ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN, APRIL 3 -- Public records made available from dusty archives here indicate that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian ultranationalist leader whose campaigns have featured antisemitic themes, had a Jewish surname until age 18.

Zhirinovsky vehemently denies that he or his parents were Jewish. His origins have political significance in Russia because of his attacks on Jews, and the documents raise questions about his candor.

The public records were found by a reporter working for the Associated Press and Cable News Network in four archives in Almaty, formerly Alma-Ata, the Kazakh city where Zhirinovsky was born and grew up.

Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party won 23.5 percent of the national vote in Russia's parliamentary elections in December, and he has said he will run for president in 1996. Much of his political strength rests on extreme nationalists who are virulently antisemitic.

Although the records do not say specifically who his father was, Zhirinovsky's surname was listed on his birth registration as Eidelshtein. Documents show he applied for and received permission to change his name from Eidelshtein to Zhirinovsky in June 1964.

That was just before he moved to Moscow from Kazakhstan, in what was then Soviet Central Asia, for higher education. Ethnic quotas for universities at the time held back many Jewish students or those with Jewish-sounding names. Zhirinovsky won a place in the prestigious Institute of Oriental Languages, affiliated with Moscow State University.

The worn, handwritten documents at the Almaty archives were retrieved from dusty shelves and cardboard boxes in response to a reporter's inquiries. Officials at the archives said they were authentic.

In Moscow, Grigory Serebrennikov, a spokesman for Zhirinovsky's party, told the AP, "The documents clearly have been forged."

"Ever since his birth, his only last name has been Zhirinovsky. This name {Eidelshtein} never figured in his documents," Serebrennikov said.

Serebrennikov said Zhirinovsky would answer questions, but would charge $5,000 for a half-hour interview.

Zhirinovsky's autobiography, "The Final March South," claims his father was named Volf Andreyevich Zhirinovsky, but no records could be found for such a man in Almaty. Details about the father in the autobiography seem to combine elements from his mother's two husbands.

One husband was Andrei Vasilyevich Zhirinovsky, who, documents show, died of tuberculosis in August 1944, 18 months before Zhirinovsky's birth on April 25, 1946. In the autobiography, Zhirinovsky mentions that his mother had five children by her first husband, but never names him.

A marriage registration shows that five months before Zhirinovsky was born, his mother married Volf Isakovich Eidelshtein, who was officially listed as Jewish. She became Alexandra Pavlovna Eidelshtein, and her nationality was listed as Russian.

On Zhirinovsky's birth registration, his father is identified only as "Volf." A note by an official on the back of the registration says "no documents for father." The baby's last name is handwritten in ink as Eidelshtein, then crossed out and listed in different handwriting as Zhirinovsky. A jotted explanation says the change was made in 1964.

Andrei Zhirinovsky was head of the forestry department of the Turkestan-Siberian Railway. Vladimir Zhirinovsky wrote in his autobiography that his father died as a result of a car accident while he was still an infant, but no records could be found to substantiate this.

Mikhail Iskhakov, who says he was a close childhood friend of Zhirinovsky, told AP that Zhirinovsky's mother "had a few different husbands. I don't even know if it is clear who the father was." In his autobiography, Zhirinovsky said his mother had relationships with several men. Only two legal marriages are known. She died in 1985.

Jewish activists say Zhirinovsky worked for a Jewish organization, Shalom, in Moscow in the late 1980s, but he has denied any affiliation with the group. He obtained an invitation to emigrate to Israel in 1983, but never applied. He has denied being antisemitic but has said Jews bring antisemitism on themselves. He has been quoted as saying Jews are "infecting the country" through the media.