MOSCOW--As embattled Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev struggles to keep perestroika alive, he has turned time and again to Soviet scientists for political support. In return, Soviet scientists have found themselves fixtures in the Kremlin corridors of power, as parliamentarians, advisers, and, especially, gadflies.

A recent manifesto by a group of these scientists declared, "There is a revolution under way in this country. We know that a revolution is worth something only when it knows how to defend itself. Today, we must defend our perestroika and consolidate all democratic forces of the society around it."

Ever since Peter the Great established the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1724 - importing all its members from the West - scientists have held positions of power in Russian political life. Today, they are guaranteed a role in the Congress of People's Deputies, the first democratically elected political body in Soviet history, with 22 seats...

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