MOSCOW, JULY 3 -- A group of Soviet activists and freed political prisoners today made public the proposed first issue of an independent journal called Glasnost, putting Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev's campaign for public openness to its biggest test yet.
The editors' request for official permission to publish the journal is pending with officials at the Communist Party Central Committee, who have had the mock-up for two weeks. It includes articles that criticize official events and an extensive interview with the country's best-known dissident, physicist Andrei Sakharov.
Editor Sergei Grigoryants, jailed in 1983 for his work on an underground journal and released last February, said at a crowded press conference that the goals of the new publication are to fill gaps left by the state-controlled media and to provide a voice for Soviet citizens who choose not to publish in official newspapers.
The reaction of Soviet officials to the new journal has been cold. Plainclothes police gathered around the walkway leading to Grigoryants' apartment before the press conference, and Soviet journalists invited to attend, even from liberal official weeklies such as Ogonyok and Moscow News, boycotted it.
According to the two-page lead editorial, the goal of Glasnost is to help "stimulate the development of democracy" in the Soviet Union.
"This may not be as crucial as it was," Grigoryants said, "but it's still immensely important."
Lev Timofeyev, a writer recently released from prison, announced that the organizers of the journal are planning an informal club, also called Glasnost, where copies of the journal will be available and political discussions will be held.
The first issue of Glasnost, a 60-page typewritten booklet, includes an interview with Sakharov reprinted from an American newspaper, a critical review of the Soviet-sponsored peace conference held here last month and information not regularly given in the official press, such as brief reports about meetings of the unofficial Perestroika group, named after Gorbachev's term for economic restructuring.
However, Grigoryants insisted, "This is not a samizdat publication." The term "samizdat" refers to unauthorized, "self-issued" writings. "We are doing everything openly," Grigoryants said, "but we feel that there are still some areas of life that the official press still does not cover fully."
Grigoryants said that Glasnost will be distributed three times a month to Soviet and western subscribers. Today's run was limited to 50 copies, as many as the team of about a dozen Soviet activists involved in the project could type out manually. "As you know," Grigoryants said, "we don't have a Xerox."
Asked if he did not fear repression and reimprisonment for putting out the journal, Grigoryants, who served 3 1/2 years for his samizdat role, said he hoped such "unpleasantness will not happen again."
"We'll carry on," another participant answered to the same question.
When Grigoryants and other participants rose to talk about Glasnost they ended up talking about themselves, each emotional tale helping to explain their collective commitment to lay bare some of the more painful aspects of Soviet life.
Rolands Silaraups, a 21-year-old Latvian human rights activist, spoke of harassment, threats and an eventual order to leave the Soviet Union after he helped organize a massive rally commemorating Latvian victims of Stalinist repression in Riga two weeks ago.
Yuri Kisilov, missing both his legs, spoke of fighting for the rights of invalids in a country that does not officially recognize it has invalids.
Genrikh Altunyan's story spoke for itself. A former military engineer, he was expelled from the Communist Party, fired and eventually imprisoned for human rights activism he started in the 1960s. Altunyan, like many on the staff of Glasnost, was among the political prisoners set free last February.
But Altunyan remains an activist. Complaining that Gorbachev's glasnost campaign does not extend to all aspects of Soviet society, he cited two of the most controversial areas usually left out of public criticism: the official policy on non-Russian nationalities and the KGB state security agency.
The beleaguered movement for Latvian and other nationalist rights, the situation of Soviet invalids and the KGB are subjects that will be discussed in subsequent issues of Glasnost, Grigoryants said.
"Even under glasnost, much is off limits in the official media," Altunyan added.
In the past two years, Soviet newspapers have undergone major changes, revealing problems in Soviet society such as drug abuse that previously had been masked.
Still, one of the Soviet activists pointed out today, many subjects are barred from public discussion, and even in officially permitted subjects there are limits to what can be said openly.
While Soviet officials, journalists and editors have stressed that the Central Committee no longer exercises control over the content of official newspapers, critics point out that most journalists and editors exercise a harsh level of self-censorship.
Asked the difference between Glasnost and a samizdat journal, Timofeyev said: "We exist to try to make use of the new boundaries glasnost has given to public expression."