. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Accord Day: Right Time, Positive Step

It was a transparently political move for President Boris Yeltsin, from his sick bed, to rename the Nov. 7 holiday a Day of National Reconciliation and Accord, but it was also a step in the right direction.

During 70 years of communist rule, Nov. 7 was the day in the old calendar when the Communist Party commemorated the Great October Socialist Revolution, the skirmish in the tsarist capital of St. Petersburg that brought the Bolshevik faction to power in the terrible, turbulent war year of 1917.

The festival was characterized both in Russia and the West by the image of party secretaries watching martial parades of ICBMs from atop the mausoleum where Lenin, the great leader of the coup, was mummified.

With the exposure of the brutality and hypocrisy of Communist dictatorship and the overthrow of the Soviet Union, this style of pageantry and indeed the whole justification for the holiday have long been obsolete. Dyed-in-the-wool communists still rally with their red flags, but most Russians feel deep ambivalence toward the Great October.

It has taken some time, however, to set about modifying the symbolism. Russia's first post-communist leaders, their hold on power shaky, were reluctant to antagonize popular sentiment by axing such a traditional holiday. Instead, they kept Nov. 7 as a day off, but without an ideology or even a name.

Yeltsin has filled this gap at a particularly opportune and theatrical moment. He has found a vague and unobjectionable formula to replace revolution day, announcing it from his hospital bed such that even furious communists cannot be seen to protest too much.

Only the hardest of hearts could question the motives of a frail, bedridden leader calling for national harmony as his first action after a quintuple bypass operation. But the move is a strike against Yeltsin's communist opponents nonetheless, canceling one of their last great shibboleths and recycling a slogan that Yeltsin himself coined in 1994 after his troops blew up the White House.

In fact, one has to suspect that the entire bypass operation has been astutely timed to coincide with the three-day holiday and the U.S. elections, thus ensuring that political Moscow and the domestic and foreign press alike would be otherwise engaged while the Russian president was under the knife.

It is unlikely that a Nov. 7 holiday of Reconciliation and Accord can win a place in the hearts of the Russian people. Such a vague truism has none of the excitement or symbolic power of Bastille Day for the French, Independence Day for the Americans, or indeed revolution day for communists.

Reconciliation and Accord is, however, probably the best that divided Russia can do at this stage.