For Klimo Cocoroski, a stonemanson living in this once-backward Macedonian village, socialism has meant a car, a three-bedroom house, a deeP-freeze, American films on TV, and the inevitable bottle of whisky to offer guests.

Affluence has suddenly arrived in the towns and villages of Yugoslav Macdenoia, which just a few years ago was considered one of the most depressed regions in Europe. More than five centuries of Turkish rule, which ended only in 1913 with the end of the Balkan wars, left the people stubborn, fatalistic and desperately poor.

Ironically, the major problem now for the Communist rulers of Vevcani, a village of some 3,000 people that nestles in the hills on the Albanian border, is not private poverty but public squalor. Officials readily admit that the provision of public services has not kept pace with the increasing wealth of individual families.

Tomislav Kostojanski, the ebullient mayor, has plenty of plans. "We want to install a sewage system, pave the roads, build a motel, and start a festival for migrant workers," he said.

The problem is how to persuade people who have plenty of reason to mistrust governments to work together for the common good. One legacy of Turkish administration is the high brick walls most people still build around their houses to create a private refuge away from the demands of avaricious public officials.

The answer Kostojanski believes, is Yugoslavia's unique system of economic self-management, under which people are responsible for their own development. The local commune has wide powers to raise taxes and embark on project without reference to the central government, or even the republican capital at Skopje. Profits from Vevcani's major industry, a construction firm called Drimkol, are used for the good of the village.

But there is a catch to self-management. Left to themselves, the villagers might not spend their money in the most productive way. So the system also depends on an active Communist Party organization that coaxes people into deicisions considered to be in their best interests.

Persuading the villagers to vote funds and offer labor to install a sewage system was a case in point. After intensive lobbying by Communist Party members in favor of the scheme, only a handful of diehards were prepared to vote against it.

Although officials stress that they are prepared to accept defeats, the fact that the Communist Party is the only organized pressure group in factories and institutions tilts the scales heavily in its favor.

Apart from providing social services, the other major problem in Vevcani is unemployment.

"For skilled workers, it is not difficult to find a job. But we are worried about the numbers of educated young people who are leaving the village in search of employment," says the mayor.

Traditionally, it was the unskilled agricultural laborers who left the village to look for work. Many went to West Germany for a year or two, others emigrated as far away as Australia.

In some smaller villages around Vevcani, as many as two out of every three adult males left at the height of the emigration. Only women, children and old people remained behind. But with a recession in West Germany and increasing prosperity in places like Vevcani, the trend is beginning to be reversed.

Officials agree that the migrant system brought benefits as well as disadvantages for rural areas in Macedonia. While many of the able-bodied men left, they sent back much of their wages to their families. Experiencing foreign cultures also helped change their mentality.

Much of the prosperity today of villages like Vevcani is based on money earned abroad. Many of the Volkswagens and Mercedes sedans incongruously parked in pot-holed country lanes were bought in West Germany.

Another phenomenon evident from a visit to Vevcani is the number of city-dwellers who still retain a link with the village. Many people who live and work in the big cities spend all their savings on building vikendicas (weekend houses) in the village their family originally came from.

The outskirts of Vevcani is littered with large unfinished brick houses, most of them surrounded by the inevitable high wall. They represent a kind of first installment on the promise of a happy retirement or an idyllic escape from the strains of city life. A little more is added to each house every year.

The villages that the city-dwellers are flocking back to are becoming more and more like the towns, rapidly losing their old traditions and becoming dominated by a common consumer culture spread by television.

An old woman in Vevcani, her face wizened with age, gives a toothy grin when visitors ask her why she still wears the heavily [WORD ILLEGIBLE] black-and-white traditional [WORD ILLEGIBLE] characteristic of this part of [WORD ILLEGIBLE]

"My mother wore it [WORD ILLEGIBLE] grandmother wore it. I'll wear it [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the day I die.

But look at those young [WORD ILLEGIBLE] over there" she adds. They just wear jeans and T-shirts like they do in there.