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Pro-Stalin Letter A Mistake, Soviet Paper Says

April 15, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ A Soviet newspaper said Friday that it made a mistake by printing a letter that criticized Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reforms and defended Josef V. Stalin.

The letter from a Leningrad teacher, published March 13, said Stalin’s accomplishments were being ignored and his crimes overemphasized. It criticized Gorbachev’s ″perestroika″ program of restructuring Soviet society.

Sovietskaya Rossiya, the organ of the Russian republic’s Communist Party and government, said in an editor’s note Friday that it used poor judgement in printing the letter.

The editors said they had ″not demonstrated enough responsiblity, a sufficiently balanced approach and the understanding that (the letter) leads one away from the revolutionary renewal of society through democracy and glasnost.″

Glasnost is Gorbachev’s policy of greater openness in selected topics.

The editor’s note was accompanied by 10 readers’ letters condemning the teacher’s comments.

Some observers believe the offending letter indicated the newspaper fell under the influence of conservatives led by Yegor K. Ligachev, considered the second most powerful official in the Kremlin after Gorbachev.

Ligachev, a member of the ruling Politburo, has suggested that glasnost has gone too far in uncovering past Soviet mistakes.

Pravda, the Communist Party daily, said in an editorial April 5 that Sovietskaya Rossiya’s editors had been irresponsible in publishing the teacher’s letter and warned that the Soviet press is ″not a private shop″ where opponents of party decisions can voice their opinions.

Sovietskaya Rossiya reprinted the Pravda article without comment on April 6. Gorbachev praised Pravda for setting the record straight.

Sovietskaya Rossiya discussed the letter again in Friday’s editions, on a page bearing the headline ″The Party is Going to the Lead of Perestroika.″ It said it had been swamped with letters about the dispute and claimed all supported Gorbachev’s reform program.

However, the editors said they would not shy away from controversial articles.

″Direct, frank talking to readers has been, is and will remain the main genre of our party newspaper,″ they wrote.

In an accompanying article, historian L. Ryansky defended the media’s uncovering of Stalin’s crimes and rehabilitation of his victims. He said the writing proved that ″the truth, no matter how concealed, sooner or later will triumph.″

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