The World: Comrades' Gum

"It's a strategic weapon in Russia," says a Moscow housewife. "To chew it is very bad form, symbolic of the worst Western habits," replies a more orthodox male. "I always take a good supply of it when I go to Russian shops," notes a savvy Arab diplomat. "The salesgirls like it, and I get ahead of the queues."

"It," of course, is chewing gum, known in Russia as zhvachka. Long a favorite but rare item in the Soviet Union, gum has for years been used by Westerners to soften up hotel employees, salesclerks and ticket takers. Now, after countless learned debates by...

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