An anti-Stalinist rally of 2,500 people roared its approval Sunday when a speaker branded Politburo conservative Yegor K. Ligachev as the patron of neo-Stalinists and called for his resignation.
“The demand for Ligachev’s resignation has become a demand of all the people,” Yuri F. Karyakin, a prominent literary critic and political writer, told the crowd gathered in chilly Gorky Park on the bank of the Moscow River to mark the 36th anniversary of dictator Josef Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953.
Referring to a now-notorious defense of Stalin published a year ago by a Leningrad teacher named Nina Andreyeva, Karyakin declared: “It’s well known that without the blessing of Ligachev, that article of Andreyeva would not have appeared.” Shouts of “Shame! Shame!” resounded from the crowd.
A highly placed academic and party member said a March 15-16 meeting by the party’s Central Committee to discuss proposed agricultural reforms is shaping up as a showdown between Gorbachev and Ligachev.
Other speakers were applauded when they challenged the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power and criticized Soviet aid to what were called Stalinist regimes in Romania and North Korea. They also demanded the return of Soviet citizenship to exiled writer Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn and publication of his still-banned opus on the Stalinist terror, “The Gulag Archipelago.”
The hand-lettered banners and posters held overhead throughout the crowd were no less radical in tone: “Bring the KGB Under Control of the Law,” “Monopoly on Truth--Stalinism of Our Day.”
The demonstration was called by the group known as Memorial, a national organization founded to build memorials to Stalin’s millions of victims and to conduct research and educational work on the terror.
But although the ostensible purpose of the rally was historical, speaker after speaker declared that Stalinism is far from dead--and spoke about the contemporary political scene.
Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko read a 1962 poem, “The Dead Hand,” about the continuing influence of Stalin--saying the poem remains “unfortunately very topical.”
The rally showed how Memorial is uniting a wide range of progressives and radicals into what amounts to an embryonic opposition party, a phenomenon feared by the Communist Party bureaucracy. Alongside such establishment figures as Yevtushenko appeared such oft-arrested radicals as Sergei I. Grigoryants, editor of the independent journal Glasnost, and Valeria Novodvorskaya, of the openly anti-Soviet Democractic Union.