MOSCOW, JULY 19 -- The staff of the Soviet news weekly Ogonyok has voted to become independent of the ruling Communist Party, making it this country's first official publication to reject the party's financial and ideological control.

The glossy magazine was one of the first Soviet publications to embrace President Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, or openness, and has strived to stay at the forefront of the campaign for free expression with aggressive news coverage that often stirs public debate. "Since we are now supposed to have more freedom of the press and all that, it is only natural that we should be free of the Communist Party, too," editor Vitaly Korotich said today.

The decision to become independent of party control -- made possible by recent liberalizing legislation -- was undertaken at a meeting of employees early this week, and will take effect Saturday.

Ogonyok's move into free-market journalism represents an evolution in the glasnost policy and a potential milestone for Soviet media, which have operated for decades under the watchful eye of the party. If the magazine proves successful in establishing its financial and political independence, other Soviet publications are likely to follow.

The decision is yet another demonstration of the Soviet Communist Party's loss of public prestige in recent months, and many of its editorial workers have decided to quit the party, as well, Korotich said.

With the magazine's new status, Ogonyok editors and reporters no longer will have to answer to the dictates and complaints of the Communist Party officials, who, even after the inception of glasnost, frequently called the magazine to object to articles.

"Even though Gorbachev has announced that the party is no longer in the censorship business, party people have still been trying to control me," Korotich said. Earlier this month, Soviet military leaders summoned him to complain about the magazine's coverage of army affairs, he said.

The decision also removes Ogonyok from the party's financial control. Like countless other Soviet publications, the magazine's revenues have always gone directly into party coffers, with editorial and production costs being deducted.

In the past few years, the popular magazine has become a hugely lucrative business, but the party has kept all of the profits, Korotich complained. Since Korotich became editor in 1986 and overhauled the publication's editorial style, circulation has skyrocketed from 260,000 to more than 4.5 million, with an attendant surge in profits.

Under their own management, the Ogonyok staff will run the magazine without political interference and pay the party for use of its building, publishing costs and taxes, Korotich said. "And if the German Social Democrats or the American Republican Party offers us a better deal, then we'll sign with them."

{In another expression of anti-party sentiment, Boris Yeltsin, the populist president of the Soviet Union's vast Russian republic, decreed an end today to the privileges enjoyed by Communist Party bureaucrats, government officials and industrial managers throughout his republic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

{Yeltsin declared that "privileges violate social fairness" and that benefits not directly earned by a person's own labor should be outlawed, the Times reported.}