Soviet Union More Than Talk

Gorbachev's gabfest becomes an electrifying gripe session -- and then some

The words were inflammatory, but the audience took them in stride. Referring to the discredited era of Leonid Brezhnev, who died in 1982, Vladimir I. Melnikov, an obscure official from the Russian republic, declared from the podium at the 19th All-Union Communist Party Conference, "People who in previous times actively conducted the policy of stagnation cannot now be on, or work in, central party or Soviet organs in the period of restructuring."

To most people in the auditorium, Melnikov's meaning was clear. But Mikhail Gorbachev wanted him to be even more explicit. Breaking into the speech, Gorbachev asked, "Maybe you have...

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