MOSCOW — A Moscow newspaper said Thursday that members of an unofficial Soviet organization recently put on a demonstration in Moscow, and the paper cited this as evidence of "democratization" in the Soviet Union.
The weekly Moscow News said the group calls itself Pamyat, or Memory, and that on May 6 about 400 of its members were received by the Communist Party chief in Moscow, Boris N. Yeltsin.
The Moscow News, of limited circulation, appears in English and other languages as well as Russian and is aimed at foreign readers. It pointed out that public demonstrations have been rare in the past and said the Pamyat incident reflects the extent to which the democratization process has spread in this country.
Pamyat, the News said, describes itself as a historical and patriotic association, though some Soviet sources have called it an ultranationalist, ethnocentric group. The paper said the organization exhibits "glaring contrasts" in its work.
On the one hand, it said, Pamyat advocates protection of historical relics, supports the struggle against alcoholism and is concerned about the environment. But on the other, it "disseminates the absurd fiction that some sort of mysterious organization is allegedly operating in the whole world that has set for itself the task of annihilating our age-old culture by 'Americanizing' the Soviet society and aggravating the socio-economic problems of the Soviet Union by using 'bureaucracy--that monster of world Masonry, Zionism and imperialism.' "
The News said that anyone who doubts Pamyat's beliefs is accused by the group of being an agent of the CIA.
"Their absolute intolerance of the opinions of others and their rejection of the beliefs of anyone else generates extremism not only in their assessments but in their behavior as well," the newspaper said.
In light of the News' assessment, together with official disapproval of unofficial demonstrations, Western observers said it seemed remarkable that Pamyat was able to carry out a protest in the center of Moscow.
Nonetheless, the News said, about 400 people marched from a downtown square to the headquarters of the city government carrying placards demanding a meeting with Yeltsin and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. It said Yeltsin invited them into the marble hall of the Moscow party headquarters and answered their questions in what became a two-hour dialogue.
Yeltsin was said to have told the demonstrators that many of their concerns were legitimate but that they were not correct in all their implications and conclusions.
He reportedly assured them that 9,500 buildings have been placed under state protection, including 1,000 that require immediate restoration work, and confirmed that work has been halted on a controversial war memorial that has been opposed by Pamyat members and many other people.
The city party boss acknowledged, the News said, that the campaign against drunkenness has weakened recently and that some drinking in the workplace has continued.
Yeltsin, who is an alternate member of the Politburo, reportedly told his visitors that bureaucrats are continuing to hamper Gorbachev's drive for reconstruction of Soviet society, but he added that there has been a 40% turnover in the party committee for the city and that its staff has been reduced by 28 people.
The News said it is not known whether additional such meetings will be held, but it praised Yeltsin for showing an unconventional approach to an urgent problem.