Russia holds low-key events for 1917 Revolution anniversary

2017-11-07 19:26
Supporters of the Belarusian Communist party holding a Belarusian state and party flags rally near the monument to Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet founder, at the central square in Minsk. (Sergei Grits, AP)

Supporters of the Belarusian Communist party holding a Belarusian state and party flags rally near the monument to Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet founder, at the central square in Minsk. (Sergei Grits, AP)

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Moscow - Russia is to hold low-key events on November 7 to mark a century since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, with authorities reluctant to celebrate an armed uprising that launched more than 70 years of Communist rule.

The Kremlin is not holding any special events on November 7, an ordinary working day, President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed.

"What reason is there for us celebrate this?" Peskov asked journalists last month.

The centenary is the last landmark event before presidential polls in March that Putin is expected to contest and win.

Moscow will see a march and rally organised by the Communist Party – still the largest opposition party in parliament – to glorify the anniversary.

The party said its slogans will include "Lenin-Stalin-Victory!" and "Let Lenin's ideas live!"

But the rally beside a Karl Marx statue close to the Kremlin has permission for just 5 000 participants, TASS state news agency reported.

The party members will then raise glasses at a reception at a Moscow hotel.

Leftwing radical group The Other Russia led by writer Eduard Limonov is also set to hold a rally in the capital.

'Not a celebration'

Putin has skipped key commemorative events including a 3D light show this weekend on the facade of the Winter Palace in his hometown of Saint Petersburg.

The armed uprising began on October 25, 1917 – which according to the modern-day Gregorian calendar is November 7 – after a shot was fired at the Winter Palace by the Aurora cruiser ship.

One of the few events linked to the centenary Putin has attended was the opening of a new church in Moscow, which he called "deeply symbolic" after the revolution led to the destruction of religious buildings and persecution of believers.

Putin said this month that the revolution is "an integral, complex part of our history", stressing the need for "treating the past objectively and respectfully".

The Kremlin has tasked a committee of politicians, historians and clerics with organising this year's festivities.

Organiser Konstantin Mogilevsky stressed at a presentation last month that the events are "not celebrations" of 1917 but are intended to be a "calm conversation about revolution, aimed at understanding it".

Russia's leadership is desperate to avoid repeats of the "colour revolutions" in other ex-Soviet countries, he said.

New period dramas on television are one of the main forums for re-examining history.

One depicts revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky as a "rock 'n' roll hero", according to its makers, while another examines Germany's role in fomenting the Bolshevik Revolution.

Most Russians unaware

Many Russians are barely aware of the anniversary, commentators said, however.

"The country that once counted its existence from October (1917) is now seeing in its centenary in deafening silence", wrote historian Ivan Kurilla in Vedomosti business daily.

"For an ordinary Russian, the centenary is passing by unnoticed", he added.

A report commissioned by the Communist Party found that 58% of Russians were not aware of the anniversary.

Throughout the Soviet era, anniversaries of the revolution were marked with pomp and military parades on Moscow's Red Square.

This year there will again be a parade on Red Square, but the event is now billed as a re-enactment in vintage uniforms of a historic 1941 parade during World War Two.

Similar retro-styled parades will be held in other cities including Samara on the River Volga.

November 7 is still a day off in neighbouring former Soviet Belarus under the long-term Soviet-style rule of strongman President Alexander Lukashenko.

The last other such country, ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, this year cancelled its November 7 public holiday.

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