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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Propaganda for Leonid Ilyich

MTFormer Politburo member Yegor Ligachyov speaking on Tuesday at the Electric Lamp Factory's House of Culture.
A mostly geriatric crowd of about 500 fellow travelers gathered Tuesday evening at the Moscow Electric Lamp Factory's House of Culture to honor Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's 100th birthday.

The evening featured Soviet propaganda -- a 1976 film documenting the achievements of the Soviet leader that included applause-inducing footage of Brezhnev with cosmonaut Yury Gagarin -- and speeches by Communist stalwarts Yegor Ligachyov and Gennady Zyuganov.

Ligachyov served as a regional Communist Party boss under Brezhnev before he joined the Politburo. Zyuganov heads the current Communist Party.

Ligachyov praised Brezhnev's ability to solve many of the country's problems without destroying the Soviet system and chided the "traitors" behind perestroika.

"The party under Leonid Ilyich was able to fix the mistakes of the past without tearing our country apart," Ligachyov said.

Many in attendance at Tuesday's celebration fondly recalled the days of Brezhnev, known alternately as a period of stability or stagnation.

"People lived much better back then," said Viktor Tolstykh, 60, a driver who turned up to pay his respects. "Back then, I earned 129 rubles per month. I could go to a sanatorium on that money and still have some left over for myself."


Vladimir Filonov / MT
Communist leaders Nikolai Kharitonov and Zyuganov at Tuesday's event
Not everyone at the event was enamored of Brezhnev, however.

Margarita Gorashkova, 70, said that for her the Brezhnev period was one of "temporary retreat" on the road to communism.

"Brezhnev did not understand the tenets of Marxism well enough," Gorashkova, a retired nurse and programmer, said in the foyer of the House of Culture, where she was selling books on Marxism. "But it was only a temporary retreat," she promised. "Socialism will still triumph."

Gorashkova said Brezhnev was perhaps too kindly to run a superpower. Still, she said, she lived better back then than she does today.

"I had an apartment that the Soviet government gave me, I earned three university degrees for free, and I had free medical care," Gorashkova said. "And every year I could go on vacation down south with my daughter. Our money went further back then."

The setting for the Brezhnev tribute was fitting -- a dusty testament to proletarian industriousness in the working-class stronghold of eastern Moscow.

The 100th anniversary of Brezhnev's birth went largely unnoticed outside the House of Culture. No political heavyweights -- with the exception of Boris Gryzlov, head of the new party of power, United Russia -- attended the event.

Gryzlov offered vague remarks on Brezhnev's 18-year tenure, which began in 1964 and ended with his death in 1982. "It was, perhaps, not the worst period of the life of our country," said Gryzlov, who is also State Duma speaker. He added: "That period could have ended either worse than it did or in the way it actually did."

Outside Russia, only Brezhnev's native Ukraine hosted any major events commemorating the former Soviet leader. Lawmakers in the city of the Dnepropetrovsk, in the eastern part of the country, voted Tuesday to rename the central park and a street in the center of the city after Brezhnev.

Brezhnev was born in Dnepropetrovsk on Dec. 19, 1906.

About 500 residents and officials gathered Tuesday at a monument to Brezhnev to commemorate him, Interfax reported.