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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists' First Protest Draws Little Support




The revolution may have to wait a few more days. Just hours after Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov had warned of bankers and businessmen taking to the streets, a Communist-led protest Wednesday a few hundred meters away from the Kremlin drew fewer than 500 people.


Instead of newly impoverished stock brokers, the demonstration drew the usual crowd of pensioners and extreme left-wing groups demanding Yeltsin's resignation and the return of the Soviet Union.


Earlier, Zyuganov had warned at a news conference that the economic and political chaos of the last few weeks could spill out onto the streets.


"The situation is extremely dangerous," he said. "It is the most dangerous situation we have had since World War II."


"All will take part in demonstrations, including former businessmen and ex-bankers," he said. "They've sacked 5,000 to 6,000 bankers. They used to be paid thousands of dollars. Now they haven't got a penny. They will take part."


"I don't exclude that disturbances will start in the next few days because of the lack of money," Zyuganov continued. "Once again, I want to repeat that we are categorically against any solution through the use of force."


Gathered in the shadow of a statue of Karl Marx opposite the Bolshoi Theater, demonstrators listened to a series of fiery speeches, most notably by the leader of the Working Russia movement, Viktor Anpilov.


"Our task is to cast away reforms and restore the state of workers and peasants," Anpilov said from the foot of the monument.


The crowd, some of whom carried pictures of Stalin, were a mixture of life-long communists and recent converts.


"I was never a communist," said a retired ballet dancer who refused to give his name. "But I don't like competition -- it means blood. ... I've got a pension of 400 rubles [$25 at Thursday's official rate] to live on. How can I live on that?"


Despite the small number of protesters the mood was optimistic among veteran communists.


"Panfilov only had 28 men," said one pensioner, referring to the World War II general who held off a German tank attack in the Battle of Moscow in 1941.


"Have you read 'The Good Soldier Schweik'?" asked Vladimir Markov, editor of the newspaper For the Motherland, For Stalin. "There's a bit in that where he says that a [German] government that raises the price of beer 5 cents will be changed. Russians are more patient, ... but there will be a February revolution again." Even some of the teenagers passing by expressed support for the Communist protesters.


"Our stipend is 58 rubles," law student Tanya Levonova said. "You can't even buy a bottle of shampoo with that."


Levonova said she'd like to see either former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko or Zyuganov take over for Yeltsin.


Another passerby was not so easily impressed. Filipp Muravyev, 20, said he was firmly against the idea of a return of the Soviet Union and an end to freedom.


"They'll close the clubs," he said.


Many more demonstrations are set to take place over the coming weeks and Wednesday's damp squib is no guarantee that the rest will be as peaceful.


The Russian Federation of Trade Unions said Tuesday that they were receiving reports of protests every day. Itar-Tass reported Wednesday that 500 protesters had closed a railway line in Yaroslavl and were threatening to turn to more "extreme" methods if their demands were not met. Millions of people are expected to take part in a nationwide one-day strike on Oct. 7.