The Russian government has given the people a holiday present.

On Jan. 1, the minimum wage will rise to a paltry $14 a month. The government's promise du jour is that the country will be back on the economic track in three years.No wonder an opinion poll last month showed that 73 percent of the people do not trust the government - indeed, are afraid of it.

And no wonder an apparent death wish, signified by a rise in suicides, is spreading across Russia - a macabre indicator that the economic revolution has taken a terrible turn.

According to today's statistics, which seem trustworthy, in the past two years 100,000 Russians have killed themselves. The suicide rate in 1993 reached 38 per 100,000 people, up from 26.5 in 1991.

The rate in the United States is 12 for every 100,000.

-Gennadi I. Gerasimov

New York Times News Service

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