MOSCOW -- In a temporary truce between the country's two great political rivals, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Russian leader Boris N. Yeltsin walked side by side yesterday in a Revolution Day march whose ranks had to be filled out by thousands of plainclothes security men and military cadets.
But Mr. Yeltsin, keeping his political bases covered, later appeared before big crowds at two anti-Communist counterdemonstrations marked by prayers for the victims of Soviet terror -- and by demands for Mr. Gorbachev's resignation.
Despite the heavy turnout of KGB agents and police on Red Square for the 73rd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, a man managed to fire a sawed-off shotgun twice about 100 yards from where the leadership stood atop Lenin's mausoleum.
The KGB identified him as a 39-year-old Leningrad man, and KGB chief Vladimir A. Kryuchkov told reporters he was "probably insane" but gave no further information. One shot was fired in the air and the second into the ground. The incident is likely to prompt a tightening of security for Mr. Gorbachev, which is still extremely lax by U.S. standards.
In many republics, as in Moscow, studied indifference or political polarization dominated what used to be the chief holiday of the Soviet year.
In the Baltic republics, Transcaucasia and the western Ukraine, where independence movements are powerful, authorities declared Nov. 7 an ordinary working day. In several cities, crowds jeered Soviet troops on parade in defiance of the wishes of local officials.
Minor clashes broke out in Minsk, the capital of Byelorussia, when counterdemonstrators stormed a monument to V. I. Lenin and kicked aside memorial wreaths.
Against this atmosphere of conflict, the temporary detente of the Soviet and Russian presidents stood out. Although no one could hear what they said as they strolled along, chatting amiably, their behavior sent a message.
The two men have been sharply at odds over economic reform, and their bureaucracies are engaged in a war of documents. Mr. Yeltsin has accused Mr. Gorbachev of breaking an agreement to back a radical, 500-day transition to a market economy. Mr. Gorbachev has accused Mr. Yeltsin of trying to duck responsibility for coming hard times.
Many economists believe little progress is possible until the two men come to an agreement, so yesterday's televised stroll at the head of the official demonstration has political significance. Like Mr. Yeltsin, Moscow's radical mayor, Gavriil K. Popov, also attended all three demonstrations despite his earlier call for Muscovites to boycott the holiday and stay at home washing windows and preparing for winter.
In other ways, the capital felt like a deeply divided city. At the official Red Square ceremony was the old power structure, with loyalist Communists, military officers and KGB men led mainly by reformist Communists like Mr. Gorbachev who have never stood the test of popular elections.
At the alternative events were a hodgepodge of politicized Muscovites who turned out voluntarily under a dusting of snow. They were led by radical elected politicians, including some former Communists such as Mr. Yeltsin and Mr. Popov, but no current party members.
At 10 a.m., as celebratory music burst out of powerful loudspeakers on Red Square, funereal music began to play from amplifiers mounted on a yellow bus a few hundred yards away on Staraya Square. Here, next to the headquarters of the Communist Party, the counterdemonstrators chose to begin their rally.
"Genocide -- the Leninist Rulers' Present to the People," said one poster. "Forgive Us, Crucified Russia!" said another.
"We don't consider this a holiday, we consider it a tragedy," said Zoya V. Ryabachenko, 60, a retired defense factory worker, holding a sign saying "73 Years of Terror and Slavery." In contrast with the professionally printed official posters on Red Square, the counterdemonstrators had made their own.
"Gorbachev? He's done a great deal for the world. But he's done nothing for his own people," Ms. Ryabachenko said. "He's not president of the people. He's president of the Communist Party -- a party that's dying, a fearful, criminal party."
People around her chimed in with their agreement. "He wouldn't get 10 percent of the vote," one man said.
"We believe in Yeltsin and Popov. We believe in Yeltsin to the end," said another.
The roughly 15,000 people at the rally then walked about two miles to the apartment building of the late human rights activist ,, Andrei D. Sakharov. There many lit candles while a priest held a memorial service for the victims of totalitarianism.
A second, more boisterous crowd of more than 5,000 crossed Red
Square after the official demonstration, jeering security men and Lenin's mausoleum and chanting "Gorbachev resign," "Down with the CPSU" and "Down with the KGB."