The Communist Party may still be the largest opposition party in the Russian parliament, but as Russia marks the 100th anniversary of 1917, celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution have been decidedly muted.
The Kremlin would not be holding any special events for the day, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
During the Soviet era, the revolution was marked with a public holiday and military parades on Red Square in Moscow. Under Putin, November 7 became a regular working day in 2005.
Red Square did host a military parade on Tuesday, but it was a stylized re-enactment of a Soviet 1941 World War II event that offered only the briefest of nods to the 1917 uprising and was not shown live on state TV.
Putin himself skipped most of the key commemorative events, including a 3D light show this weekend on the facade of the Winter Palace in his hometown of Saint Petersburg.
He did attend 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.
Communist Party supporters gather to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum
Pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda asked on its front page: "Great celebration or big tragedy?" while a report commissioned by the Communist Party found that 58 percent of Russians were not even aware of the anniversary.
Putin has selected parts of Russia's Soviet past — mainly World War II victories and space successes — to highlight his nationalist credentials, but has tended to strike an ambivalent tone, once calling the 1991 Soviet collapse the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century and ignoring demands to remove Lenin's embalmed body from its Red Square tomb for burial.
This is rooted in his aim of claiming the heritage of both the czarist and the Soviet empires.
Putin said this month that the revolution was "an integral, complex part of our history," emphasizing the need for "treating the past objectively and respectfully."
The Kremlin charged a committee of politicians, historians and clerics with organizing this year's festivities. Organizer Konstantin Mogilevsky said at a presentation in October that the events were "not celebrations" of 1917 but were intended to be a "calm conversation about revolution, aimed at understanding it."
November 7 is still a day off in neighboring Belarus under the Soviet-style rule of President Alexander Lukashenko. But the last other such country, ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, canceled its November 7 public holiday this year.
Spirit still willing
Several thousand supporters of the Communist Party walked through central Moscow on Tuesday waving red Soviet flags and pictures of Lenin, while another group carried a giant red banner that read "Power to the Soviets!"
"Capitalism is stumbling from one crisis to another," Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov wrote in a centenary congratulatory note to his supporters. "We are convinced that the sun of socialism will once again rise over Russia and the whole world."
A cardboard version of the Aurora cruiser, which had fired a shot on the Winter Palace that is seen as the start of the 1917 revolution, was wheeled through Tverskaya street.
Although the second-largest party in the lower house after pro-Kremlin United Russia, the Communists have little real influence and vote with the Kremlin on most major issues.
International delegations from Italy, Colombia and other countries marched with the Russians. Party leaders complained about a lack of free medical care and education in post-Communist Russia.
A new revolution
Hundreds of people were detained over the weekend across Russia after exiled nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev called for a "revolution" on November 5.
The OVD-Info group — which monitors political protest arrests — said at least 11 had received jail sentences of up to 15 days.
jbh/kl (AFP, Reuters, AP)