MOSCOW, JAN. 31 -- Mikhail Gorbachev is no millionaire, according to a leading Soviet magazine editor, but no one should be shocked that his wife Raisa can afford a pair of rhinestone-studded stockings now and again. As head of state and general secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev brings home an annual salary of "something around 18,000 rubles" -- or $28,000, at the inflated official exchange rate -- Vitaly Korotich, editor of Ogonyok, said in an interview today with The Washington Post. Most Western leaders earn far more, including President Bush, who makes $200,000. But many Soviet citizens, dissatisfied with their own meager salaries, take great delight in sitting around the dinner table and making snide remarks about the Kremlin leader's American Express card and Raisa Gorbachev's haute couture. "People ask, if Gorbachev doesn't make so much money, where does his wife get so many dresses?" Korotich said in an earlier interview with a Moldavian newspaper. "But that is not a serious question because Mikhail Sergeyevich is not so badly paid -- he gets more than 1,500 rubles a month. Why shouldn't his wife buy a new dress?" Korotich said members of the ruling Politburo were paid between 1,200 and 1,500 rubles a month, but the highest salaries in the government went to the leading generals and marshals in the Defense Ministry, who earn as much as 2,000 rubles a month. Although such information is not generally published in the Soviet press, Korotich said it was not regarded as a secret. "Our leaders get free transport and very often food that is cheaper than ordinary," Korotich said. "I stand for a position where our chiefs will receive a real salary -- maybe as much as what Bush makes -- but they will pay for everything." Korotich said that "as a journalist and as a Soviet citizen, I would love to know how members of the leadership buy potatoes and sausages and all the rest. They have closed down some of the special stores, so right now we're trying to call people in the government, the KGB and the Defense Ministry to see how they get along and live." Gorbachev's book "Perestroika," published in the United States by Harper and Row, reportedly earned him $600,000 in American royalties. Korotich said the Soviet leader donated the money to the Communist Party. While Gorbachev's salary appears low by Western standards, the Soviet leader's "more than 1,500 rubles a month" is at least seven times the average Soviet salary. In a society where times are hard, even slight differences in living standards spark bonfires of envy. What is more, unlike ordinary Soviet citizens, the Gorbachevs do not have to stand in line for goods that are scarce. Economists here say that 20 percent of the population live under a poverty line of 254 rubles a month for an urban family of four. A Soviet worker from Kronstadt, I. A. Savochkin, wrote this week to the newspaper Ekonomicheskaya Gazeta saying he was earning just 64 kopecks ($1) an hour. Gorbachev's perks of office are far more considerable than his straight pay. They include an apartment in Moscow, a house in the woods outside the city and a vacation place in the Crimea. But Gorbachev, despite his own penchant for the occasional tailor-made English suit or raffish felt fedora, is decidedly not a member of the Soviet millionaires' club. In an article published last year in the labor newspaper Trud, a leading economist said that of the "several thousand" millionaires in the Soviet Union, almost all were either artists and writers, who earn foreign royalties, or mobsters and black marketeers. Korotich did not say where he got his information on Gorbachev's finances, although he said he is in favor of the Soviet press publishing more information about the personal backgrounds and characteristics of Kremlin leaders and putting "an end to rumors." He said his magazine, one of the flagships of Gorbachev's campaign for openness in the media, has applied for personal interviews with members of the leadership. But so far the requests have been ignored. "It's an irony that in your country, politicians give many interviews before their elections. But {here} they are all telling me that they don't want to talk until after the elections" on March 26, Korotich said. In order to learn about the personal lives of their leaders and battles at the top levels of government, millions of Soviet people still turn to foreign radio signals beamed into the country. But, Korotich said, "we cannot depend on Western voices for everything." Korotich said former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's salary was about the same as Gorbachev's, but "the difference was that Brezhnev multiplied his salary many times by accepting gifts from all over." Korotich, for his part, said his own salary was 450 rubles per month.