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A gold pen, a magnum of champagne and an island vacation for two are just some of the recent spoils laid at the feet of Mikhail Gorbachev, that "Zen genius of survival" and the consensus man of the decade.

The worldwide salutes to the Soviet leader have come fast and furiously, leaving the impression that his perceived role as initiator of the remarkable changes sweeping Eastern Europe have made him the most admired public figure in every country except his own.The waning days of 1989 have brought Gorbachev an avalanche of accolades as newspapers, magazines, radio stations, polling organizations, youth associations and peace groups around the globe have rushed forth to make sure he gets the recognition they are sure he deserves.

Even the Paris Fashion Designers Association got the bug, giving the dashing general secretary a gold pen, a bottle of champagne and a one-week vacation "with the person of his choice" in a palace on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius - all as a reward for his "elegant style of living and working."

An international jury of prominent Western political scientists, convened by the Italian L'Espresso magazine, issued a unanimous verdict: Gorbachev is "the most prominent political figure of the 1980s." The government council in the northern Italian region of Lombardy has already nominated him for the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize.

The British ITN television network's opinion poll gave Gorbachev its "Hope for the Future" award, and Turkey's Anatolian news agency said 74 of 79 leading politicians and other public figures named him Man of the Year.

Spaniards surveyed by the Demoscopia research firm made Gorbachev "the most authoritative and popular figure in the world," with President Bush placing a distant fourth.

In the United States, Time magazine departed from its annual "Man of the Year" designation for only the second time in its 63-year history and named Gorbachev "Man of the Decade," putting him in the company of Winston Churchill, the British prime minister and "Man of the Half-Century" in 1949.

"Gorbachev has embarked on a course, perhaps now irreversible, that is reshaping the world," Time said.

"Gorbachev is a sort of Zen genius of survival," it said. "He has a way of turning desperate necessities into opportunities and even virtues."

But as the awards have piled up abroad, Gorbachev's own countrymen have refused to succumb to his charms and budge from a show-me attitude that would do the most skeptical Missourian proud.

Though Soviets grudgingly acknowledge Gorbachev's intelligence and admit that he appears to work harder than the old, tired men who preceded him, they complain that his reform program has yet to put food or other scarce consumer goods on half-empty store shelves.

Some spoilsports, refusing to remember the enormousness of the problems bequeathed to Gorbachev, say their lives have gotten worse since he assumed power in March 1985.

Gorbachev failed to place among the top 37 vote-getters in an opinion poll to determine the most popular politicians in the Soviet Union published Oct. 6 in Argumenty i Fakty, with a circulation of 32 million the nation's most widely read newspaper.

During his frequent trips abroad, particularly to the West, Gorbachev has been the personification of charisma, clearly basking in the adoration of the throngs who now ritually chant "Gorby, Gorby" at every stop.

Back home in the Soviet Union, however, Gorbachev is immediately plunged into the messy business of at least quasi-democracy as he tries to lead the world's largest country toward law-based government.

During nationally televised sessions of parliament, Gorbachev must endure criticism from radical lawmakers who say he is too timid and attacks by conservatives who accuse his reforms of sending the country to hell in a handbasket.



More praise for USSR leader

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was named "man of the year" for 1989 Saturday in a poll conducted for the French newspaper Le Figaro and by listeners of the British Broadcasting Corp. In all, 65 percent of those polled by the SOFRES market research organization named the Soviet leader their man of the year. The BBC said he received three times as many votes as runner-up Sir Anthony Meyer, the British lawmaker who challenged Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for the Conservative Party leadership. Gorbachev was followed in the Le Figaro poll by Pope John Paul II, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, President Bush and French President Francois Mitterrand.