Crisis Gives Lift to Communists

MTZyuganov, center, and other Communists marching Friday on Tverskaya Ulitsa to mark the 1917 Revolution.
Tens of thousands of Communists took to the streets nationwide Friday to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the 1917 Revolution and gloat at how capitalism has led to the global financial crisis.

More than 150,000 citizens took part in the rallies across the country, according to the Interior Ministry, and in Moscow thousands of supporters marched Friday evening from Pushkin Square to Teatralnaya Ploshchad to commemorate the Revolution.

Led by Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov, his deputy Ivan Melnikov and a group of girls in red satin caps holding carnations, the demonstrators marched down Tverskaya Ulitsa toward the Kremlin, blocking two lanes of traffic.

The global financial crisis was one of the key themes in the rally. "Capitalists! I recommend you start reading [Karl] Marx's 'Das Kapital,'" Zyuganov told the crowd in a speech.

November 7 was traditionally one of the most important Soviet holidays, although it was renamed by former President Boris Yeltsin and later scrapped altogether in favor of a November 4 holiday commemorating the expulsion of Polish invaders from Moscow in 1612. The change has angered Communists, who accuse the Kremlin of trying to diminish the importance of the date in the public consciousness.

"They are purposefully silencing this holiday because they don't want workers to be people," said demonstrator Mikhail Kardasevich, a member of a Communist-affiliated party who was carrying a portrait of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin at Friday's rally.

Thousands of police were mobilized to patrol the march. OMON riot police surrounded a group of activists from the banned National Bolshevik Party and the movement Left Front, preventing them from entering Teatralnaya Ploshchad, where speakers addressed the crowd.

Opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov, whose Red Youth Vanguard recently united with Left Front, said five members of his organization were arrested for lighting flares. "They lit flares because they have fire in their hearts," Udaltsov said.

Earlier in the day, troops in replica uniforms marched on Red Square in a City Hall-sponsored recreation of the November 7, 1941, military parade in which soldiers famously set off for the front.

Like the new November 4 holiday, the parade has also been labeled by many as an attempt to draw attention away from the Bolshevik Revolution.

But senior Communist official Sergei Reshulsky said by telephone that he did not believe the parade would distract from the Communist marches. "The parade marks 67 years," said Reshulsky, a State Duma deputy. "It's an outstanding date, when the Red fighters went to the front."

The November 7 holiday was celebrated as the Day of Accord and Reconciliation in the 1990s, but the Kremlin scrapped the holiday in 2005, replacing it with the November 4 People's Unity Day.

The changes appear to have confused many. Just 28 percent of respondents correctly identified People's Unity Day as the name of the holiday in a recent Levada Center poll. Twenty-six percent believed that they were celebrating Day of Accord and Reconciliation, while 3 percent thought that they were commemorating the Revolution. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

"We are celebrating the anniversary of the Great October Revolution in a contradictory time," Zyuganov said in a statement on the Communist Party's web site. "On Russia's official calendars, November 7 is no longer a red-letter day. And this isn't the first attempt to cancel the revolutionary holiday."

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, criticized Communist official Vladislav Yurchik for congratulating his fellow Duma deputies on the holiday. "This is the day of a coup d'etat, not the Great October Revolution, and if such appeals are made in the auditorium of the State Duma, then if I were President Medvedev I would dissolve the State Duma today," Zhirinovsky said, RIA-Novosti reported.