Gorbachev fills new post with conservative Deputies to vote today on Russian as vice president

December 27, 1990|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- Hours after parliament gave him greater control over a revamped government, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev stunned deputies yesterday by naming a conservative, ethnic Russian trade union boss and Communist Party functionary to the newly created vice presidency.

Mr. Gorbachev's selection of Gennady I. Yanayev, 53, as his second in command confirmed for many deputies the Soviet president's determination to preserve strong central control at the expense of both republican power and market economic reforms. Most had expected the job to go to a reformist non-Russian such as Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.

Mr. Yanayev said he would fight what he called "political bacchanalia" in the Soviet Union and warned that the country could not stand the "shock therapy" of a rapid transition to a market economy.

"I am a Communist to the depth of my soul," he told the Congress of People's Deputies, while also assuring deputies that he was dedicated to Mr. Gorbachev's reforms.

Radical deputies expressed shock and disappointment at the nomination, while party traditionalists such as former Politburo member Yegor K. Ligachev sang Mr. Yanayev's praises. "Many of his qualities are impressive," Mr. Ligachev said. "He has brains."

The congress is expected to vote yes or no this morning on Mr. Yanayev's candidacy, since Mr. Gorbachev firmly rejected requests that he offer a choice of nominees. While some deputies said they would vote against the nominee, most appeared willing to let Mr. Gorbachev have his choice.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Gorbachev told deputies that Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov had been hospitalized late Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. He said Mr. Ryzhkov's life was out of danger but indicated that he was in serious condition.

Mr. Ryzhkov, 61, prime minister since 1985, had fought for a cautious approach to economic reform and the preservation of the central economic ministries. Though his standing in opinion polls had plummeted and many radical politicians had demanded his resignation, he held on for months with the support of the country's powerful military-industrial complex.

He was expected finally to lose his position in the government reshuffle approved yesterday. While the post of prime minister is retained, its duties are changed and its power diminished, since the new "Cabinet of Ministers" will be subordinated directly to the president.

Among the other changes approved yesterday is the elevation of the Federation Council, consisting of the leaders of republics and autonomous regions, to considerable power alongside the president. Also created are a new Security Council and a vice president, who will act as president in case of the president's absence or incapacity.

The vice presidential post was widely expected to go to a reform-minded non-Slav as a symbol of the Kremlin's professed respect for republican sovereignty.

Mr. Gorbachev had said he considered offering it to Mr. Shevardnadze, a Georgian, who resigned last week in protest of what he called "dictatorship on the offensive." The reformist president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, also had been considered a contender.

Hence the choice of Mr. Yanayev was seen by many deputies as the latest proof of a sharp turn to the right by Mr. Gorbachev, who in recent weeks has jettisoned liberal advisers and relied increasingly on hard-liners. The selection of a Russian seemed likely to fuel charges that the Soviet Union remains a thinly disguised version of the old Russian empire.

Mr. Yanayev, since July a member of the Communist Party's Politburo, is described as a capable and personable representative of the party apparat, which is fighting to retain its seven-decade-old control over the country.

Born in 1937 in the Volga River city of Gorky, he graduated from an agricultural institute and, like Mr. Gorbachev, pursued a career in the bureaucracy of the Komsomol, the Communist youth organization.

For six years, he was deputy chief of the Soviet organization of "friendship societies" supporting ties with other countries, and then for three years he was a leader of the central trade union council.

As the Soviet trade unions came under fire for their traditional role as tools of party and industrial bosses, Mr. Yanayev tried to reshape their image, portraying them as the workers' defender in turbulent economic times. He warned against the dangers of unemployment and inflation in a free market, while giving lip service to the necessity of a move toward a market economy.

The newspaper Izvestia accused him in June of demagoguery in using the trade unions to block economic reform. It quoted Mr. Yanayev as saying that he "would willingly accept the charges of social and economic demagoguery, if that would avert social and economic chaos in the country."

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