BUCHAREST, Romania — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in what appeared to be pointed criticism of Romania's old-style Marxist orthodoxy, told a rally in the nation's capital Tuesday that openness and democracy are vital to a Communist society's health.
Speaking at a rally attended by President Nicolae Ceausescu and thousands of selected Romanians, he said the Soviet Union has stopped boasting about its successes and is concentrating instead on solving its problems.
His remarks struck a sharp note in an allied country that has experienced 22 years of increasingly autocratic rule under Ceausescu and whose Communist Party has shown little enthusiasm for Gorbachev's policies of openness.
"We know that your country has a number of difficult problems to solve and that there are a number of difficulties which tell upon people's everyday lives," Gorbachev said. "However, we are confident that the Romanian people will solve them."
Gorbachev was alluding to food and energy shortages and falling living standards that Western economists say have made Romania's economy probably the weakest in the Warsaw Pact.
In describing changes in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev attacked nepotism in the Soviet Communist Party structure in what could be construed as criticism of Ceausescu. The Romanian leader's wife, Elena, his son, Nicu, and several other immediate relatives hold important party posts.
He said the Soviet party has engineered "the release of those who didn't justify themselves in work, who besmirched themselves with dishonor, lack of principles and nepotism, chasing after profit, and who lost the moral aspect of (being) a party member."
Gorbachev did not refer directly to the different approaches to culture, information and economic and foreign policies that he and Ceausescu have adopted.
The contrasting styles of leadership of Gorbachev and Ceausescu were evident from the way they delivered their speeches.
Ceausescu pounded the air with his fist as he praised Romania's policies and was interrupted by 27 bursts of coordinated applause as the audience chanted rhythmically: "Ceausescu, Gorbachev, Ceausescu, Gorbachev."
Gorbachev displayed a muted impatience with the ritual and, when he spoke, politely gestured to the audience to sit down and spend less time applauding him.
"We no longer boast about all our successes. We have hard work ahead of us," Gorbachev said, describing the Soviet Union's approach to its domestic problems.
"An essential part of democratization is open and broad information," he said. "If we gild certain things they become worse and worse. Half a truth is worse than a lie. Because when painful sore points are not solved, they simply fester and are covered up. . . ."