Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 62

Yesterday’s day of protest against wage and pension delays passed off peacefully all over Russia. Estimates of the numbers of demonstrators and strikers vary widely, though it seems that considerably fewer people took part than the unions had predicted and the government had feared. The unions reported a total of 20,874,000 participants nationwide, of whom they said 5,109,000 were strikers. The police put the total number of demonstrators and strikers at only 2 million. (Itar-Tass, March 28)

The demonstrations started in the Russian Far East, where unions said 50,000 people marched in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, which has a population of about 1.5 million. Police put the number at just 15,000. There was a large demonstration of around 60,000 people in the industrial and high-technology city of Novosibirsk, which also has a population of 1.5 million. There was also a large demonstration in Ivanovo, where predominately female textile workers have been suffering from extremely high unemployment ever since the supply of cheap Central Asian cotton dried up following the collapse of the USSR. But in the southern city of Krasnodar, an agricultural center at the heart of the Communist Red Belt with a population of half a million, only 25,000 people joined the rally — half as many as last May Day. (Reuter, March 27)

In Moscow, where union organizers had forecast that 100,000 would turn out, only about 10,000 protesters gathered near the Kremlin. Russian Television described the Moscow demonstrators as split into two distinct columns — one made up of workers responding to the call of the unions and making economic demands for the payment of wage arrears, and another rallied by the Communist Party and making political demands for the government’s resignation. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, but there the situation differs from that in much of the rest of the country. Wages and pensions have on the whole been paid on time, but demonstrators protested against local government plans to raise housing rents and hike charges for public utilities. (RTR, March 27)

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