Touring journalists from a free newspaper in the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan in central Asia were amazed at one aspect of the Deseret News' operations - the huge supply of newsprint, the paper stocks on which the journal is printed.
They were surprised also how easy it is to obtain - that is, it can be purchased on the open market. But a government newspaper might not be so worried about the nuts and bolts of publication."There is a shortage of paper," said Ermek K. Tursunov, editor in chief of the crusading paper, Izbiratel. The newspaper is published in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, and it has been fighting to bring out the facts about the Soviet nuclear testing fallout that has hit the region.
The Semipalatinsk test site is located in Kazakhstan, and its fallout is blamed for cancer and other health problems among the population. Some towns are only about 15 miles from where open-air nuclear tests were detonated after the site was constructed in 1949.
Above-ground testing ended in 1963 with the test ban treaty that was signed with the United States, but underground tests continue. Last year, an anti-nuclear group was formed there after two subsurface tests vented radiation.
"Many times Communist Party asked him to come into the Central Committee after he announced some information, and maps of a range of radiation fallout, and statistics for influence of radiation to the health of the people," said translator Alexandr A. Bobrov, relaying the comments of Tursunov.
"Still, he says it is necessary for people to know all information about the danger of radiation."
The newly free press in the Soviet Union is finding it hard going, despite the official policy of glasnost, or openness, espoused by President Mikhail Gorbachev.
"Now we have the lack of equipment and paper," Tursunov said. "So now there is glasnost, but we have a shortage of paper too - so a lot of free newspapers have a shortage of paper."
The government supplies the newsprint, so it may tip the scales in favor of papers coming out with the official line.
One of the Deseret News' three visitors added, "Sometimes glasnost is only show."
Izbiratel is struggling to get the word out about the danger of nuclear testing, Tursunov said, "because radiation has no boundaries. . . . Because we have only state facilities for printing newspapers, maybe government will refuse next to publish Izbiratel newspaper."
That is where Utah's own anti-nuclear group - Downwinders - comes in. The organization is trying to help supply equipment, such as computers and small presses.
"We have already established a computer link, the first time it has ever been done between Salt Lake and Alma-Ata," said Preston Truman of Downwinders.
The groups are trying to cut deals in commercial joint ventures that could raise money to help Soviet radiation victims. One of their projects is a film about the effects of nuclear testing on downwind civilians.
Also, handicrafts made by the Soviet nuclear victims are sold to raise money.
"The hospital at Kainar has four syringes - the glass kind that you have to boil and periodically sharpen." It doesn't have an electrocardiograph machine. "That's one of the villages hardest hit. There've been a lot of (government) promises, but nothing has been done yet," Truman said.
"We try to do real deals to help these people who live near the test site, whose situation is very bad now," Tursunov said.
"This territory has a large population, you know. Of course, the government studied the . . . influence of the test site and radiation on people's health. But these documents they still now keep in secret."
But the newspaper does believe that birth defects are showing up among the Soviets who live downwind of Semipalatinsk. "For example, in Karaul village, now we have 37 retardations," among people 35 and under. That is among a population of 5,000.
In Kainar village, 30 miles from the test site, 18 young people killed themselves in the past four years, "because of the fear of cancer."
Many people have anemia, cancer, leukemia, eye illnesses and other disorders. A new illness was identified in the area and named Kainar syndrome - a defect in the immune system that damages the body's ability to fight off infections.
"So the test site, it is within the three districts . . . This Kainar Syndrome, you can find it in all these districts," Tursunov said.