Two years after Lenin died in 1924, Raisa Borizovna Lert, then a young journalist zealous to build a new society in the Soviet Union, joined the Communist Party.
This spring, after 53 years' membership in which her zeal finally faded to dissatisfaction and dissent, she was expelled from the party for working with other dissident Communists who espouse democratic ways.
Now 73, a wizened, frail woman who chain smokes strong, traditional Russian cigarettes, Lert and other writers and editors on the small, unauthorized journals of fact and opinion here, wait apprehensively for the knock of the secret police at their doors.
An any Western country, where freedom of speech is a fundamental right, these little journals could be found on sale in many places and available in the periodicals section of almost any good local public library.
But here in the Soviet Union, where the one-party monolith seeks to control all forms of public expression, the state has opened criminal investigations into two such journals.
One journal is a determinedly non-political magazine of religious philosophy, literary criticism and excerpted Western writings, called, "Jews in the U.S.S.R., a 300-page periodical that has appeared about three times a year for the past six years.
The other, much younger and politically adventuresome, is a typescript soapbox of diverse political analysis and debate called Poizki , or Searches. There have been five issues in the past 18 months.
As is usual in such cases, the state's oppression seems out of all proportion to any possible impact the two journals may have upon the sensibilities, views, or aspirations of the Soviet public. The publications, painstakingly typed in many duplicates on onion-skin paper and passed surreptitiously from hand to hand in the hardy tradition of Soviet [samizdat] (self-publishing) cannot have circulation beyond a few thousand people at the most.
By instituting criminal proceedings the state demonstrates anew the official hyprocisy that exists in the Soviet Union, which boasts to the world of its preservation of individual liberties but ruthlessly conducts a special kind of internal guerrilla was against those who dare express their views openly.
The situation of each journal tells much about the reality of freedom for this nation of 263 million.
The principal editor of "Jews in the U.S.S.R.," Viktor Brailovsky, 43, a mathematicean who was fired from his cybernetics job in a Moscow institute after applying to emigrate to Israel in 1972, believes that a stiffening campaign of police harassment directed against him has two purposes: to throttle to "Jews in the U.S.S.R." and, more broadly, to discredit the Moscow Jewish activist community of which he is a leading member of smearing them as common criminals.
One important figure in the cultural magazine Searches, has been arrested, allegedly for illegal trafficking in precious Russian Orthodox icons. Igor Guberman, 43, a Moscow writer of popular youth stories that have been widely printed by official Soviet magazines, was seized Aug. 13 in Dmitrov, a small town near Moscow. Guberman was well known among intellectuals here as a connoisseur and collector of icons. Police confiscated these and have searched the apartments of his friends.
Many Jewish activists say that the KGB, realizing that it brought world condemnation of the Soviet Union for last year's political trial of Jewish dissident Anatoli Scharansky, has settled on a strictly criminal case to press forward a suppression campaign against the Jews ordered by the Kremlin's highest ruling circles.
Agents in the Guberman case recently searched Brailovsky's apartment, seized personal papers, accused him of complicity and stake out the neighborhood.
Although it is likely that more than 50,000 Soviet Jews will be allowed to emigrate to Israel and the West this year, officially inspired anti-Semitism, in such forms as thinly veiled, inflammatory denunciations of "Zionism" in the Soviet press, tighter restrictions on access by Jews to university and high-level employment positions, and similar measures, is increasing here. Brailovsky and other Jews see the moves against "Jews in the U.S.S.R. as part of this campaign.
The harassment of Searches has roots as deep in the history and psyche of Soviet power as anti-Semitism is rooted in the soil of Mother Russia. Stalin's purges of both fantasy opposition and real factionalism that flickered in the first 25 years of party rule instilled an abiding fear of Marxist dissent in the ideological bureaucrats who as Stalin's survivors and heirs have ensured their personal well-being and security in part by suppressing Marxist critics.
In the post-Stalin era, numerous party members who sought reform from within have been cast from the brotherhood, with its imbedded, secret privileges of better food, better vacations, better housing.
It is no surprise then that the Moscow prosecutor's office now has among its dossiers an investigation file alleging that Searches has committed the crime of "dissemination of slanderous inventions injurious to Soviet society and the state order."
It is also perfectly consistent with this aspect of Soviet reality that Searches' principal editor Pyotr Yegides, 62, has been expelled from the Communist Party and dismissed from his job teaching aesthetics of design at a Moscow institute.
Secret police have searched the apartments of both Yegides and Lert and made surprise raids on the homes of contributors, seizing personal papers, confiscating manuscripts, making threats. Agents have grabbed suspected contributors on the street for sudden interrogation.
The state has had success in its efforts to choke Searches. The last issue was six months ago and Yegides, Lert and the others are not sure when they will be able to put out another.
In its five issues, Searches has vigorously presented widely different points of view. It has included the writings of Eurocommunists, advocates of extensive private ownership, and religious believers who want to see much wider freedom for the Russian Orthodox church.
"It is little but an attempt to make a pluralistic journal," commented Raisa Orlova, a member of Moscow's dissident literary community who has closely followed the tribulations of Searches.
"Their group includes Christians, nationalists, Marxists, half-Marxists -- it is very unusual and extremely needful for my poor country to share points of view."