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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Little Fanfare for Yeltsin's Holiday

MTMestniye activists handing out copies of the Constitution on Wednesday.
But for a smattering of banners and civics lessons from pro-Kremlin youth groups, Russians across the country Wednesday greeted Constitution Day with little fanfare.

Created by then-President Boris Yeltsin in 1994, the holiday, after all, no longer means a day off.

In Moscow, one of the few Constitution Day events for the broad public was the chance to receive free copies of the Constitution and red-white-and-blue ribbons from the nationalist pro-Kremlin youth group Mestniye, or Locals.

While Nashi is the country's pre-eminent pro-Kremlin youth group, Mestniye activists have found a niche market in Constitution Day, which was previously a day off from work until a change in the Labor Code in 2004.

Around 100 Mestniye activists stood outside metro stations for several hours Wednesday in downtown Moscow, Mestniye spokeswoman Maria Shapovalova said.

A group of Mestniye activists outside the Teatralnaya metro station cheerily wished passers-by "happy holiday" while handing out the Constitution booklets and ribbons.

Few of the pedestrians were as jolly.

"It's not a Constitution, it's prostitution!" an elderly woman in shabby clothes shouted before handing a booklet back to the activists and scurrying off.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Natalya Androsenko, a pro-Kremlin Mestniye activist, handing Belgian tourist Ian De Voldre a copy of the Russian Constitution during an event on Teatralnaya Ploshchad to celebrate Constitution Day on Wednesday.
Some rushed past the activists looking slightly frightened, while others merely ignored them.

The Constitution is a less incendiary document than fliers distributed by Mestniye activists earlier this year urging Russians not to take taxi rides in cars driven by illegal immigrants. The flier showed a picture of a young blond woman refusing a ride from a leering, dark-skinned driver.

Some 300 activists of another pro-Kremlin youth group, Young Russia, questioned around 20,000 Moscow vocational school students Wednesday on their knowledge of the Constitution and passed out chocolate bars along with the booklets, Young Russia said in a statement.

Thirty-one percent of Russians believe that the Constitution safeguards their rights and freedoms, while 21 percent think the Constitution matters little because it is rarely observed, according to poll released Tuesday by the Levada Center.

Among other events timed to the Constitution Day, a fourth All-Russia Civic Congress gathered Wednesday in Moscow.

The current Constitution was adopted on Dec. 12, 1993.