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Pravda Closes Doors; Owners and Editor Feud

July 31, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ Pravda, the newspaper founded by Lenin and known around the world as the voice of Soviet communism, has stopped publishing.

The once-mighty mouthpiece of the Soviet Communist Party fell victim to a feud between the editor and the Greek owners, who closed the paper indefinitely last week after being denied entry to the building.

Pravda has remained staunchly hard line, but has seen its circulation and revenues shrivel under Russia’s new market conditions.

The owners, brothers Christos and Theodoros Giannikos, still put out a less serious tabloid called Pravda Five, under a separate editorial staff.

Pravda Editor Alexander Ilyin reportedly accused the owners of pressuring him to take a more centrist line after President Boris Yeltsin’s re-election July 3.

Theodoros Giannikos said financial losses, not politics, were the problem.

``Concerning Ilyin’s leftist views, that doesn’t bother us. We are putting money into the newspaper and we want results,″ he told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper over the weekend. ``The current editor-in-chief, unfortunately, cannot guarantee that for us.″

Pravda, which means ``truth″ in Russian, had a circulation of 13 million in the 1970s. Circulation reportedly was less than 300,000 this year.

Giannikos indicated that the paper could be revived if the staff chose a new editor after the summer holidays, Russian media reported. Pravda’s editor is elected by the editorial staff and the owners do not have the power to fire him.

The paper suspended publication in 1994 because of a similar dispute, and Yeltsin briefly shut it twice in recent years.

The owners have accused Pravda journalists of drinking too much and working too little.

``There is heavy boozing at this newspaper,″ Christos Giannikos told the English-language Moscow Times.

Ilyin defended his staff.

``Maybe we’re not the most organized in this respect, but when you work for a newspaper that has been falling apart for years and your salary is just enough for a bottle of vodka, then what else are you going to do?″ the paper quoted him as saying.

Yeltsin briefly shut Pravda and other hard-line newspapers after the 1991 coup attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and again after cracking down on armed opponents in October 1993. The paper suspended publication in January 1994 because of a dispute between the owners and then-editor Viktor Linnik, who said he was under pressure to shift Pravda’s political line.

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