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Russians Mark May Day, but Some Have Little to Celebrate - 2002-05-01


More than 100,000 people across Russia celebrated May Day Wedneday, the international holiday honoring workers. But the holiday, which used to be a Soviet mainstay, has lost much of its meaning.

For many people listening to this concert on Moscow's Revolution Square near the Kremlin, May Day is more about having a day off from work than honoring workers.

During Soviet times, this holiday was one of the most important in the Communist empire, and participation was mandatory. Thousands of people marched across Red Square under the gaze of the Kremlin leadership to celebrate the workers' paradise that Soviet leaders said they were creating.

Now Red Square is usually closed on this holiday to keep protestors away so people gather on nearby Revolution Square. The spirit of the holiday has also changed.

Marina Brudikova, 22, came with her friends to Revolution Square to relax and listen to some music. Ms. Brudikova says she came here with her friends just to walk around and relax. She says this holiday has meaning for people her parents' age, but not for her.

There were marches across Russia on Wednesday put on by the Communist party and various labor unions. But the number of people taking part was lower than in Communist times. Moscow police said about 150,000 people participated in the day's rallies and marches.

On Revolution Square, some people waved red Soviet flags with the hammer and sickle. Others carried the white, blue and red striped Russian flag.

For those who did come to specifically celebrate workers, there seemed to be little to celebrate.

Galina Pavlovna came to Revolution Square with her husband. She says she is disgusted with the way the country is being run, ashamed with what has happened to her country after the end of the Soviet Union. She adds that many people across Russia are living at a lower standard of living than in Soviet times.

The Moscow police were out in force on Wednesday, with officers lining the streets. But the marches and rallies in Moscow were almost without incident.

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