As Goes the Party, so Goes the Soviet Union
MOSCOW — WITH the Communist Party smashed beyond recognition, the future of the Soviet Union appears to be in serious doubt.The party was the glue that kept the 15 diverse republics of the nation together. Now that the party has essentially dissolved, there appears little to keep the union from melting away. The Ukraine, the second largest republic after Russia, may have done the most to hasten the collapse of the Soviet empire by declaring independence Saturday. The declaration approved by the Ukrainian parliament took effect immediately, subject to confirmation by a December referendum. A renewed Soviet Union would be diffi cult to imagine without the Ukraine's industrial and agricultural contribution. The Baltic republics - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia - have made the most steps to break away since the coup collapsed, apparently with the blessing of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Taking advantage of the chaos surrounding the coup, both Estonia and Latvia declared independence, and Mr. Yeltsin has recognized them. The Russian president also urged Mikhail Gorbachev, to do the same. Yeltsin already had recognized Lithuania's independence. In his declaration on Estonia and Latvia, Yeltsin went so far as to call on the world community to recognize the Baltic republics' independence. Lithuania has abolished KGB activity on its territory, and residents in the capital, Vilnius, have dismantled a statue to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. In the republic of Moldavia, which also seeks independence, government officials banned the republic's Communist Party and confiscated its property before Gorbachev called for the national party's dissolution Saturday. In Central Asia, both Kazakhstan and Kirghizia announced the intention to create their own republican guard. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev also sought to remove local leaders. In Azerbaijan, however, hard-line forces are apparently digging in for a last stand. The republic's leader Ayaz Mutalibov openly embraced last week's coup attempt. On Friday, elite "black beret" police used force to break up a demonstration celebrating the collapse of the coup. About 50 people were arrested and seven injured during the rally, Mekhman Aliyev, a spokesman for the republic's nationalist Popular Front movement told Reuters. A second demonstration Saturday called for the removal of all government bodies from the party, as well as new parliamentary elections, the Interfax news agency said.