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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists Parade Young Members

MTKomsomol members from Zhukovsky's School No. 8 standing with their director, Raisa Yelovskaya, at the congress.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov touted his party's rejuvenation at its 11th congress on Saturday -- so it was only fair that a group of fresh-faced komsomoltsy stole the show.

Several dozen Communist youth from the Moscow region town of Zhukovsky kicked off Saturday's congress at a party hall in southwest Moscow with poems glorifying the Soviet past, after which Zyuganov took the stage to detail his party's plan for a socialist future.

He gave an hourlong speech in tones solemn enough for the Communist bosses of a past era, but focused on distinctly contemporary priorities: changing party rules to conform with recent amendments to the law on political parties; moderating the economy's reliance on record-high oil prices; and uniting opposition parties across ideological divides.

"We are ready to move toward and work side by side with any organization that is offended by the state of our country," Zyuganov said, noting that Communists had joined the liberal Yabloko, nationalist Rodina and National Bolshevik parties in recent protests.

He also touted his party's recent growth, saying that 8,900 people had joined its ranks in 2004 and another 6,000 in the first half of this year, bringing total membership to 188,000.

When Zyuganov took a break, the teenage Communists were the center of attention. Boys and girls from Zhukovsky's School No. 8 straightened their red party sashes and stood shoulder to shoulder while pensioner-aged delegates snapped pictures.

Three 16-year-olds from the school gave their own takes on the party's past and present.

"For 75 years, people all over the world respected Russia -- we were truly a great power," said Dmitry Yurkov. "We want Russia to return to that respected position."

Pavel Butkarev was eager to qualify Yurkov's rosy view.

"You can't say that everything was perfect in the past," Butkarev said. "People were repressed, many people died, there was no freedom of speech. You have to have freedom of speech in any kind of society. But we don't have it now either."

Svetlana Agapova spoke of her pride for local veterans while she fingered a pocket calendar bearing Josef Stalin's image.

"My grandfather fought in World War II. Many other people in our town did too," she said. "Our town is based on aviation, but there are many people who've worked their whole lives and get only kopeks for their pension."

The group's leader, senior Komsomol director Raisa Yelovskaya, 62, beamed over her charges.

"If they don't protect us, no one will," she said. "Our old age is in their hands."