Russia Marks New Old-Style Revolution Day
THE NEW SOVIET UNION
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
THE city where the Bolsheviks seized power 74 year years ago has revolutionized the way the anniversary of the takeover is celebrated.No longer is Nov. 7 a day for military parades and praise for the Communist Party. In its place, St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak organized a giant block party to mark the return of the city's original name. For the last 67 years, the city which was built in 1703 as Peter the Great's "Window on the West," had been known as Leningrad in honor of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin, who died in 1924. The name St. Petersburg officially was restored in the wake of the failed August coup. To give the day some added meaning, it also coincided with the first visit to Russia of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, the heir to the Romanov dynasty throne. Yesterday's activities included a rally followed by a rock concert, an antique car parade, a procession involving a Peter the Great look-alike and fireworks. The transformation of the holiday has angered some, especially Communist true-believers. Others say it is an extravagance that the city can't afford given the country's severe economic crisis and the fast approach of winter. Still, almost everyone said they welcomed the chance to forget about their problems for a few days. "It's true we have little to celebrate this year, but the people need this holiday," said Yelena Bezokladova, a St. Petersburg economics teacher, as she waited to buy bread. On past Revolution Days, St. Petersburg was decked out in red. Red flags dangled from almost every lamppost, and the portraits of the party Politburo members dominated Palace Square, the city's center. This year, a stage for the rock concert replaced the podium from which the party bosses used to review the military parade. In addition, the only flags seen on the streets were the red, white, and blue banners of Russia. Some feared violence between democrats and their communist opponents. Moscow's traditional military parade through Red Square with the Soviet Communist Party's powerful Politburo looking on from atop Lenin's mausoleum has gone the way of the party itself. On Tuesday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued an official decree permanently banning the party and seizing all its property. While it pledged no persecution of the millions of former party members, the decree warned that "attempts to reanimate the giant mechanism of the Communist Party machine and give it a chance to crunch down sprouts of Russian democracy are ... inadmissiable." The holiday was marked in Moscow only by two small rival demonstrations. A couple of thousand hard-core communists waving red flags and banners denouncing Mr. Yeltsin and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev gathered at the giant statue of Lenin in October Square. "Hands off Lenin!" and "Down with the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie!" read their posters. About 500 supporters of the Russian democratic movement surrounded the monument marking the victims of Stalinism across Lubyanka square from the KGB headquarters. There church hymns filled the air and tricolor flags of Russia flew, some emblazoned with the image of Jesus Christ.