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On Campus, Professors and Students Quit Party in Droves With AM-Soviet-Coup, Bjt

August 24, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ Ilya Reznikov, the student council president at a Moscow university, made a painful discovery last week when he joined a protest at the Russian Parliament against a hard-line Communist coup.

″My conscience and beliefs were on one side of the barricades, but my party membership card was on the other side,″ said Reznikov, 23, a four-year member of the Communist Party.

On Thursday, Reznikov quit the party. ″I decided it’s better to keep my conscience than my party card.″

Reznikov was not alone. Classmates and professors at Russian State University for the Humanities also began quitting the party in droves last week.

On Saturday, Mikhail S. Gorbachev dramatically shared their disillusionment, resigning as party leader, suspending its power nationwide, ordering its property turned over to parliament and urging that it disband.

About 1,300 of the university’s 1,800 students are either members of the Komsomol Communist youth organization or full party members, said Reznikov. He predicted at least half will quit.

Nationwide, the Communist Party is thought to have at least 15 million members. Estimates vary, but at least 2 million have quit in the last year.

Alexander Sokolov, a history professor who plans to quit, said most people join the party to advance their careers. Virtually all of the professors at the university are Communists, but most took part in anti-coup protests.

″Most of them never even read the works of Marx and Lenin. Almost nobody believes in communism anymore,″ he said.

The university’s director is historian Yuri Afanasyev, a well-known reformer and leader of the Democratic Russia political movement.

Sokolov said the coup was merely the final blow to his already-shaken allegiance to the Communist Party.

″It was a real shock,″ he said. ″Since then, people’s psychology has changed fantastically fast.″

Sokolov accused party leaders of cowardice for not opposing the coup until late Wednesday when it was obvious it was collapsing.

″There is no point in waiting for the party to change,″ he said. ″The problem is that the leaders do whatever they want; they are not accountable to rank-and-file members.″

Reznikov said he previously had disagreed with some party actions, he never felt ashamed.

″I didn’t feel any dirt on my conscience because I never took part in the party’s repressive organs, like its official newspapers,″ he said.

″Then came August 19th. I felt like one of the criminals. I realized that the coup would not have happened if not for the party.″

Another student, 26-year-old Sergei Lyubimtsev, said joining the party traditionally has been ″the only way to take part in the country’s political life, to do anything active.″ But he said the party’s support for a would-be dictatorship has changed all that.

″People are tired of having other people decide their fate,″ said Lyubimtsev.

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