Friends, foes turn out for revolution holiday

November 08, 1992|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- A dignified figure joined the sparse crowd tha gathered yesterday in the shadow of the KGB building -- the great symbol of fear and oppression -- on the 75th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Fyodorov Duz, 85 years old, walked erect but stiff in the 32-degree cold. Having suffered bitterly under communism, he had come to mourn the millions of victims of its terror.

A few blocks away, thousands of Communists and their sympathizers were marching toward Red Square to glorify the revolution and pledge a return to the comforting system it created.

Mr. Duz grew up and grew old under that system. So did many of those who marched under the Communist flag yesterday.

Mr. Duz found it terrible indeed. But somehow, he can look back without hatred or bitterness. Somehow, he can look ahead with hope and a faint smile.

The Communist sympathizers, on the other hand, look back with longing and loss and look ahead with fear and revulsion.

"This is what the system did to us," said Oleg Lebedev, a 26-year-old physicist holding a burning candle near the KGB building. "We suffered genocide for 75 years. No other country has gone through that. It affected different people in different ways."

And now, as Russia struggles toward a different system, the world is wondering which version of the past and future will be realized -- Mr. Duz's, or that of those marching under the red banners.

Hard labor and exile

Mr. Duz remembers well the day he was dragged into the Lubyanka, the KGB building, nearly 50 years ago. He had served honorably at the front in World War II, in a cavalry unit that had been surrounded. Then, because of his aviation training, he was assigned to write for an aviation magazine in Moscow.

Unwittingly, he did three things that would ruin his life. First, he wrote an article about Igor Sikorsky, a Russian by birth who emigrated to the United States and made a number of aviation breakthroughs. Sikorsky built the first multi-engine airplane and developed the helicopter.

Then Mr. Duz wrote an article about an officer who had shot down more enemy aircraft than anyone else. Finally, he had a picture of Czar Nicholas II with some airplanes. In 1943, he was arrested.

"They incriminated me for praising emigres and officers," Mr. Duz said. "And they accused me of being the relative of a czar.

"They dragged me right in there, into the Lubyanka," he said. "They did not allow me to sleep for 14 days, so that I would sign a confession. They accused me of being the military minister in a shadow government. Finally, I got pneumonia. It saved me."

By chance, the doctor sent to examine Mr. Duz was an acquaintance from his aviation work. "She sent me to a prison hospital," he said, "and while I was there, they found another military minister."

Mr. Duz served five years of hard labor and then exile in Central Asia. His wife was not so lucky. Despairing at her husband's arrest, she told a friend, "I wish I could make myself invisible, go into the Kremlin and kill Stalin."

The friend turned her in.

"She was given 15 years for planned terrorism," Mr. Duz said. "She was sent far north, within the Arctic Circle, where people had no names, only numbers on their backs. She spent her life cutting trees. When she finally got out, her health was ruined. She died in my arms. I lost her."

'We can learn'

Yesterday, Mr. Duz refused to be dismayed that only a hundred or so people had turned up for a service to mourn this chilling past.

Reforms are under way, Mr. Duz said. "We must support [Russian President Boris N.] Yeltsin," he said.

Mr. Duz can understand why Communists were marching nearby. "Life is miserable," he said. "Black bread costs 22 rubles. People don't know what to do. But I believe in the Russian people. We can learn to work like Americans. Private property will provoke the incentive to work."

As Mr. Duz walked slowly to a subway station, the Communists and their sympathizers were marching from Oktyabrskaya Square to Manezh Square, next to the Kremlim. Red Square was blocked off to them by a cordon of police, backed up by dump trucks.

The Communist gathering, sprinkled with Soviet flags and pictures of Stalin, blamed the other side for the suffering. "It was the most bloodless revolution in history," one speaker said. "It was the White Russians who started killing."

There was talk of overthrowing the bourgeoisie, of parasites and bloodsuckers. But mostly, there was simple fear.

"The government should be overthrown," said a 45-year-old woman in a pink hat. "Everything is lies."

Yearning for the past

The woman said she couldn't explain why so many people had suffered after the revolution.

"But nothing could be worse than it is now," she said. "I can't survive on what I have now."

Aram Boyadzhan, a 47-year-old welder, said: "We had a society that had guarantees -- they were minimal, but they were guarantees. We were guaranteed a job, and we were guaranteed an apartment. In the West, there are no guarantees. Everyone has to fight for himself."

That, he said, was what brought him to the Communist demonstration. That was what made him yearn for the past. That was what made him more comfortable with the ultimatums of the past than with the choices of freedom.

Yesterday was still an official holiday in Russia, and everyone has Monday off because the holiday fell on a Saturday. But only about 25,000 had gathered to celebrate the revolution. Most people were at home, visiting with friends and relatives, putting up the last of the pickled cabbage for the winter, finding a reason for a vodka toast, looking to the future, whatever it might bring.

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