The obsequious bureaucrat, a familiar figure in Russian literature, has became the latest villain in the Soviet press, alongside the drunkard, the loafer and the corrupt party boss.
In articles and speeches, a campaign is under way to weed out "boot-licking," "toadying" and other negative tendencies that one letter writer in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda called "completely alien to socialist society."
"This toadying atmosphere is poisoning everyone," said another letter writer. A third, recalling how the revolution had purged the language of titles such as "majesty," "highness" and "excellency," said it is "painful and shameful to hear flattering words servilely lavished on a high party or Soviet official and to have him accept them as his due."
The campaign against obsequiousness is closely related to a mounting effort to get at the corruption that now is said to riddle Soviet society.
Increasingly, the blame for these problems is being traced to the era of the late Leonid Brezhnev who, while never named, is recognizable in the frequent references to "self-flattery."
This is part of the message being drummed out at party meetings all over the country this winter as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev readies for the 27th congress of the Soviet Communist Party. His goal is to move aside an older generation of leaders who had grown complacent -- and often rich -- with power.
"We should have the same discipline for everyone, the same law for everyone and make the same demands on everyone," Gorbachev said in one recent speech, enunciating a goal that most here admit has slipped further away from Soviet reality.
As the new Kremlin leadership sweeps through the ranks of party and government, turning over personnel at a rapid rate, it unearths new examples of how rank and privilege go hand-in-hand with bribery, favoritism and other forms of indulgence.
A new phrase -- "local chieftainism" -- appeared in Pravda recently, defined as "when the leader of a district or a province does his utmost to get himself noted not for his good deeds but for the encouragement of flattery and servility directed at him."
Party leaders are berated for suppressing honest criticism, for immodesty, and, in short, for creating the conditions in which corruption flourishes.
In central Asia, where top party bosses have been removed in three Soviet republics -- Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan and Kirghizia -- newspapers have print- ed articles about the flagrant padding of economic statistics; the building of fancy dachas, or country houses, with state money; elaborate schemes involving the resale of gas coupons and vegetables, and other misdeeds.
In Moscow, rumors of investigations circulate daily, as people talk of this deputy minister being placed under arrest and that administrator heading for jail. According to one report, a number of ministerial dachas are likely to be confiscated after it was found out how much the saunas and Italian tiles inside had cost the government.
Three years ago when Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB, the Soviet secret police, became the Soviet leader, the head of a well-stocked Moscow food store was tried, convicted and executed, and the interior minister, known for abusing his authority, was ousted from his post and later reportedly committed suicide.
But, a Soviet journalist said, "Andropov did not have time to finish."
Spurred by the new calls for "openness," the Soviet press has recently published examples of corruption, this time naming names, even highly placed ones. The articles do not report the cases as news, often leaving out key details, but as trends to be struggled against: for instance, the failure of a collective to stop wrongdoing, or the tendency to allow high-placed officials to get off with a slap on the wrist.
In one example recounted in the Soviet press, a man identified as V. Khlebnev, the director of a building materials insitute in the central Asian Soviet republic of Tadzhikistan, began his life of crime by selling packets of homemade medicine for 25 roubles. From that start, he went on to sell anything at his institute that was not nailed down.
At some point, the money he lavished on the entertainment of visiting inspectors did not do the job and Khlebnev, described as once feeling untouchable, felt the heat. Desperate, he even considered burning down his institute to cover up his crimes. "Happily," concluded the cautionary article in the government newspaper Izvestia, "he did not succeed. The institute survived and Khlebnev was brought to court."
Izvestia also traced the career of a deputy construction minister in Tadzhikistan who was caught speculating in cars and building a dacha with state materials. He was demoted to head of an enterprise, then caught shielding a speculator and again demoted to main economist of an oil conglomerate. The debate among readers was whether his demotions were punishment enough.
Another account said the head of transport for the light industry ministry -- a job rich with possibilities for blat, or influence -- never used the word bribe. Instead he preferred to say people gave things, or money, out of gratitude.
The article said one factory director was "pleased" eight times -- to the tune of 500 roubles (about $650) each time he arranged to have people jump ahead of the line to buy private cars.
The most common themes in the stories get at the heart of the Soviet Union's problem with corruption: the assumption that it is a necessary evil to make the system work, and the view held by many officials that favors, gifts or special treatment do not constitute bribes, but are simply the privileges of high rank.
"Without the slightest basis for doing so, some executives have come to believe that, as they ascend the staircase of official position, their personal relationship to the law . . . weakens," an article in Izvestia noted last month.
"Unfortunately, the fallacious opinion that it is impossible to manage successfully without breaking the law has taken root among some economic executives," Izvestia said.
"Let us be frank," it exhorted its readers. "We must rid ourselves once and for all of certain frames of mind remaining from past years."
For Soviet readers, the "past years" is taken to mean the last years of Brezhnev -- a period that increasingly has come to be blamed for spawning a wide variety of sins -- including "flattery, servility, toadying, and obsequiousness."
Not coincidentally, these themes were raised in the Communist Party paper Pravda on the third anniversary of Brezhnev's death. There, a letter writer referred to the period of "the cult of personality," the Soviet code word for Joseph Stalin's era, and the period of "subjectivism and voluntarism," as that of Nikita Khrushchev is known.
These, he said, were followed by the period "in recent times when unrestrained praise of certain leaders received such broad scope" -- a reference clearly meant to intend Brezhnev. Now, the writer noted, "the Central Committee has launched a principled struggle against all this, and we should help it more actively."