The Kremlin shakeup on Friday promoted Mikhail S. Gorbachev's friends and pushed out the old guard in a quick, unanimous vote that harked back to the power plays of his pre-glasnost predecessors.Simultaneously, the policy-making Communist Party Central Committee took the first step toward fulfilling the Soviet leader's promise of getting the party out of the day-to-day management of the government.
The decision to eliminate some departments of the party bureaucracy and consolidate others means hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the Soviet Union's top Communist Party bureaucrats will lose their jobs on the powerful staff of the Central Committee.
"A considerable amount of real political power is being transferred to the local level," said newly promoted Politburo member Vadim Medvedev at a news conference after the Central Committee meeting.
He explained that departments traditionally responsible for overseeing industrial enterprises throughout the country are being eliminated. That is designed to shift responsibility to local managers.
This is another step toward moving power out of Moscow and the central government that is now blamed for the country's economic problems. Under the system of central planning established by Josef Stalin, bureaucrats have long made decisions as minute as how many nails should go to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
But in cutting the number of Central Committee departments from approximately 20 to just six, Gorbachev concentrated power in a smaller number of positions - and won most of those jobs for his supporters.
Two of the six are key Gorbachev advisers - Georgy Razumovsky and Alexander Yakovlev - and two are men elevated to the Politburo under Gorbachev's wing - Nikolai Slyunkov and Medvedev.
Only one of the six new jobs went to a man considered a Gorbachev rival, Yegor Ligachev, and his transfer to agriculture appeared to be a demotion.
These decisions, extensive enough to shake the Moscow power structure to its foundations, were made in less than an hour as the 300-member Central Committee accepted the recommendations of the ruling Politburo. It bore none of the marks of glasnost, the openness Gorbachev championed at the national party conference just three months ago.
President Andrei Gromyko and Politburo member Mikhail S. Solomentsev, retired from their party posts Friday, were among those named in a stunning public criticism at the party conference in June as members of the Old Guard who ought to be removed.
Medvedev said the personnel changes were designed to place in key positions "people who support perestroika," Gorbachev's policy of economic reform, and "those who enjoy the full trust of party members and non-party members."
The reform relieves Soviet industry of an entire top level of bureaucrats and eliminates a major overlap of party and government by abolishing seven of the eight departments of the party's Central Committee devoted to specific industries.
Only agriculture, long a serious problem for the Soviet Union, will have one of the six new commissions entirely devoted to it.