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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 18:53 GMT
Far-right claims Russian holiday
Ultra-nationalist demonstrators march in Moscow, 4 Nov 05
Some far-right demonstrators in Moscow gave Nazi salutes
More than 1,000 ultra-nationalists have marched through central Moscow to mark a new national holiday that has left many Russians bewildered.

The Day of People's Unity was created last year after the parliament scrapped the 7 November public holiday marking the 1917 Bolshevik uprising.

The new 4 November holiday marks the end of Polish occupation in 1612.

The Moscow demonstrators used the occasion to chant "Russia against occupiers!" and "Russia for Russians!"

Correspondents say polls show only 8% could name the new holiday, while more than 60% opposed dropping Revolution Day.

The Soviet-named anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution was celebrated for more than 80 years - albeit renamed as the Day of Reconciliation and Accord after the collapse of communism.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says the Kremlin may have wanted the new holiday to boost patriotism, but in Moscow it risked becoming a day of nationalist fervour.

Swastikas and Nazi salutes were seen among the crowd who carried banners proclaiming the supremacy of the Russian nation.

Elsewhere in Russia the new holiday was a low-key affair, devoid of parades or fly-pasts, our correspondent reports.

Communist anger

Human rights activists have urged the Russian authorities to do more to counter a rise in xenophobia.

Moscow statue of Minin and Pozharsky
Prince Pozharsky and merchant Minin were the heroes of 1612

The old communist-era holiday was on 7 November - but now that will be a normal working day.

Moscow's liberation from Polish invaders was achieved in 1612 by a volunteer army raised by a prince and a merchant from the city of Nizhny Novgorod.

But the decision to lose the old holiday has angered communists, who have called it a crime against history.

Historian Yury Afanasyev went further, telling the Novyye Izvestia newspaper: "This holiday will never help unify society. On the contrary, it will lead to discord and aggravate Russo-Polish relations."

Russia scraps Communist holiday
24 Dec 04 |  Europe
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03 Jul 04 |  Europe
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23 Dec 04 |  Country profiles
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