Russians mark anniversary of revolution
MOSCOW - Carrying the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag and singing as they marched, Russians marked the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on Sunday in both a celebration of Soviet times and a protest against a parliamentary proposal to scrap a once-revered Soviet holiday.
At least 8,000 Communist Party backers and members of the ultra-nationalist National Bolshevik party gathered at a square once named for Vladimir Lenin and marched across Moscow toward a statue of Karl Marx. They bore a giant portrait of Lenin and banners proclaiming "U.S.S.R. - our Homeland."
In Red Square, aging veterans wearing long, belted World War II military coats marched in formation, retracing the steps they took in 1941 when Soviets defiantly celebrated Revolution Day in spite of the Nazi forces massed 33 miles outside Moscow.
Some pro-Kremlin lawmakers have proposed replacing the Nov. 7 holiday with a new holiday on Nov. 4 to be called National Unity Day. Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, is expected to consider the measure Wednesday in the first of three required votes.
"This day was and will be a landmark event, and its celebration cannot be abolished," Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said.
Criticism of President Vladimir Putin's government, changes to social benefits and complaints about inequality dominated the speeches.
But some also chanted, "America, hands off Lukashenko!" a show of support for the leader of neighboring Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who has resurrected Soviet-era symbols and institutions and honored now-disgraced Soviet-era officials. The United States has accused Lukashenko of human rights violations and threatened Belarus with sanctions.
Young protesters, wearing masks, stomped on the flag of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and tried to burn it in Chelyabinsk, about 950 miles east of Moscow, Russia's NTV television reported. Police arrested several of the protesters, NTV said.
In the Siberian city of Tomsk, Communist Party members carried posters reading, "Hands off Nov. 7!" the Interfax news agency reported.
A poll of 1,500 Russians by Romir polling agency found that 77 percent opposed scrapping the Nov. 7 holiday. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percent.
The holiday was also marked in other former Soviet republics. Three hundred elderly people rallied in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, the only country in former Soviet Central Asia that has preserved both the holiday and a statue of Lenin on one of the capital's main squares.
About 1,000 Ukrainians also marked the Soviet holiday, but some bystanders were cynical.
"Those who make revolutions don't like to work," said Oksana Levina, a businesswoman in Kiev. "The principle of equality kills all initiative."