MOSCOW -- A new book by Russian ultranationalist Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky begins with a chilling vision: On a cold November night, a train pulls out of Moscow bound for the far north. The last wagon -- a freight car -- is jammed with Mr. Zhirinovsky's enemies.
He does not need to tell his reader where the condemned are going. By his gleeful tone and garish insults, we know they will be disposed of in the time-honored way -- in Siberian labor camps.
The train holds the "Who's Who" of Russia's democratic experiment, including the "birthmarked reformer," former President Mikhail S. Gorbachev; the "suckling pig" Yegor T. Gaidar; even the "witch" Yelena Bonner, widow of dissident Andrei D. Sakharov.
The rest of the book, titled "Last Wagon to the North," reads like Mr. Zhirinovsky's platform for the parliamentary elections in December.
Fortunately for Russian reformers, Mr. Zhirinovsky's popularity rating is down. And his book is only one of three influential new tracts that aspire to lead Russians out of the political wilderness.
The three authors envision different Russias, from nationalist dictatorship to Western European-style democracy. The pivotal question seems to be how much power the state should hold.
In a sign of receding Soviet values, however, all support private-property rights and all would like to curb the tyrannical powers of bureaucracy.
Last week, as Mr. Zhirinovsky was inviting journalists at his book party to sample a new vodka named in his honor and to toast the Russian fatherland, Mr. Gaidar also was releasing his new book, an articulate but academic treatise, "State and Evolution."
Mr. Gaidar, a reform economist, argues that Russia has a rare opportunity to become a Western-style nation with a government of limited powers.
Meanwhile, a slim black monograph titled "Dictator" also is making the rounds. Its author, former Yeltsin aide turned businessman Mikhail A. Bocharov, has printed a private edition of the 64-page political novella and delivered copies to the Kremlin.
The thinly veiled political fantasy begins in September 1995, when Mr. Yeltsin, in poor health and with the economy collapsing around him, decides to hand power over to an enlightened dictator.
The dictator turns out to be a wise technocrat and free-marketer who tames inflation, smashes organized crime and sets Russia on the road to a socially balanced capitalism.