Muscovites ask change of regime 30,000 demand Rhyzkov's ouster

September 17, 1990|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSOCW — MOSCOW -- More than 30,000 Muscovites marched in a chilly drizzle from Gorky Park to the Kremlin yesterday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov and the formation of a multiparty "government of trust."

Though the public temper in this capital has been frayed by back-to-back shortages of cigarettes and bread, the demonstrators never got more violent than booming chants of "Resign! Resign!" The march was backed by Moscow's radical leadership, elected last March, and the regular uniformed police who lined the two-mile route did not interfere.

Organizers had called for a rally not only to demand Mr. Ryzhkov's exit but to back a radical plan for a transition to a market economy endorsed by Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin and -- with some reservations -- by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

On television Saturday night, Moscow Mayor Gavriil K. Popov stressed that the demonstration targeted Mr. Ryzhkov and his slower-paced economic reform plan, not Mr. Gorbachev.

But as many demonstrators recalled, Mr. Gorbachev's alliance with Mr. Ryzhkov is more than five years old, while his tentative detente with Mr. Yeltsin is brand new. So a considerable number of marchers and several speakers demanded that Mr. Gorbachev follow Mr. Ryzhkov out the door.

"In Five Years, Gorbachev and Ryzhkov messed Up the Country. We Need New Leadership -- B.N. Yeltsin," said one poster.

"Enough Gorbatitsya," said another, which roughly translates into "enough playing the cripple," a play on the similarity of Mr. Gorbachev's name to the Russian word for hunchback.

"Where's the main architect of this six-year social experiment?" asked Telman K. Gdlyan, a controversial former corruption investigator and member of parliament. "Where's the director who wrote the script for all these scenes?"

"By printing 400 billion rubles' worth of money, the government criminally, or at least ignorantly, destroyed the country's currency system," said Alexander Obolensky, a parliamentary deputy and leader of the Social Democratic Party. "The government of Ryzhkov and Gorbachev must resign!"

Such demands shed light on Mr. Gorbachev's contradictory behavior of last week, when he endorsed the more radical reform plan of Mr. Ryzhkov's rivals -- but angrily rejected calls for the prime minister to step down.

If the radicals and the politicized public can force the resignation of Mr. Ryzhkov, Mr. Gorbachev clearly believes, they are likely next to set their sights on him.

Plans for the march and rally were announced in advance on television and in several newspapers, and organizers had hoped for a crowd of several hundred thousand.

Marchers said the lower turnout could be explained by a number of factors: the rain, some published warnings about possible disorders, demonstration-fatigue in this politicized capital, and a feeling that Mr. Ryzhkov was doomed long ago.

Mr. Ryzhkov himself had indicated that he would resign rather than implement his rivals' radical economic plan, named for Gorbachev aide Stanislav S. Shatalin.

The U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet, the national parliament, is scheduled today to debate the Shatalin plan, the Ryzhkov plan and the hybrid plan submitted by Mr. Gorbachev that is 99 percent the same as the Shatalin plan, according to its drafter, economist Abel Aganbegyan. The Russian parliament, led by Mr. Yeltsin, adopted the Shatalin plan last week.

"I'm a little sick of this," said 20-year-old Kirill Korsakov, an activist hawking a photocopied Christian Democratic Party newspaper as the crowd filled the square outside the Kremlin.

"Rallies don't seem to accomplish much."

Mr. Korsakov said that despite the democrats' victories in elections last spring, "the power's still in the hands of the KGB and the Central Committee of the Communist Party." Pointing out the buses parked to block demonstrators' access to Red Square and Lenin's mausoleum, he asked rhetorically, "You think the Moscow City Council ordered that?"

He said that not only Mr. Ryzhkov should resign but "Gorbachev and all the rest. They're an illegal government that came to power in a coup [the 1917 revolution]. They've never been elected."

Moscow's revival last year of mass political protests after a half-century hiatus has spawned a diverse business for the enterprising. Yesterday, entrepreneurs were selling literature of all kinds, political pins and buttons and little Russian prerevolutionary flags.

Vyacheslav A. Lomakin, 53, an unemployed engineer, worked the crowd with a message of political cynicism and three items: the outspoken Latvian newspaper Baltic Times for 1 ruble; a booklet on the family of the last czar and their murder by the Bolsheviks, 5 rubles; and Boris Yeltsin's autobiography, 15 rubles, or a little more than a day's pay for the average worker.

"They're all scum," Mr. Lomakin said of politicians. "Until we understand that, we won't get anywhere."

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