The Kremlin's quest for a contemporary look and manner has been visible this week in several vignettes: Raisa Gorbachev sporting a new coiffure before Soviet television cameras, a Politburo member telling the foreign press how his peers live and Mikhail Gorbachev himself jovially ridiculing a subordinate's attempt to flatter him.
Russians call it po novomy, "in the new way." Soviet leader Gorbachev has spent his first year in office trying to make it the law of the land. One example of the Soviet leader's efforts came yesterday at the 27th Communist Party Congress when he humorously demonstrated his opposition to the kind of toadyism that flourished under former party leader Leonid Brezhnev.
In a gesture of flattery to Gorbachev, a speaker, film director Lev Kulidzhanov, said of the Soviet leader's five-hour speech Tuesday: "When Mikhail Sergeyevich finished his report and sat down I experienced a feeling, I must say, of regret that it was over."
Gorbachev, half rising from his seat, broke in, and said: "Let's stop this reciting of 'Mikhail Sergeyevich.' " The incident was broadcast on the national television evening news.
For the new Soviet leadership, po novomy is as much a matter of encouraging higher standards, old-fashioned hard work, party discipline, openness and strict morals as it is of breaking down the traditional penchant for flattery.
The party congress, which today approved party rule changes and a revision of the party program proposed last fall by Gorbachev, is widely viewed here as a showcase of the new style, with its lively speeches and dominant tone of self-criticism. As a television camera panned across the audience of delegates and observers, including Raisa Gorbachev, one Soviet observer commented that the crowd seemed younger and better dressed than at past congresses.
Party leaders have made it clear that no one will be exempt from strict observance of new standards. Second-ranking Politburo member Yegor Ligachev, in a speech Wednesday, said that even those from Tomsk, Sverdlovsk and Stavropol -- his home district and those of Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov and Gorbachev -- will be subject to criticism by party members and others.
In his speech Tuesday Gorbachev sent a signal that press openness is an important element of his new style. The appointment of Valentin Falin, formerly an ambassador to West Germany and an Izvestia editor, to head the official Soviet news agency Novosti followed immediately.
The 5,000 delegates at the congress have seemed willing to go along with Gorbachev's call for openness, his stance against flattery and his other proposals and proclamations. Gaidar Aliyev on Thursday became the first Politburo member in recent memory to hold a press conference on domestic affairs. Aliyev spent two hours answering questions ranging from how Politburo members live to how the leading party institution makes its decisions.