My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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MOSCOW—I was received at the Ministry of Social Welfare with the usual courtesy, and a large number of people, each in charge of a separate activity, sat around the table where we held our interview.

There is a difference here in the allocation of responsibilities to various departments of the government. The department of education, for instance, is in charge of things which might well be under medicine in the United States. So it takes a little while to find out where to go to ask permission to see certain things and what information to expect from certain ministers.

The minister of Welfare opened my interview with a little speech of welcome and assured me of the Soviets' pleasure in my visit.

At all these gatherings, tea is served. There are dishes on the table with fruit, cookies and, as a rule, boxes of chocolate candy. And for gentlemen and ladies who wish it, there is either vodka or wine.

I have been grateful for my self-imposed rule of drinking nothing alcoholic, for it makes it much easier to refuse. If you take something once, they will hardly take "no" for an answer and will fill your glass or plate over and over again.

Here again, of course, I will give you a detailed account later of the social welfare program.

All government ministers say they are responsible for the formulation of general policy for the whole USSR. But I gather that, just as our states have a duplication of Federal machinery, so the various republics here have their own minister of education and minister of social welfare, with departments under these ministers. While they carry out the general policies formulated in Moscow and the main objectives are the same, they still have to be adjusted to local situations.

For instance, I was told that in Tashkent a different language is used, for each republic is permitted to retain its own language and customs. Teachers, for instance, who plan to serve in these areas must know the language of their own republic.

After I visit other areas, I will have a better idea of how unification of activities is brought about, but I think one way is probably by bringing delegations of people from different parts of the Soviet Union to visit Moscow on their holidays.

We noticed at the theatre the other evening a tremendous delegation of Ukrainians, and in the restaurant of our hotel there is a big table always filled with young Chinese people who evidently are here as a delegation. I also have seen groups of Bulgarians. They all seem to be enjoying themselves very much and evidently are invited to all cultural activities as guests of the government.

I also visited the Ministry of Health, and here again the heads of different departments were present. As a result of this visit, I hope I have arranged to see certain services in Tashkent in Central Asia.

The training of a doctor here takes six years, and this begins right after his graduation from what they call "Ten-Year School," which is high school. On top of these 16 years, he takes his specialization, so the period of preparation is long, as it is in the United States.

We went one evening to Gorky Park, one of the biggest amusement parks. One of the most popular places for men was a chess hall.

These parks are well laid out, with beautiful flowers and a great variety of entertainment for persons of all ages.

Scattered throughout the city are children's parks, and the other day we passed a department store for children which was crowded beyond belief. People were going in and out in long queues, with parents and their children going upstairs on one side, looking at the toys and clothes, and coming down a long staircase on the other side on their way out.

We wondered If they ever stopped to buy anything or whether this was just a feast for their eyes.

We visited a Moscow medical college and spent nearly five hours with the very obliging and kind director and his staff. The college has 4000 students and 500 teachers, 100 of whom are professors.

The staff members are very proud of their institute, which is 200 years old, and they said, "It is the best in the Soviet Union and, we think, the best in the world."

There is a hospital affiliated with the medical college, and we were allowed to see the operating rooms and some wards.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Moscow (Russia) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 17, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Albuquerque Tribune, , SEPTEMBER 17, 1957

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a published My Day column instance. Albuquerque Tribune, SEPTEMBER 17, 1957, page 3