Russia's hard-line communists staged a mock trial Thursday to charge ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev with treason for destroying the country.

The self-appointed tribunal bemoaned all the awful things happening in Russia and blamed Gorbachev for all of them - an increase in suicide, a drop in the standard of living, a rise in crime and the breakup of the country itself.While such a tribunal serves as little more than another forum for the communists to rail against reforms while showing a strong penchant for the past, it also demonstrates what they would do if they really did manage to return to power.

"I am sure that this will not be the last trial," declared Viktor Ilyukhin, a lawyer acting as prosecutor. "The ex-president's associates reponsible for the collapse of the USSR will be put in the dock after him."

The so-called People's Tribunal managed to attract a hall full of staunch communists who clearly wished that the proceedings were genuine.

Some in the communist camp treated the trial as if it were the real thing. Many carried copies of one of the country's large communist dailies, Sovetskaya Rossiya, which devoted the top of its front page to the proceedings.

"Gorbachev stands trial for high treason," blared Sovetskaya Rossiya's wishful headline. Its article detailed the "charges" facing the former Communist Party leader and last Soviet president who reluctantly presided over the demise of the Soviet Union.

In fact, Gorbachev tried to hold the independent-minded republics together in a Soviet confederation. When he finally acknowledged the impossibility of this after the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, he resigned Dec. 25, 1991.