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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists Thrive On Politicians' Fudge

ST. PETERSBURG -- What's in a name? I found myself asking this question a few weeks ago as I was enjoying a day off from work thanks to the Day of Accord and Reconciliation. (Or, by another name, the Anniversary of the Great October Revolution. Take your pick.)

Thinking about this got me to wondering whether it might not really be possible that communists could return to power here.

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According to a recent national survey, 39 percent of respondents think this day is a major holiday celebrating the revolution. That is 17 percent more than answered that way in 1993. Most, of course, are just glad to take the day off and don't think about why. But the growth in the "celebrating the revolution" crowd has me worried. In 1995, when the Communist Party won the most seats in the State Duma, garnering 22 percent of the vote, politicians to the right assured us that there was nothing to worry about. "Those voting for the Communists are mainly older people, so they will die out soon and everything will be fine," one such politician crassly said at the time.

In 1999, the Communists received slightly more than 24 percent of the vote. Admittedly, it is a small increase, but if what we've been told is true, the figures should be moving in the other direction. Obviously, someone has more than replaced all those old communist sympathizers who, unfortunately, died since 1995.

Maybe their ranks have been filled by people who have since reached the age of 60 and are now learning about the joys of getting by on a 600-ruble ($20) pension. Or maybe it is people who have lost faith in the new system because of all the scandals and corruption.

Last week provided another good example of the name game. City Hall announced that it wants to restore the historical name of Ploshchad Truda (Labor Square) by re-christening it Blagoveshchenskaya Ploshchad (Annunciation Square).

The announcement brought a quick response from the St. Petersburg Federation of Trade Unions. "Renaming Ploshchad Truda would demean the significance of labor in the minds of the people," wrote federation head Gary Lysyuk in an open letter to St. Petersburg's governor.

I imagine that Governor Vladimir Yakovlev will give in to the federation's plea, taking a lesson from President Vladimir Putin, who avoids "splitting the community" over issues like the Soviet national anthem and burying Vladimir Lenin.

Perhaps leaving the name Ploshchad Truda will help people remember what their labor under the communists achieved in the past. But I doubt it. I'm afraid that these compromises may explain why the crowd marching under the red banners seems to grow from year to year.

Vladimir Kovalyev is a staff reporter for The St. Petersburg Times.