MOSCOW, FEB. 7 -- "If you want to call me a reactionary, go ahead," said Lt. Col. Viktor Alksnis, without apology or explanation.

Alksnis, the leader of the hard-line Soyuz faction in the Soviet legislature, has helped bring down some of the leading reformists in the leadership. Now he is demanding that President Mikhail Gorbachev "take the logical course": declare a period of martial, authoritarian rule -- just as Polish Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski did in 1981 -- or resign immediately.

Gorbachev must dissolve the Supreme Soviet and the assemblies of the 15 republics, "by force if necessary," and establish a coalition National Salvation Committee to rule the country "for a dozen years or so," Alksnis said. If that means arresting Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis or other pro-independence leaders in the republics, "then so be it."

Alksnis is 40 years old and, in a perverse sense, a product of Gorbachev's early reforms. He disdains the discretion and doublespeak of Communist Party tradition. He is the hard-liners' bad boy, the angriest public face of an angry movement.

With his sweeping pompadour, his epaulets and leather jacket, Alksnis has become a common sight on television here. He is known as "the black colonel" for his dark, apocalyptic visions: imminent civil war across the nation, millions rioting in the streets "for a crust of bread." In a two-hour interview at his suite at the Moskva Hotel the other day, he said he spoke "for the silent majority" and all his demands for authoritarian rule were in the interest of "civic order and the rule of law."

"If the current anarchy continues and millions pour into the streets and start destroying everything, from McDonald's to the museums, then a horrible dictatorship really is possible," he said. "Anyone could come to power then, a person that none of us -- not you or me or Gorbachev -- knows."

As recently as six months ago, Alksnis was an obscure deputy representing the Soviet military outposts in Latvia. He was not much liked. Even his aunt went door to door, campaigning against him. But as Soyuz seized on the issue of preserving the centrally ruled Soviet state and became the most organized faction in the parliament, Alksnis suddenly emerged as the symbol of reaction against five years of "illusory" reform, an operatic successor to such Communist Party conservatives as Yegor Ligachev.

In his resignation speech two months ago, foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze expressed fury and bewilderment that two mere colonels, Alksnis and his comrade-in-vitriol Nikolai Petrushenko, could win the public stage. But at a time when opinion polls show that 22 percent of the population would favor a military coup and 56 percent see "genuine power" as the critical political need of the moment, Alksnis cannot be counted as a marginal figure.

Leonid Batkin, a leader of the liberal Democratic Rossiya coalition, calls Alksnis "a thug," but with regret in his voice adds that the "only real differences now between Alksnis and Gorbachev are tactics." Some deputies, like Nikolai Engver of the Urals, left Soyuz because the colonels had become so hard-line. But many more joined. Soyuz grew from 461 members to 560 by the end of 1990.

Many liberals assume that the leaders of the Soviet army and police use Alksnis as a stalking horse, a means to advance what amounts to a creeping military coup while making them seem moderate by comparison.

The relationship is kept deliberately vague. Alksnis said that in recent weeks, Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov, Chief of Staff Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev and Interior Minister Boris Pugo all have called him in for what he called "unpleasant sessions." "It seems I don't always make them happy," he said with a grin. "I just tell them I am a deputy first, a colonel second."

Petrushenko, however, said in an interview recently that while Yazov had scolded the two colonels for their rhetoric, he also indicated a kind of fatherly, tacit approval of their political activities. And in a series of interviews at last December's session of the legislature, a half-dozen generals and admirals, including Moiseyev and the head of the navy, said they were in fundamental agreement with Alksnis despite reservations about his style.

Nor is Alksnis alone in planning the rise of an authoritarian National Salvation Committee to take command of the country. The idea also has the backing of Vladimir Voronin, leader of the Centrist Bloc of 22 political organizations and an engineer who spent three years in jail for theft. Voronin told reporters recently that parliaments, the presidency and the free press should all be dissolved and the state put in the hands of the committee.

"Give us a year," Voronin said. "If we don't succeed then, we'll resign."

Last week, KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, who almost never deigns to meet with any political figures outside the Communist Party, met with Voronin and other leaders of the Centrist Bloc -- a session that gave pro-democracy forces chills.

Alksnis, for his part, is a member of the Communist Party, but order, not ideology, is his obsession. Unlike some others on the hard-line wing of the political spectrum, he has no nostalgia for Joseph Stalin.

His grandfather, Yakov Alksnis, was head of the air force in the 1930s and in May 1937 was a member of a military tribunal that ordered the execution of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the most brilliant Soviet military man of his time, on trumped-up charges of spying. All on Stalin's orders. Eight months later, nearly everyone on the tribunal, Yakov Alksnis included, was arrested and shot.

Alksnis's grandmother spent 14 years in labor camps and his father could never serve in the army because he was the son of an "enemy of the people." Some information on Yakov Alksnis appears in Roy Medvedev's and Dmitri Volkogonov's biographies of Stalin, but Viktor Alksnis only learned the full story last year when Kryuchkov opened the KGB's files for him.

"What is there to say? Those were complicated times," Alksnis said, leaving the subject behind.

Like many Soviet conservatives, Alksnis says the country's current crisis began, in a sense, with the death in 1984 of Yuri Andropov, the former KGB chief who became Communist Party leader. A believer in discipline and traditional ideology, Andropov moved to wipe out some of the sloth and corruption of the Leonid Brezhnev era, and apparently intended to make minor economic changes. He was in power only 15 months.

"Andropov was a realist. Gorbachev is a romantic," Alksnis said. "He never really had a plan. If Andropov hadn't died, the situation today would be different."

Alksnis is also representative of many Soviet conservatives with his acute distrust of the West. He accuses Gorbachev and Shevardnadze of selling out Soviet interests to the United States, of helping to "eliminate the Soviet Union as superpower in the world arena. And this is all being achieved without the use of force, merely through {Western} exploitation of the processes within the country."

The West, Alksnis said, "now thinks it can talk down to us . . . . They used to think of the Soviet Union as Upper Volta with missiles. Now they think of us just as Upper Volta. No one fears us."

Shevardnadze did not resign as a protest against an imminent dictatorship, Alksnis insisted, but rather "because the last myth of perestroika is disintegrating, the myth of our wonderful foreign policy." Shevardnadze stepped down, he said, to avoid taking responsibility for the West's success in reducing the Soviet superpower to a weakling resembling nothing less than the mythic Cupid: "armed, naked and trying to impose our love on everyone."

Alksnis accused the West, the United States in particular, of trying to "break apart the Soviet Union, to eliminate it as a factor on the world stage." In the Baltic states, he sees Western intelligence, "under the cover of charitable organizations," providing pro-independence groups with computers, video cassette recorders and facsimile machines. He said he has "documents proving the fact" that the CIA is funding the Inter-Regional Group of radical deputies and other pro-democracy movements.

"I even have unofficial data that indicates that there was an unofficial agreement about Soviet participation in the {Persian} Gulf," Alksnis said. "The fact that the allied forces are not succeeding on the ground, this is because the Soviet troops are not there. It had been agreed that the Soviet Union would carry out the attack."

Alksnis has joined forces with Alexander Nevzorov, a young Leningrad television journalist. Last week, Nevzorov conducted an extraordinary television interview with Alksnis in which they took turns defending the empire against "so-called democrats" who would lead the country to collapse.

"Somehow I find more common ground with Nevzorov the monarchist than Comrade Yakovlev the Communist," Alksnis said in a reference to Alexander Yakovlev, once Gorbachev's leading liberal adviser.

Yakovlev is a natural foe. It was Yakovlev, after all, who headed a parliamentary committee in 1989 that concluded after decades of official denial that the Soviet Union had in fact annexed the Baltic states in 1940 as part of a secret agreement with Adolf Hitler. Although he is Latvian, Alksnis is the self-proclaimed spokesman for the people he and Nevzorov call nashi -- literally "ours" -- the millions of Russian-speakers living in the peripheral republics.

Alksnis, who was a member of the National Salvation Committee in Latvia that tried to take power from the elected parliament, said Gorbachev originally had agreed to a plan that would start with pressure on the parliaments, then use force to "protect local troops," establish the committees and finally end with the declaration of direct presidential rule.

With fury in his voice, Alksnis said that Gorbachev lost his nerve after the deaths in Vilnius and Riga last month.

"I have no lust for power," Alksnis said. "But Gorbachev's time is passing. He no longer has a choice. Either he takes command or he heads to the sideline. There is no time left to wait."