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April 29, 2005
Protesters of All Stripes to March on May Day
By Francesca Mereu
Tens of thousands of Communists, liberals, nationalists and human rights activists will take to central streets to stage protests Sunday on the May Day holiday, which this year coincides with Orthodox Easter.
Moscow residents will also head to their dachas in droves for the first of two consecutive extended holiday weekends. The following weekend is the May 9 Victory Day holiday, and concerts and new museum exhibits commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II will be open to the public over the April 30 to May 2 holiday weekend.
Some 50,000 Communist and Rodina supporters are expected to march through central Moscow in the largest demonstration Sunday, officials from both parties said.
The protest will start with a rally "against President Vladimir Putin's regime" and the oligarchs at the Lenin statue in Kaluzhskaya Ploshchad at 10 a.m., said an official at the Communist Party's Moscow branch. The protesters will then march through the center to Teatralnaya Ploshchad, where a rally will be held at the Karl Marx monument.
Rodina spokesman Sergei Butin said his nationalist party decided to join forces with the Communists because the two share a common dislike for the oligarchs and government social reforms that scrapped state benefits for millions of pensioners in favor of small cash payments earlier this year.
Butin said about 1,000 Rodina activists would participate in the demonstration, while the Communists said they expected 50,000 people.
Some 5,000 liberals and human rights activists will gather at 11:30 a.m. at Myasnitskaya Ulitsa and march through central Moscow to Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, where the former KGB headquarters is located, to show that there is a "democratic opposition united against censorship, a lack of justice and the detention of political prisoners," said Sergei Kazakov, spokesman for the liberal Yabloko party. A rally will then be held at the square's Solovki memorial, he said.
Participating in the rally will be former liberal presidential candidate Irina Khakamada, Indem think tank head Georgy Satarov, For Human Rights chief Lev Ponomaryov and others, Kazakov said.
Large parts of central Moscow will be blocked off to traffic during the demonstrations. More than 20,000 police officers will be on the streets to maintain public order during the two public holidays, city police said Thursday.
May 1, which was called the Day of Workers' Solidarity in Soviet times, was once celebrated with mass processions through Red Square, where thousands of people marched, cheerfully waving flags and holding portraits of Soviet leaders. President Boris Yeltsin renamed the holiday the Day of Labor and Spring in 1996.
The holiday falls on the same day as Orthodox Easter this year, and the metro will run until 2:30 a.m. and buses will run until 3:30 a.m. to allow believers to attend night services, which start shortly before midnight Saturday. Extra buses also will be placed on routes leading to the city's main cemeteries, where Orthodox Christians traditionally lay flowers on the graves of loved ones on Easter Day.
The May holidays traditionally are the start of the dacha season, when tens of thousands of people seek refuge from the smog of the city and head for their plots of land in the countryside. While many people have taken advantage of the holidays to prepare their gardens and fix up their dachas, they will have less time to do so this spring after the State Duma shortened the May Day and the Victory Day holidays to one day each -- meaning two three-day weekends this year. The holidays were shortened to add more days to the holidays surrounding New Year's Day.
For those planning to stay in the city, a number of exhibitions and concerts are opening in time for the weekend. The Historical Museum on Red Square unveiled on Thursday an exhibition called "Victory Parade" that includes the letter in which Nazi Germany official declared defeat to Soviet forces, the Soviet flag that Soviet soldiers raised on the Reichstag and the raincoat that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wore during the first Victory Day parade on Red Square.
The Federal Archives at 17 Bolshaya Pirogovskaya recently opened an exhibit titled "Victorious 1945," which covers the last year of the war and post-war rebuilding and includes rare documents from the personal archives of Stalin and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The exhibit will run through June 30.
From Monday, the Moscow Conservatory will start a series of concerts dedicated to Victory Day, with music by composers who died during war and works by Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich about the war.