MOSCOW -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin has issued a decree banning the Communist Party, nationalizing its property, and condemning its activities.
Whether Yeltsin's decree achieved anything more than an earlier decree by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's was unclear, but Yeltsin's action -- coming on the eve of the canceled 1917 revolution anniversary holiday -- packed a symbolic punch.
Decree No. 169, issued on the eve of the canceled Communist revolution celebrations normally held throughout the Soviet Union every Nov. 7, ordered all party activities to cease and all party structures dissolved.
'It has become evident that as long as the CPSU (Communist Party Soviet Union) structures exist, there can be no guarantee against one more putsch or a coup,' said Yeltsin in his decree, distributed by the Russian Information Agency.
Yeltsin said the role of the Communist Party in staging the short- lived August takeover of the Soviet government was sufficient reason to order the party disbanded.
Yeltsin stood up to the hard-line Communist Party leaders who wrested control of the central government, and the Russian president rallied support for the young democracy against the attempted coup d'etat, which fell apart after three days.
Soviet President Gorbachev, who was held at his vacation home against his will during the attempted takeover, emerged from captivity to learn the role that his powerful ruling party played in the aborted takeover.
Shortly after regaining his freedom and the presidency, Gorbachev banished the party.
Yeltsin called the Communist Party, its leadership and its attempted coup 'anti-people, anti-constitutional' and an encroachment on rights and freedoms.
The decree ordered the Soviet and Russian Communist Parties to cease all activities in the Russian republic, and he declared that all party property 'should be made the property of the state,' echoing Gorbachev's earlier order.
The Russian president ordered local government officials throughout Russia to implement the decree.
However, Yeltsin carefully cautioned against outlawing party membership, saying it would be wrong 'to blacken millions of ordinary party members who have nothing to do with violence and arbitrariness staged on behalf of them' by the coup leaders.
Officials should 'exclude prosecution' for party membership, the decree said.
Both Yeltsin and Gorbachev had been career party members.
Coup leaders are in jail awaiting trial. Several top officials implicated in the August events committed suicide.
Legal probes also were under way into Communist Party financial dealings.
And calling off the official government anniversary celebration of the 1917 revolution shows just how discredited the Communist Party has become, banished or not, though grass-roots political groups planned to stage local rallies.