At a time when enthusiasm for the Soviet Union seems less than overwhelming, a bubbly, full color 60-page paean to life in the motherland is about to come whizzing off the presses of a Rockville printing plant.
And, like their patriotic countrymen who are reluctant to unload USSR-bound ships or stock Soviet vodka, some of the pressmen and paperhandlers at the Holladay-Tyler printing plant in Rockville are not too happy that they have to mount the plates and ink the rollers for the February issue of Soviet Life, a monthly magazine written by Soviets for American readers.
"I don't think we should have anything to do with the Russians," said one pressman as copies of the March issue of Ranger Rick, a children's magazine published by the National Wildlife Foundation whipped through the press.
Several of his coworkers, he said, would ask to work on other press runs while the 63,000 copies of Soviet Life are being printed tomorrow. "This magazine is no help to Americans," he declared.
Holladay-Tyler has been printing Soviet Life since the 1950s, when the U.S. and Russia agreed to allow each other to administer topically restricted doses of propaganda about each nation's respective life styles.
Soviet Life features articles and pictures about tractors, high tension lines, union leaders and, recently, the summer Olympics, which Congress and President Carter have urged the U.S. to shun.
Holladay-Tyler management and labor representatives met two weeks ago to discuss whether the company should continue printing Soviet Life.
The company also prints Smithsonian Magazine, National Wildlife and a number of other glossy publications.
The Soviet magazine is "not worth that much," said company lawyer John Absalom. "It would be easy to cut it off but printing the magazine in this country, even at a time of tension, is more symbolic about what this country means than anything."
Jack Greer, head of the pressmen's union, said yesterday the company would take the printing plates to a nonunion shop if the workers refused to run the presses. Anyway, he noted that the magazine is a "reciprocal arrangement" with the Soviets, "so it's a wash."
So it looks like the presses will roll copies of Soviet Life at Holladay-Tyler.
On page one of its January issue the editors tendered their readers -- who number around 50,000 -- best wishes for the new year, 1980, which it was pointed out at the bottom of the page, is the "year of the Moscow Olympics."
In the issue going to press this week there is a story about Russian Olympic hopefuls, according to Georgi Isachenko of the Soviet Embassy in Washington.
Olympic politics already have snared the April issue of the U.S.-produced counterpart to Soviet Life called America Illustrated. The March issue, already printed, (at a plant in the Philippines), contains a story about U.S. athletes bound for the Olympics. That's created an Olympian headache for editor Robert Poteete, who is trying to replace the March issue with the one planned for April.