Russia: The Bristle Gap

In addition to all its other troubles, the Soviet Union is losing the battle against tooth decay. "It's always the same story," moaned Georgy Gladkov, chief of the State Distribution Trust responsible for toilet articles, "brushes, brushes, brushes, they keep asking for. But we don't even have stocks to meet one-tenth of the demand. Just try and divide a few thousand toothbrushes among all the cities of the Soviet Union."

Until about four years ago, toothbrushes were plentiful—so plentiful that the State Planning Commission decided there were too many. In 1959 the...

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