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Tuesday, November 07, 2000
One of the most important holidays during the Soviet Era was Revolution Day. It was a time to honor and remember those who instigated the October Revolution of 1917, fought and died as a result of oppression and rebellion. On the new calendar, the date of this celebration was November 7.
On October 24, 1917 (old calendar), Lenin ordered the Smolny Institute, where the Red Guard was based, to begin the October Revolution. Battleship Aurora, came up the Neva River, firing blanks at the Hermitage, in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Troops from the Red Army seized the Winter Palace and Bolsheviks began their control of the new Soviet state. The Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, changed the term Bolshevik to Communist. After his death, in 1924, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad.
In 1996, then President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree changing the focus of the November 7 holiday. In his opinion, Revolution Day was too negative as it focused on the countless victims of revolution. He, also, believed that the holiday split Russian society rather than unifying it. Wanting to promote the ideal that the Russian people have a common past and future, Yeltsin changed the name of the holiday to Day of Accord and Reconciliation.
Yeltsin's new holiday was met with vocal protests from the leaders of the left-wing and Communist Party in Russia. They staged marches commemorating Revolution Day featuring banners of Stalin and Lenin as well as Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs.
On October 7, 1998, workers' protests across Russia went off with no notable violence. Roughly 10 million workers and pensioners participated, demanding Yeltsin's resignation. They burned Yeltsin in effigy and stated that they would not be satisfied until he did resign; an action that Yeltsin did not take until December 31, 1999.
The protest carried over into the Kamchatka region where workers had not been paid for 18 months. The number of protestors, on October 12, 1998, was estimated at 22,000. The current economic crisis, which began in 1998, exhausted most Russians' savings and forced them to do without, affecting their quality of life and living conditions. With the onset of the winter of '98, anger and frustration set in.
One of the most prominent figures of the revolutionary years in Russia was Leon Trotsky. A supporter of Lenin and eventual enemy of Stalin, Trotsky provided history with some of the best written accounts of the years leading up to 1917 and after, until his death in 1940. Lessons of October is highly recommended reading. It was written in 1924 as a preface to Trotsky's writings about the events of 1917.
In theory, the idea of the Russian Revolution was to do away with tsarism, unify the common people and gain, for them, basic rights and a better way of life. This is not unlike other revolutions, such as in America in the late 1700s. However, it did not turn out as well. Lenin warned the Soviet against the evils of Stalin who reigned terror over the Soviet Union for roughly 30 years. Many find it offensive to honor or glorify the Soviet Union and the revolution of which it was a result. However, the presence of a people who continue to proudly survive all adversity is most worthy of celebration.