MOSCOW - Tens of thousands of people took part in Moscow street rallies and concerts yesterday on a new national holiday that the Kremlin tried to portray as a celebration of Russia’s ethnic diversity.
The Moscow rallies were peaceful, police said, but a nationalist march of a few hundred people on the outskirts of St. Petersburg turned violent when six people tried to protest. Nationalists attacked the protesters, kicking some of them as they lay on the ground. Riot police pulled the protesters to safety.
The Kremlin introduced National Unity Day in 2005 to replace the traditional Nov. 7 celebration of the 1917 Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power. But the new holiday was quickly seized upon by extreme nationalists and white supremacists, as well as by Russian Orthodox Christian fundamentalists and monarchists.
Nationalists gathered for a concert yesterday across the river from the Kremlin. But they were far outnumbered by members of pro-Kremlin parties.