Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 209

Yesterday, November 7, marked the eighty-third anniversary of the “Great October Socialist Revolution” which marked the founding of the Soviet Union. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, President Boris Yeltsin’s government kept the day as an official holiday but renamed it the Day of Accord and Reconciliation. Supporters of Russia’s various communist and “national-patriotic” parties and movements, however, have continued to celebrate the Soviet-era holiday, and two demonstrations were held in Moscow yesterday to mark the occasion. Some 5,000 supporters of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) rallied in front of the Bolshoi Theater, while some 1,500 supporters of more radical parties–including Working Russia, the Union of Soviet Officers and the Russian Communist Workers Party–held a demonstration near Red Square. According to media accounts, a majority of the participants in KPRF were elderly, and included the by-now-traditional mix of people carrying portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin and those carrying icons and other Russian Orthodox symbols. Top KPRF officials were among the demonstrators, including its leader, Gennady Zyuganov, his deputy Valentin Kuptsov and State Duma Deputy Gennady Seleznev.

Both demonstrations were for the most part peaceful, except for a minor incident, in which approximately fifty members of Working Russia’s “Avante Guard Red Youth,” apparently on a signal from Working Russian leader Viktor Anpilov, tried to march onto Red Square. Some shoving matches and scuffling took place when police prevented them from doing so. Interestingly, an even larger number of people gathered on the other side of Red Square for an unrelated demonstration in support of President Vladimir Putin. These demonstrators, reportedly university students, wore yellow stickers saying “Youth for the President” and praised Putin for his “strong hand” and efforts to impose order (Russian agencies, November 7; Moscow Times, November 8).

Demonstrations marking the eighty-third anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution were held in cities throughout Russia. Most of these demonstrations were reportedly small. For example, several hundred people marched with red banners in Vladivostok, while some 300 hundred held a rally in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. One of the demands demonstrators voiced around Russia was that the name “Day of Accord and Reconciliation” be dropped. KPRF leader Zyuganov argued that it “name “undermines the achievements of the revolution” (Russian agencies, November 7). According to polling data cited today, 48 percent of Russian consider November 7 as the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 22 percent as a day off from work, 14 percent as a day like any other, and 11 percent as a day of reconciliation (Russian agencies, November 8). In an interview published today, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksy II said that Russians had “become better” but that splits and enmities still exist in Russian society, which, he said, remains in “a deep moral crisis.” He called on Russians to live together peacefully and “together revive the Fatherland, together create peace and reconciliation.” Aleksy said that the crime and nihilism prevalent in Russia today could be overcome by education. “The Church is striving to do that and expects support from the state, schools [and] mass media,” the Orthodox patriarch said (Rossiiskaya gazeta, November 8).