Three high-level Politburo members flew to the three Baltic republics today to deal with growing complaints that proposed Soviet constitutional reforms will crush current moves toward economic and cultural independence from Moscow.
They warned residents against pushing too hard for economic and cultural autonomy from Moscow, local journalists reported.
Politburo member Viktor Chebrikov traveled to Estonia, Vadim Medvedev to Latvia and Nikolai Slyunkov to Lithuania.
The visits came a day after the Politburo, the top Communist Party leadership, decided to consider changing draft constitutional amendments, the official newspaper Pravda reported today for the first time.
Chebrikov, the former KGB chief who now heads a party Central Committee commission on legal and judicial reform, opposed demands for local economic independence in comments today to workers at a plastics factory in Tallinn, Estonia, according to Estonian journalist Tarmu Tammerk.
“He said very strong words against economic independence. He said the whole of the Soviet economy is so tightly linked that one cannot speak of independence for one of its parts,” Tammerk said.
Carried on Radio
Chebrikov’s remarks were broadcast on state-run Estonian radio in an attempt to give them the widest possible exposure.
“His words sounded like a grim warning to people here,” Tammerk said.
“Economic independence” has been the watchword of a widespread movement in Estonia called the Popular Front, which seeks greater control by Estonians over the affairs of their Switzerland-sized republic.
Estonians say the fruits of their labor are siphoned off by Moscow to subsidize poorer regions of the country, including the giant Russian federation, the largest Soviet republic.
Tass press agency said Medvedev outlined limits to political activity in meetings with workers at two factories in Riga, the Latvian capital.
Tass said Latvians agreed with Medvedev on the need “to subordinate group ambitions to the interests of society as a whole in the conditions of perestroika. “
However, during his visit to the Norma factory in Tallinn, Chebrikov heard Estonians object to elements of Michael S. Gorbachev’s political reform plan, the television news program Vremya said.
The westward-looking Baltic republics, independent states until the Soviet Union absorbed them in 1940, have become a proving ground for bold economic reforms that are part of the Soviet president’s drive for perestroika, or restructuring.