Riot Reported on Ouster of Soviet Official : Tass Press Agency Gives Unprecedented Account of Violence
The official press agency Tass today issued an unprecedented report about riots in the Kazakh capital of Alma Ata after the removal of the Central Asian republic’s Communist Party chief.
“A group of students, incited by nationalistic elements, last evening and today took to the streets of Alma Ata expressing disapproval of the decisions of the recent plenary meeting,” Tass said.
The report apparently referred to the party’s ouster Tuesday of Dinmukhamed A. Kunaev, a Kazakh member of the ruling Politburo who had been party leader in the republic for more than 20 years. His replacement as party chairman is an ethnic Russian.
“Hooligans, parasites and other antisocial persons made use of this situation and resorted to unlawful actions against representatives of law and order,” Tass reported today. “They set fire to a food store and to private cars and insulted townspeople.”
No Mention of Casualties
Tass made no mention of casualties or assessment of damage. The Tass report did not say the rioting had been quelled but did say schools, transportation and other enterprises were functioning normally.
The Central Committee of the Kazakh republic’s Communist Party named Gennady Kolbin to replace Kunaev.
The move, expected to be followed next week by the 74-year-old Kunaev’s removal from the Politburo, had been anticipated as part of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s campaign against corruption.
Kunaev has long been linked to the allegedly corrupt activities and economic disorder for which Kazakhstan has been criticized in the national daily newspapers.
Soviet media routinely do not report expressions of popular discontent.
The Tass report on the rioting could indicate that the unrest was widespread, meaning that word of the disturbances would eventually have reached foreign reporters in Moscow. Or the Tass report could have been prompted by Gorbachev’s campaign for glasnost, or openness on social problems, in an attempt to speed their resolution.
Tass said that in response to the rioting, meetings were held at factories, schools and party organizations, where the “totally unwarranted actions” were condemned.
Reports of nationalistic demonstrations in the southern republic of Georgia in the late 1970s eventually reached Moscow and Western news agencies, but the Soviet press made no mention of the disturbances at the time.
There have also been unofficial reports of demonstrations in the Baltic republics of Lithuania and Estonia.