Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 85

Russians celebrated Orthodox Easter on Sunday, among them President-elect Vladimir Putin, who attended a service at the Isaakiev Cathedral in his hometown of St. Petersburg. In Moscow, several thousand people participated in services at the Bogoyavlensky, or Epiphany, Cathedral. Among those in attendance were First Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Deputy Moscow Mayor Valery Shantsev. Presiding over the service was Aleksy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Today, meanwhile, is May Day, the traditional Communist holiday. It remains an official holiday, but will not be commemorated by government-sponsored events. However both the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions are holding separate marches today in Moscow to commemorate May Day. According to a poll carried out in mid-April by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), 84 percent of the 1,600 respondents said that they were planning to celebrate Orthodox Easter, while only 45 percent said they would commemorate May Day. Last year, 67 percent said they would celebrate May Day.

The fact that May Day is becoming less popular is not a big surprise, given the falling popularity of the KPRF nationally. In the March presidential election, Putin defeated KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov in many regions of the Red Belt, the arc of southern regions that have traditionally supported the Communists. The VTsIOM poll also showed that fewer people plan to celebrate Victory Day on May 9, which will mark the 55th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Only 67 percent of the poll’s respondents said they plan to celebrate Victory Day this year, down from 82 percent last year (Moscow Times, April 29). This finding is somewhat surprising, given that Putin’s rise to power seemed to correspond with a rise in nationalism among Russians.