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2,000 nationalists rally in Moscow

Avert violence of last year's holiday

Email|Print| Text size + By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times / November 5, 2007

MOSCOW - Russian nationalists chanting slogans against foreign immigrants and Jews marched through a deserted area of the capital yesterday in a carefully controlled display that managed to avert the violence and arrests of last year's National Unity Day observance.

An estimated 2,000 marchers waving flags, shouting "Glory to the Russian nation," and calling for the death of Jews marched for about a mile along the Moscow River embankment before gathering for a rally near the grand Stalin-era edifice the Ukraine Hotel.

Other demonstrations around the city that were state-sponsored attracted bigger numbers. But the rally organized by the Slavic Union and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration drew most of the attention at a time when calls for a return to the era of Russian power and Slavic unity hold substantial popular appeal.

"We will free Europe! Russia will be white!" the anti-immigration group's leader, Aleksandr Belov, told the crowd. "We came here to say simple words: We are sick and tired of the power of occupants, of conquerors, and now it's enough," he said.

Similar nationalist rallies took place in the Russian cities of Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, and St. Petersburg.

President Vladimir V. Putin, speaking at a separate holiday event near Red Square, declared that efforts to divide Russia from outside were bound to fail.

"There are still those who would like to split Russia and get their hands on our resources. It's something which we should keep in mind. But our main goal should be the development of our country," he said.

The day marked the third observance of National Unity Day. The celebration was created as a replacement for the old Revolution Day celebration of the October Bolshevik revolution during the Soviet era, typically marked on Nov. 7 with military parades and patriotic observances.

The new holiday is supposed to commemorate the liberation of Moscow from Polish invaders in 1612, but few Russians appear well versed in that era of history. Instead, tens of thousands of demonstrators used the holiday yesterday to celebrate, in various ways, Russia's growing strength and cohesiveness after the chaos of the 1990s. The free-market, pro- democracy Yabloko party held a rally against fascism and xenophobia; the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group assembled a "peace quilt" from the contributions of thousands of young people.

Last year's nationalist march resulted in a number of arrests; this year, police issued a permit for the event but limited to a near- deserted stretch of the Moscow River embankment.

Supporters were unruffled at their virtual quarantine.

"We are here because we don't agree with their authorities, especially their immigration policies," said Artur Kuvalenko, 18, who joined the rally.

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