 'the collective tough attitude of the West to totalitarian agression.'
'The West asked for changes in the Soviet position. Gorbachev's contribution is that he responded correctly.'
A Russian translator warned against finding any excitement by the people over the award.
'The only time I have seen the people get excited was over the cigarette shortage,' she said in scorn, referring to the near revolts in several cities over a tobacco deficit in August.
As an orator held forth in Pushkin Square, a phenomenon that Gorbachev recently dismissed as 'meetingitis,' Alexadner Konekov, 45, told a corespondent the soapbox orator was declaiming about the approaching end of the 10-year food program announced in 1980 promising better supplies in a decade.
One of its architects, he noted, was Gorbachev.