Hundreds of thousands of Russians took to the streets in May Day marches organised by pro-Kremlin trade unions and parties.
In Moscow alone, 90,000 marched in columns led by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, a misnomer for the toothless descendant of Soviet-era unions, and the government party, United Russia. The carefully-choreographed rallies borrowed not only Soviet-era slogans such as “Peace-Labour-May” and “Glory to the Working Class”, but also the format of manifestations, with big factories and universities contributing agreed numbers of demonstrators who form separate columns.
Communists and some other parties also held their rallies on May 1, but they were heavily outnumbered by pro-government demonstrators.
Stage-managed Soviet-style rallies in support of the government are part of the Kremlin’s efforts to reach out to the conservative core electorate of Mr. Putin, which is nostalgic about the Soviet Union. Their support has given Mr. Putin comfortable first-round victories in all three presidential elections he has run so far.
In another move to resurrect Soviet symbols, Mr. Putin last month created a new award, “Hero of Labour”, which harks back to the Soviet award “Hero of Soviet Labour”.
A recent poll showed people are getting weary of Mr. Putin, who has been at the helm for 13 years. For the first time a majority of Russians, 55 per cent, said they would like to see a new President in the next elections due in 2018.
Mr. Putin’s decision to return to the presidency a year ago sparked mass protest rallies; in Moscow, in up to 100,000 took part. The organisers of last year protests plan to hold another rally on May 6.