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...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!