MOSCOW — The language with which Soviet officials denounced ousted Moscow party chief Boris N. Yeltsin recalls the venomous Communist Party infighting of the 1920s and 1930s, an account in the party newspaper Pravda disclosed Friday.
Led by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's accusations that Yeltsin, 56, was guilty of overwhelming personal ambition and mouthing words without deeds, about 20 Communist Party leaders joined the attack with even stronger rhetoric at a meeting Wednesday of the Moscow party committee.
Some of the phrases were similar to the denunciations leveled at Leon Trotsky before his expulsion from the Politburo in 1927 by Josef Stalin and his allies.
Yeltsin, who sat through the verbal barrage, was charged with "stabbing the party in the back" and an attempt to split the ruling Politburo by his dramatic Oct. 21 speech at a plenum of the party's 300-member Central Committee.
Also present at the session was Yegor K. Ligachev, the man whom Yeltsin reportedly accused of slowing Gorbachev's reform drive. Ligachev, who is responsible for party ideology, often has appeared to be a spokesman for conservatives who believe Gorbachev may be changing the country too fast and venturing into unexplored ideological territory.
It was one of the harshest public humiliations of a top Soviet leader since the notorious "show trials" of the 1930s, although Yeltsin was not expelled from the party and apparently is in no danger of going to prison.
Of the five other men dropped from the Politburo since Gorbachev came to power in March, 1985, none was reviled in Pravda, the nationally circulated party organ. They simply vanished from public view.
Many Muscovites, who admired Yeltsin's outspoken criticism of past corruption and his closing of special stores for the party elite, said they were disappointed with the replacement of Yeltsin by Lev N. Zaikov, 63, a full member of the Politburo and former party chief of Leningrad.
Some Soviet intellectuals, reading a three-page account in Pravda of the denunciations of Yeltsin and his confession of guilt, said it could have a chilling effect on expression of unorthodox views.
Gorbachev's defenders said he was forced to act by Yeltsin's inexplicable outburst, in which he said the reform program had not benefited the average citizen in its first 2 1/2 years and criticized some Politburo members by name.
Such personal criticism, the anti-Yeltsin forces said, violated an unwritten Politburo law that values unity above all and is constantly concerned about the emergence of factionalism.
But the vehemence of Gorbachev's attack on a man once regarded as his strong ally seemed to indicate that Gorbachev either felt personally betrayed or believed he had to deliver a smashing blow to a man who was personally popular.
The Kremlin leader charged that Yeltsin was "politically immature, extremely confusing and contradictory" and made no constructive proposals but was always playing to the grandstand.
Even as he assailed Yeltsin for his Oct. 21 speech, however, Gorbachev insisted that he was not trying to suppress criticism of Politburo members or the party secretariat.
"In general, comrades, the style and methods of comrade Yeltsin, characterized by pseudo-revolutionary phrases and pseudo-determination, proved to be untenable," Gorbachev concluded.
But he was gentle compared to some of the Moscow party officials who took the floor to denounce their former chief.
Fedor Kozyrev-Dal, head of the city's agro-industrial complex, charged that "elements of Bonapartism began to appear," using a word with the connotation of dictatorial ambition.
Another speaker, V.V. Zharov, charged Yeltsin with making "ultra-left and super-radical statements" and resorting to wholesale shake-ups of district officials to shift responsibility for his own shortcomings.
"It is monstrous to cast even the shadow of a doubt that Muscovites can have any other position than that of the Central Committee (of the national Communist Party)," said A. Nikolayev, terming Yeltsin's speech an "enormous . . . party crime." Only one speaker, Alexei Yeliseyev, the rector of a Moscow technical institute, suggested that some of Yeltsin's critics were hypocritical for remaining silent in the past.
"We are beginning to lose our principles somewhere," he said. "Let us pluck up our courage to speak out in good time in the future and we will avoid such mistakes."
For his part, Yeltsin appeared contrite in his speech to the city party plenum, saying: "I agree with the criticism which has been voiced. . . . Of course I believe in perestroika (restructuring of the society and economy) and there can be no doubt about that. . . . I had no ulterior motives, and there was no political tendency in the (Oct. 21) speech I made."
Yeltsin said he is aware of his guilt, adding, "I am personally very guilty before Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, whose prestige in our organization, in our country and in the world is so high."