MOSCOW -- Alarmed by the nation's deepening economic crisis, the Soviet Parliament is demanding an emergency address on the state of the union from President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Yesterday's surprising revolt by the normally passive lawmakers, who described the fears of economic collapse and famine they hear from their constituents, succeeded in forcing Gorbachev to agree to address them tomorrow on both the economy and the uncertain shift of government authority across the nation.
"If we do not do something about the situation now, people will take up arms and pour into the streets, and this will not be a military coup but a popular coup," declared one member of Parliament, Lt. Col. Viktor Alksnis.
The lawmakers' demand, in a 362-0 vote with just four abstentions, was a further measure of the deepening frustration of the nation as food shortages grow and hope for an early economic turnaround withers.
The attempt by Parliament to confront Gorbachev, who normally has his way with it, came as the government took its first significant action in decades to free prices.
The Kremlin's order freeing prices, restricted to luxury items not available to most citizens, immediately dramatized the level of discord in the nation when it prompted the Parliament of the Russian Republic to announce no such measure would take effect in that republic.
With the political landscape now rife with dozens of such jurisdictional standoffs and Russia and the 14 other republics speeding the drive for greater self-rule, military chief Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev cautioned that the army would remain subservient to legitimate political rule but was ready to "protect our federal socialist state" from violent attempts to dismember it.
Writing in the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya, Akhromeyev, an adviser to Gorbachev and a former military chief of staff, said the armed forces would recognize legitimate political victories by non-Communist politicians because "power by constitutional means is legitimate."