MOSCOW — In the typically Byzantine ways of journalism Soviet style, the man now at Pravda's helm owes his job at least in part to Communist Party gadfly and populist Boris N. Yeltsin.
When Yeltsin, now Russia's president, was in the United States last September, Pravda reprinted an Italian newspaper article claiming he was shopping and boozing his way across America--for him, "a bar 5,000 kilometers long."
The front-page article was an obvious attempt to hurt Yeltsin's standing, but it backfired badly. Yeltsin denounced the story as "delirium," and his popularity only kept rising. In an apparently unprecedented episode in the annals of Soviet journalism, Pravda publicly apologized, saying that its accusations were unsubstantiated.
A month later, Viktor G. Afanasyev, the editor-in-chief since 1976, was transferred to unspecified "scientific work" and replaced by Ivan T. Frolov, Gorbachev's handpicked adviser on ideological issues during the previous two years.