A Soviet literary journal began publication on Friday of Arthur Koestler's classic anti-Stalinist novel "Darkness at Noon," condemned for almost 50 years in Moscow as a vicious slander on communism.

The first half of the novel, based on the purge trials of top Bolsheviks in 1936-38, appeared in the Leningrad literary monthly Neva.An introduction by a history professor, V. Chubinsky, described the work as "a powerful artistic portrayal" of dictator Josef Stalin's personality cult.

Chubinsky said the Hungarian-born Koestler showed "one of the devilish means of moral and physical destruction of the human personality used during the Stalinist terror."

"Darkness at Noon" was published in the West in 1940 after the author had left the Communist Party. For years Moscow dismissed Koestler, who died in 1983, as an "anti-communist scribbler."