Pyotr S. Neporozhny, the 74-year-old Minister of Power and Electricity, was replaced Saturday by a successor 19 years younger in what could be the first move by new Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to place younger officials in senior government posts.
Another septuagenarian official was replaced as a regional Communist Party chief. However, the age of his successor was not immediately learned.
The official news agency Tass said that Neporozhny retired for "health reasons" from the post he had held for more than 22 years. His replacement, Anatoly I. Mayorets, 55, was minister of the electrical equipment industry, which is considered of lesser importance than the power and electricity ministry.
It is rare for ministers to leave office because of illness. Neporozhny's departure came a day after Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, sharply criticized the power ministry and complained of electricity shortages in many areas.
In 1981, Neporozhny was reprimanded, and a deputy at his ministry was fired after disclosures that reports to the party Central Committee on a new power station were falsified.
Discipline and Hard Work
Gorbachev, 54, who was named to the top party post March 11 has earned a reputation for discipline and hard work. He succeeded Konstantin U. Chernenko, who died at 73 after illness had limited his effectiveness during a 13-month tenure.
Of the 61 members of the Council of Ministers, 18 are more than 70 years old. Premier Nikolai A. Tikhonov will be 80 on May 5 and six of his 13 deputies are 70 or older.
In the second personnel shift, 70-year-old Ivan P. Bespalov was ousted as head of the party in the Kirov region, an industrial district in the Ural Mountains. He was replaced by V. V. Bakatin, an inspector from the party Central Committee.
Pravda also reported that Pavel A. Smolsky, a deputy chief of the Central Committee's Department of Organization from Moscow, attended the Kirov meeting at which Bespalov was removed.
The chief of the organization department, Yegor K. Ligachev, worked closely with Gorbachev in selecting candidates for party positions when the late Yuri V. Andropov was general secretary of the party.
Gorbachev is regarded by Western diplomats as the natural heir to Andropov's anti-corruption and labor efficiency campaigns.
Chernenko, by contrast, was closely associated with the late Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev and the Soviet version of an "old boys' network" that provided job security for party veterans, whether they were productive or not.