The Communist Party Central Committee directed Mikhail Gorbachev and other top party officials Tuesday to travel to Lithuania to try to heal the break with that independent-minded Baltic republic's party.
Gorbachev on Monday bitterly criticized Lithuanian Communists for their declaration of an independent party - the first crack in the unity forged by Vladimir Lenin before the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.But he also urged caution. Lithuanian Communist leader Algirdas Brazauskas, who urged the republic's Dec. 20 break with Moscow, was quoted as telling Lithuanian radio that such a visit by Kremlin officials would be "good and useful."
The two-day meeting of the policymaking party Central Committee found it "reasonable for the general secretary (Gorbachev) to make a trip to Lithuania," said an announcement by the official Tass news agency. Gorbachev and other officials will meet with Lithuanian party officials and members of the public to find out their opinions on Lithuania's drive for independence.
After that visit, another Central Committee meeting will be held to make a firm decision on the dispute, Tass said. There was no indication when the visits or the next committee meeting would be.
Tass said the Central Committee also approved Gorbachev's statement, in which he mixed tough criticism of Brazauskas with calls for restraint and reason.
Thousands of Lithuanians rallied Tuesday in Vilnius' Cathedral Square in support of the split, said Eduardas Potasinskas, an editor at Lithuanian television. Potasinkas also reported on Brazauskas' comments, saying the Lithuanian leader praised the Central Committee decision in a radio interview shortly after the meeting ended.
At Monday's meeting, Gorbachev said: "No part of the Soviet Communist Party has the right to decide the question about its independent existence with its own program and rules, not taking into account the position of the party as a whole.
"And this means that the Communist Party of Lithuania was and remains a part of the united Soviet Communist Party," said Gorbachev.