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Europe's publishing pranksters have a laugh on the Soviets

A team of satirical writers has published a four-page mock-up in Russian of Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), the official newspaper of the Soviet Red Army. More than 20,000 copies of the paper, produced by writers from the French monthly magazine L'Actuel and the Italian Frigidaire, have been distributed throughout the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Afghanistan.

The Krasnaya Zvezda parody, which at first glance looks just like the real Cyrillic thing, was put together with the help of exiled Soviet writers Natalya Gorbanievskaya, Vladimir Maximov, and Vladimir Bukovsky. In its bogus articles and news items, the paper reports that Red Army soldiers have overthrown the military leadership in Moscow and have ended the ''invasion war'' in Asia.

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On the front page, a large, meticulously drawn picture of a Soviet trooper in overcoat and fur cap breaking a Kalashnikov assault rifle over his knee declares: ''End the war! Everybody go home!''

An editorial box informs the reader that this is a special edition of Krasnaya Zvezda.

''Until now, this newspaper has been edited by an official editorial board, completely at the orders of both the chiefs of staff and the party,'' it says. ''Today, it is a group of numerous soldiers, originating from all the principal garrisons in the Soviet Union who have edited these pages. For the first time, Krasnaya Zvezda is the true organ of expression for the Soviet soldier.''

Since the beginning of November, distributors have smuggled Russian versions of the parody to East Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, and Kabul. More than a million Russian copies have been printed. Other European magazines have published versions in French, Italian, Spanish, and German.

According to the Actuel-Frigidaire team, Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) helped paste copies at night on walls, shops, and intersections in the center of Kabul and other places frequented by Soviet troops.

''As they are printed in Russian, no one but Russians is going to take them down,'' pointed out a journalist from L'Actuel. In Moscow, copies were simply left in the Red Square subway station where they were snapped up by passers-by. Copies are apparently commanding high rates on the black market.

''It is a parody but it interprets the inner feelings of Soviet conscripts: Enough massacres, let's go home, we want to laugh again,'' said two of the journalists.

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