1990 October Revolution Parade: Protesters at the Parade

1990 October Revolution Parade: Protesters at the Parade

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, the state celebrated the anniversary of the October Revolution and the rise of the Bolsheviks lavishly and loudly. However, the 73rd-anniversary parade on 7 November 1990 reflected the growing discord throughout the Soviet Socialist Republics. The public challenged the celebrations imposed on them and relegated the related events from their former position of honor. This would be the last public celebration of the anniversary of the October Revolution and represented a key symbolic step along the path to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence.

In all the major cities of the Soviet Union—Kyiv, Moscow, Minsk, Vilnius, Yerevan, Baku, and more—the situation was tense, marked by a competing series of pro- and anti-Communist demonstrations which revealed the broad nature of the discontent throughout the country as a whole. Gorbachev, cognizant of the growing discord, stood atop Lenin’s mausoleum promising reform in addition to the traditional reaffirmation of Lenin’s ideals. However, both his promises and the high-stepping, well-decorated soldiers on parade failed to dissuade dissenters, and one man went so far as to fire a sawed-off shotgun into the air less about 150 yards away from Gorbachev himself.

In Ukraine, in particular, alternative meetings, rallies, and events also challenged the 73rd anniversary celebrations. The leading opposing organizations even requested that November 6 be a day of mourning, to include an afternoon meeting with representatives from all oblasts in Ukraine, and they submitted a formal appeal/protest to the Kyiv City Council on October 31.

The parades were not cancelled, but they were majorly curtailed. In Kyiv, the event was limited to a 9 am to 10 am military parade in Victory Square in contrast to the traditional massive military viewings down Khreshchatyk, the main street in Kyiv. The location change resulted from a Kyiv City Council decree, which also imposed the other limitations. Also breaking from tradition, no full-size tanks were on display.

Opposition rallies (both on Revolution Day and the evening before) drew a crowd of over 25,000 in Kyiv. These Ukrainian democratic forces included representatives from the Ukrainian National Democratic Party, the Ukrainian Peasant-Democratic Party, the Kyiv branch of the Ukrainian Republican Party, the Kyiv regional organization of the Socio-Democratic Party of Ukraine, the Ukrainian interParty Assembly, the Secretariat of the Popular Movement of Ukraine, the Kyiv regional organization of Rukh, and more. In response, police pushed back protesters from the Victory Monument and all the way to the headquarters of Rukh on the eve of Revolution Day and held them there until the end of the sanctioned military parades and celebrations. According to Rukh, the police injured seven people during the altercations, each of whom required hospitalization.

However, demonstrations of violence failed to force Ukrainians or dissenters throughout the Soviet Union to celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution or to abandon hope for true change and an independent future.