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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thousands Remember 1917

APVeterans wearing World War II military coats at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Carrying the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag and singing as they marched, thousands of people commemorated the anniversary of the 1917 Revolution on Sunday in both a celebration of Soviet times and a protest against a State Duma proposal to scrap the once-revered holiday.

At least 8,000 Communist supporters and members of the extremist National Bolshevik Party marched across town to the statue of Karl Marx across from the Bolshoi Theater. They bore a giant portrait of Lenin and banners proclaiming "U.S.S.R. -- Our Homeland."

On 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 despite the Nazi forces massed about 50 kilometers outside Moscow.

Some pro-Kremlin Duma deputies have proposed replacing the Nov. 7 holiday with a new holiday on Nov. 4 to be called National Unity Day. The 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, Itar-Tass reported. "People suffered for this holiday, and no one has the right to trample on our history."

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 Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has resurrected Soviet-era symbols and institutions and honored now-disgraced Soviet-era officials. The United States and European Union have accused Lukashenko of human rights violations and threatened Belarus with sanctions.

Young protesters, their faces covered by masks, stomped on the flag of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and tried to burn it in Chelyabinsk, NTV television reported. Police arrested several of the protesters.

In Tomsk, Communist Party members carried posters reading, "Hands off Nov. 7!" Interfax reported.

A poll of 1,500 people by the Romir polling agency found that 77 percent were against scrapping the Nov. 7 holiday. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percent.

The holiday was also celebrated 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.

In the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, some 4,000 people gathered in a ceremony that recalled the old Soviet traditions.

Participants -- mostly elderly people -- carried red flags, Moldovan flags and banners reading "Praise to Lenin, the great genius of humanity," and "Long live the socialist revolution." Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin told participants that his Communist Party won elections in 2001 and stayed in power because "we are not only a Marxist-Leninist party, but we have the experience of recent years which permitted us to be flexible during crisis situations."

About 1,000 Ukrainians also celebrated 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."