MOSCOW -- The Russian Communist Party expelled yesterday the vice president of the republic -- a man who was Russia's top-ranking Communist officeholder and who won 60 percent of the vote when he ran on Boris N. Yeltsin's ticket this spring.
Having satisfied their desire to get rid of one of the most popular members, the party leaders then turned on one of the most unpopular, dumping their hard-line chief.
The stormy meeting yesterday of the leaders of the party in the Soviet Union's largest republic only seemed to confirm suspicions that the rickety Communist Party is bent on destroying itself before the voters are given an opportunity to do so sometime next year.
Gone is Alexander Rutskoi, an Afghan war hero who over the weekend convened a group he called the Democratic Party of Russian Communists.
That group pledged itself to work for reform within the Communist Party. It came out in favor of a market economy, the rule of law and Mr. Yeltsin's ban on party cells in workplaces.
It also pledged itself to oppose the regular Russian Communist Party -- so the regular party yesterday showed Mr. Rutskoi and his followers to the door.
It then turned around and rid itself of Ivan Polozkov, the party general secretary, a man who hated anything that smacked of liberal democracy, the West or private property.
All this follows by just two weeks a meeting of the party leadership of the whole Soviet Union that was supposed to be stormy and faction-ridden and wasn't. Conservatives grumblingly accepted a pro-market platform proposed by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev as something to think about between now and November. Liberals, sensing that patience would bring them victory, decided not to force anyone's hand.
Mr. Gorbachev showed no signs that he was expecting a hurricane. His spokesman said yesterday that he was spending a quiet month in the Crimea, playing with his two granddaughters and listening to recordings of Chopin and Liszt.