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Session Extended as Delegates Demand to Speak : Soviet Congress Proves Freewheeling

June 07, 1989|MASHA HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — As the Soviet Union's freewheeling Congress of People's Deputies went into its 10th day Tuesday, there was no end in sight to the debates that have touched on everything from accusations of immorality among Soviet youth to whether V. I. Lenin would have wanted his body on display in Red Square.

The 2,250-member congress was originally to have had four days of sessions, elect a lawmaking, 542-member Supreme Soviet and then head home for the year, duty done.

But only about half of the more than 800 representatives who signed up for a chance to speak have had their say so far, and every day deputies not previously on the list clamor for an opportunity to get on the soap box in the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses.

The effort to end Tuesday's session was a sign of how things have gone--and of how, according to best predictions, they probably will continue to go for another week or so.

She Would Not Wait

As the deputy leading the congress' morning session sought to bring it to an end after 2 p.m., a woman from Central Asia rushed to the podium. She yelled frantically that she had been trying for several days to have her moment at the microphone.

The rotating chairman of the day's session, Anatoly V. Gurbonov of Latvia, told her she would be given a chance to speak later, but she would not wait.

She had a pile of telegrams from several dozen of her constituents outraged by a verbal attack last week against human rights activist Andrei D. Sakharov for his denunciation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and his airing of allegations of Soviet atrocities committed there.

She wanted to read them all.

As she tried to speak, a shrill buzzer sounded insistently and repeatedly, signaling her to sit down.

Gorbachev Sat Watching

"Dear colleague, thank you. Now please, please take your seat," said the normally imperturbable Gurbonov, on his feet and waving his arms in an effort to interrupt her. Finally, reluctantly, the deputy left the podium, clearing the way for the session to end.

Through it all, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev sat quietly watching his experiment in democracy continue to run its course.

Also Tuesday, Siberian writer Valentin Rasputin made a wandering speech during which he spoke for the conservatives on a number of points. Referring to Gorbachev's policy of glasnost , or permitting greater openness, he said a law is needed "to bring glasnost under control."

He blamed Western influences for what he said are falling moral standards among Soviet youth.

And he turned the tables on deputies representing various ethnic groups who have called on the Russian-dominated state to give them greater rights.

"We Russians understand the feelings and problems of all the ethnic groups. But it's time for them to understand us as well," he said.

Call for Ethnic Rights

There also was a rash of demands Tuesday for congressional study commissions.

One legislator from Estonia called for a commission to draw up a constitutional amendment that would give all of the Soviet Union's more than 100 ethnic groups broad new rights.

Another legislator from the Volga River city of Gorky called for a commission to monitor Soviet government efforts to control industrial pollution.

Mikhail I. Mongo, a representative of the Evenkian autonomous region in eastern Siberia, called for still another commission, this one to study how to preserve cultural traditions of tribes living in the country's northern regions.

Nomadic Life Style

The country's 20,000 Evenks were once nomadic and even now subsist primarily by breeding reindeer, hunting and fishing, living without many modern conveniences. But while they apparently don't mind missing out on washing machines and electric can openers, this congress is one new development in Soviet society in which they want to be included.

While the topics may sometimes seem tedious, attention in the congress hall seldom flags. The novelty of it all alone seems enough to keep the deputies glued to their seats.

New Home for Lenin?

Perhaps the most bizarre demand came last week, when Muscovite Yuri F. Karyakin suggested removing Lenin's remains from his tomb in Red Square and burying the founder of the state in the city that today bears his name, Leningrad.

Karyakin, drawing some audible gasps from the deputies, asserted that that had actually been Lenin's last wish.

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