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Soviet Radicals Defy Observance of '17 Revolution

November 08, 1989|MICHAEL PARKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOSCOW — Soviet radicals on Tuesday broke from the official celebrations of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to demand an end to the Communist Party's monopoly on political power.

More than 10,000 people marched along a main thoroughfare in central Moscow with banners demanding "Power to the people, not the party!" as troops and party activists filled Red Square for the traditional parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the revolution that brought the Communists to power.

"End the Communist Party's Monopoly on Power!" declared another banner in the "alternative march" organized by a dozen Moscow opposition groups. Another urged, "Support a Multi-Party System!"

Not for more than 60 years, just before the dictator Josef Stalin seized power and imposed conformity across the country, had there been a major display of political dissent in Moscow on Nov. 7, a holiday that not only celebrates the Bolshevik Revolution but traditionally trumpets the Soviet expectation of the worldwide triumph of socialism.

"This is a new wave of democracy," Telman K. Gdlyan, a popular member of the Congress of People's Deputies, told a cheering crowd at Moscow's Olympic Stadium after their three-hour march across the capital. "What kind of pluralism is there in that well-known Red Square when we, on the other side, have no chance to speak? This may be the kind of democracy that suits them, but it does not suit us."

Yet official tolerance of the opposition meetings and marches reflected the continuing evolution of political pluralism under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

On a day that has been used not only to glorify the revolution, its leader, V. I. Lenin, and the Communist Party, but also to affirm the wisdom of the party leadership and the correctness of its policies, political dissent was evident almost everywhere.

Across the Soviet Union, new political groups used the anniversary celebrations to press dissident causes: greater political freedom, full autonomy for the ethnic republics, strengthened environmental protection, an end to nuclear testing, religious liberty.

In the Moldavian capital of Kishinev, several hundred supporters of the Moldavian Popular Front reportedly succeeded in halting the military part of the local parade to demand greater rights for the republic's majority, which speaks a dialect of the Romanian language.

According to a spokesman for the front, demonstrators climbed aboard tanks and armored personnel carriers with anti-government banners and battled with the police until party leaders left the reviewing stand in Lenin Square.

The spokesman said the police later beat a number of the protesters. The official news agency Tass reported only that supporters of the Moldavian Popular Front had tried to disrupt the celebration.

Lithuanian nationalists tried similar tactics in the capital of Vilnius, according to reports from there, but they failed to slow the parade for more than a minute before security police intervened.

Although the parade in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, had already been canceled, about 30 youths burned Soviet flags in Lenin Street there before they were dispersed by the police.

The parade in the neighboring southern Soviet republic of Georgia was also canceled, out of fear that it would provoke renewed nationalist protests there.

Striking coal miners in Vorkuta in the far north joined a parade with slogans urging the government to allow greater political and economic freedom and to improve living and working conditions.

In Alma Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan in Soviet Central Asia, the anti-nuclear group Nevada-Semipalatinsk joined the official parade to protest the continued testing of nuclear weapons in Semipalatinsk. U.S. nuclear tests are conducted in Nevada.

The Moscow parade, in keeping with Gorbachev's peace-oriented foreign policy, de-emphasized Soviet military power, cutting the Soviet army's traditional march-past and the display of its weapons to a bare seven minutes, compared with 20 minutes last year. There were no intercontinental ballistic missiles, no heavy artillery and a relatively modest number of tanks.

Gen. Dmitri T. Yazov, the Soviet defense minister, addressing the 8,600 assembled troops as he stood alongside Gorbachev, declared that unilateral reductions in Soviet armed forces over the past year had won the country respect throughout the world and strengthened Moscow's declared policy of ending armed confrontation with the West.

Nevertheless, he said, the Soviet Union must maintain its forces at a level of "reasonable sufficiency," enabling it to defend itself.

After the military parade, tens of thousands of civilians, all carefully chosen by party committees where they work or live, filed across Red Square's gray cobblestones as Gorbachev and other Kremlin leaders watched from Lenin's mausoleum.

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