Books by Soviet leaders, including President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, are no longer guaranteed space on store shelves and those that don't sell are being shredded, a newspaper said Monday.

However, books by the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir I. Lenin, are still considered sacred and cannot be destroyed, said Sobesednik, a weekly aimed at Soviet youth.The newspaper quoted a bookshop manager as saying works by Gorbachev, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov are not selling and have been written off.

"These books sell poorly, and to sell even one brochure is a victory," M. Chuchaikina, director of Bookstore Number 67 in Moscow, told the newspaper.

She said a total of 17 books and publications by Gorbachev, Shevardnadze and Ryzhkov as well as pamphlets on the 28th Communist Party Congress and the 19th Communist Party Conference have been sent to the shredders on orders of the Moscow Directorate of Bookstores.

One method of getting rid of the unwanted books, Chuchaikina said, was making customers purchase several in order to buy bestsellers.

The newspaper said it was the first time in Soviet history that works by active leaders had been written off as non-sellers and destroyed. "Previously, such actions were equal to crimes against the state," it said.

Sobesednik said Politizdat, publishers of works by Soviet leaders and other political books and pamphlets, used to routinely produce such works in lots of 200,000 copies. Now, the average number is between 15,000 and 20,000, it said.