Official summaries of speeches at yesterday's session of the Soviet Communist Party conference made the day's proceedings sound sedate. According to Yuri Sklyarov, a party Central Committee member, the second day of the conference saw debates over how long party or government leaders should be allowed to hold office, and speeches from the party chiefs of Armenia and Azerbaijan which made it clear that their differences over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh remain unresolved.
A delegate to the conference, however, said the proceedings were far from run-of-the-mill.
According to this source, one speaker, Filip Popov, Communist Party chief of the Altay region, indignantly demanded an inquiry into the allegations by the controversial weekly Ogonyok that some delegates from the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan were criminals.
Ogonyok had alleged last week that some of the delegates were involved in what its editor Vitaly Korotich calls ``our little Irangate'' - widespread corruption among Uzbek party officials close to former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
The conference's mandate commission is due to report on the matter today.
The same conference source alleged that a Soviet writer of somewhat conservative leanings had indulged in ``political hysterics,'' attacking outspoken journals and writers. Others defended the more outspoken elements of the press.
None of this found anything more than an echo in Mr. Sklyarov's account.
According to official summaries of the day's speeches, Azerbaijani party leader Abdul Rahman Vezirov told delegates that the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh - a largely Armenian enclave administered by Azerbaijan - had assumed a ``dangerous character.''
Inter-ethnic relations in the republic had sharply deteriorated, he said. ``Thousands of Azerbaijanis'' had left their homes in Armenia, and ``many'' Armenians are leaving Azerbaijan.
By expressing opposition to any border changes in the Soviet Union, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev Tuesday appeared once gain to rule out the possibility of transferring Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
But Armenian party leader Suren Arutyunyan spoke of the ``explosive situation'' in both Azerbaijan and his republic. And he was quoted as calling for changes to the Soviet Constitution - a signal that he had once again sided with his own republic's call for Karabakh's incorporation into Armenia.
Outside of the conference, several Soviet observers commented Wednesday that Mr. Gorbachev's speech to the conference the previous day appeared to be a combination of several sets of proposals, some of them directly contradictory.
Politburo member Alexander Yakovlev said Monday night that Gorbachev's report had been reviewed by the ruling Politburo some eight days before the conference began. Some changes had subsequently been made, he told a press briefing.
Usually reliable sources claim that there was considerable dissension inside the Politburo over some unspecified elements of the report. 2 But in an interview Tuesday one conference delegate, Gen. Alexander Lizichev, a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, said he agreed with all the speech.
In particular, he fully approved of the idea of a Soviet president taking over the Defense Council, he told three journalists. General Lizichev made it clear he assumed that the Communist Party leader would automatically become president.
Lizichev, who heads the armed forces' main political directorate, said that the Defense Ministry had already cut between 15 percent to 20 percent of its staff. He added, however, that cuts in the combat strength of the armed forces were not currently being planned.
He also reacted strongly to suggestions recently put forward in a number of official publications that the Soviet leadership should implement unilateral cuts in its defense.
An article in the latest edition of the Moscow journal, International Affairs, for example, had stated that defense placed relatively greater burdens on Soviet society than it did on the United States.
The writer, a staff member of the Central Committee's USA and Canada institute, noted that heavy defense appropriations may have been one of the causes of the slowdown of the Soviet economy in the 1970s. And he noted that unilateral cuts in the past had increased national prestige rather than reducing security. 3 Lizichev dismissed those arguments. ``People who propose unilateral disarmament can only be either naive or who are singing a foreign line.'' The Soviet Union, he said, needed to retain sufficient defense so ``if some madman wants to attack us, he receives a worthy answer.''
And, although Gorbachev had warned Tuesday that the achievements of perestroika (restructuring) could be rolled back, Lizichev declared his confidence that the changes were ``irreversible.''
A number of conference speakers differed on the issue of tenure for party and government leaders. The conference theses, or guidelines, approved by the Central Committee May 23, had proposed two five-year terms with the option, under certain circumstances, for a third.
Georgi Arbatov, director of the USA and Canada Institute, proposed a two-term limit without exception.
Mikhail Ulyanov, one of the Soviet Union's best known actors - he is currently playing both Lenin and Richard III on Moscow stages - demanded a single term. Then he backtracked slightly. The possibility of additional terms for leaders like Gorbachev who had proven themselves ``initiators of perestroika,'' could be settled ``independently,'' he added.
Reuters reports that a list of political and social reforms proposed by KGB members appeared in the weekly Moscow News on Wednesday. They included:
Making officials criminally responsible for decisions that had bad economic or ecological effects.
Defining Zionism and anti-Semitism as equally dangerous to socialism.
Removing obstacles to starting schools or clubs which study any national language in any part of the country.
More openness about economic aid to other countries and its effectiveness.
Publishing a new collection of Vladimir Lenin's unpublished works.