When Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power less than six years ago, he believed a little tinkering would be enough to resuscitate the crumbling Soviet system. What was needed was uskorenie (acceleration), he declared. That slogan soon was abandoned in favor of perestroika (restructuring), when it became clear the collapsing communist state needed a more thorough overhaul.
As Mr. Gorbachev now assumes extraordinarily broad executive powers, yet another phase is beginning. The radical reform of the past years seems likely to be replaced by Gorbachevism, a centralized regime tightly controlled by a collective of communist disciplinarians under the president's chairmanship. The designation of an ethnic Russian as the new vice president underscores how the Kremlin is renewing its claim to the Russian empire, which has been disintegrating.
Gennady Yanayev, the new vice-president designate, said as much after his nomination by Mr. Gorbachev: "My main fight will be against a political bacchanalia and vandalism -- but by using democratic means, not by repression." Equally important was another of Mr. Yanayev's declarations: "I am a convinced communist to the depths of my soul," he said. For anyone needing a translation, here is what the new vice president meant -- the time of political pluralism is over. Where no legal basis exists for curtailing dissent, bullying will be used.