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1 May, 2007 17:45

Crowds celebrate Labour Day in Russia

Crowds celebrate Labour Day in Russia

Traditional Labour Day rallies have been staged in cities across the Russian Federation. About 50,000 people took part in various celebrations in the capital Moscow.

The largest demonstration was led by the country's majority party “Eydinaya Rossia” (United Russia) and the Moscow Trade Union Federation.

People of different ages took to the streets on this traditional public holiday, pensioners alongside with students. As for political parties, this is an occasion for them to reassert their agenda and to show their flags and banners.

A separate rally was organised by the Communist party. It  lead its way to its final rallying point – the statue of Karl Marx. Organisers claimed there were 10,000 people in the crowd, bright with red flags.

“Today's leaders have not only forsaken the people, they have also come to support the ideas of oligarchs, defending their stolen wealth and property and values. The only way to make the government change is through massive demonstrations by the workers,” Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Communist party of the Russian Federation, proclaimed.

People were out in the streets, carrying balloons and flags, not only for political purposes, but simply enjoying May Day – the day that celebrates the arrival of spring. For many Russians May 1, which is a national holiday, is rather a chance to spend the long weekend with their families and friends.

In Eastern Russia, members of political parties, social movements and NGO's rallied to demand the authorities pay closer attention to the needs of cultural and medical workers, veterans, and educators. Demonstrators in Siberia called for ecological awareness and social justice.

Labour Day has been observed in Russia for over a century. After the October Revolution of 1917 it became an official holiday. It dates back to mass rallies held across the United States in May 1886 when demonstrators demanded an eight-hour work day.

Thousands of people joined May Day rallies around the world.

In South Korea about 7,000 workers held a peaceful protest, carrying banners and shouting slogans against the labor and trade policies of the current government.

Meanwhile, in Germany Labor Day was met with clashes between protestors and police. Left radical groups threw stones and bottles, at least 40 protesters were arrested.

Hundreds of workers gathered in Iraq. They carried red banners and beat drums, chanted slogans, hailing Labour Day. Among those who took to the streets in the central square of Baghdad were members of the General Union of Iraqi Workers.

In Turkey, more than 500 people were detained during the Labour Day rally in the capital Istanbul. Protesters wanted to commemorate victims of a “Bloody May Day” thirty years earlier. In 1977 an unidentified gunman opened fire on demonstrators in Taksim Square, leaving 32 people dead. Police used batons, tear gas and water cannon to stop crowds marching to the site of the attack.  A handful of union leaders were allowed to lay red carnations in memory of those who died. This year's rally came amid a political crisis in the country ahead of presidential elections.