Standing in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin walls Thursday, peace walk organizer Joe Kinczel looked out at the 400 Americans and Soviets holding flowers and banners in front of him, with the flags of both countries at the front of the line, and told them that this was "a dream fulfilled."
"Try to picture for a moment 200 Soviets in the United States, walking around the Pentagon with a Soviet flag, and then going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to place flowers," Kinczel said. "Here we are. We are doing it. We have accomplished right at this moment what we came here to do. We can go no farther than this. This is the Kremlin."
After 13 days on the road, the joint American-Soviet peace walk from Leningrad to Moscow, a walk with the goal of "ending an arms race no one wants," reached Moscow late Wednesday afternoon. Having covered just under 400 miles by bus and by foot, the walkers made the final lap by boat, as prearranged by the Soviets, a four-hour cruise down the Volga from the little town of Mytischi on a luxurious riverboat.
A jubilant crowd of about 3,000 to 5,000 people met them at the city's northern end, hanging off the railings of the multi-tiered, gun-metal-gray, old port building. The welcome at the port was the type of ceremony the peace walkers have come to expect--government dignitaries, brass bands, speeches, a tree planting, folk dancing and singing, and a pressing crowd.
However, considering this is the capital and, with 8-million people, the nation's largest city, the welcome ceremonies confirmed what the participants had begun to sense earlier. A peace march, even such an unprecedented one as this one, plays better in the provinces.
At least 50,000 people had lined the streets of Novgorod to welcome the walkers. Probably a fourth of the population of most of the small towns and villages had came out to see them pass through. Countless small groups had gathered along the roadside in the country, sometimes just for a glimpse and a wave as the buses rolled by.
After all that, Moscow, where the walkers will remain for a week, was a bit of a letdown at first. One American woman expressed the feelings of many when she said, "I feel really down. I felt it coming into Moscow."
The marchers had envisioned a walk of some duration through the city streets, ending in Red Square. No such event was permitted, Soviet organizers citing traffic as the main reason, and too many tourists in queues in Red Square.
The compromise was the ceremony at the tomb just outside Red Square, a place where wedding parties traditionally come so that brides may leave their bouquets. Several wedding parties and uniformed delegations were waiting there while the peace walk had its brief, simple ceremony. Afterward, some of the peace walkers took the flags into Red Square for a quick, unauthorized walk around the square, an event that proceeded without much incident or notice.
Meanwhile, across town at the Soviet Peace Committee headquarters, the committee and the American International Peace Walk Inc., co-sponsors of the walk, were holding a press conference to announce plans for the finale to the venture, a Soviet-American outdoor rock concert on the 4th of July, the first such concert ever to be held here.
Televised Later in U.S.
Concert promoter Bill Graham, producer of the event, which will be televised later in the United States, was at the press conference with Steve Wozniak, the Apple computer wizard who is a major donor to this hastily pulled together event, and American rock artists Carlos Santana, the Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor. They will join Soviet groups Autograph and Contemporary for the performance, to be held at a 30,000-seat stadium near Izmailovo Park, at a cost to the Americans of about $750,000.
The off-again, on-again event, the result of eight weeks of tough, tedious negotiations had been the primary rumor throughout the peace walk. Many such concerts have been tried, only to fall through at the last moment, an experience Graham has known in the Soviet Union. Only days before, word had circulated among the marchers that both Allan Affeldt and Igor Filin, officials of the American and Soviet sponsoring organizations, were saying, "all systems go."
At the conference, Genrikh Borovik, the new head of the Soviet peace committee, said, "The primary purpose was to get the first one off the ground to show that it was possible."
The rock concert is big news for the Soviet Union, and tickets are bound to be a hot item, with most of them being distributed by the Soviets. No one who knows this country, whether Soviet or American, doubts that there would have been a moment's difficulty in filling even the 120,000-seat Lenin Stadium. However, crowd control and restraint are real concerns and time-honored traditions here. Even critics of most things Soviet seem to agree the Soviet peace committee is under a lot of pressure to pull this event off successfully if any precedent is to be set for future concerts.
Concerned About Their Role
Among the peace walkers, most are happy the concert is happening, but concerned about the role they will have in it. It is planned that they will walk around the stadium and it is hoped the peace walk will be acknowledged throughout the program and in the reporting of the event. The fear is the connection with the walk will get lost or ignored.
Their concerns are somewhat heightened by the fact that already, here in Moscow, the peace walk, reported widely by the Soviet press, may get lost or ignored by Muscovites.
Among the walkers, it is not so much being in Moscow as nearing the end of an intensely emotional experience that seems to be most affecting them. The success of the peace walk seems to have exceeded both Soviet and American expectations alike. It has been both an intimate and unique experience.
As the buses pulled out of the final campsite at the small city of Solnechnogorsk on Wednesday morning, one of the Soviets, Elena, a young teacher from Leningrad, announced, "I want to go back to Mironushka."
The night spent in that tiny village had been the roughest one of the march--mud, rain, cold, leaking tents, no relief. It had been the most fun, and there was not one person on the bus who would not have gone back there with Elena, according to the spontaneous cries that greeted her comment.
Instead they proceeded to their embarkation point, the tiny port settlement of Mytischi on the Volga. The same ceremony they had seen at least 50 times awaited them there, and although they joked knowingly among themselves of speeches and folk dances to come, it was all very touching.
In fact, they lingered at Mytischi, mingling with the villagers on the grassy river bank on a rare, gloriously clear and sunny day, flopping down under the pine trees, buying ice cream cones and drinking tea from the samovars.
A Gripping Sight
As was the custom of the peace walk, they had come in led by the flags, a Soviet carrying the American flag, an American the Soviet one. It was, as it has been all along the way, a gripping, arresting sight.
Then, while two of the walkers posed for snapshots with the flag, the local people started slowly coming forward with their cameras, asking permission to hold the flags and pose.
It was a sight to remember: ordinary Russians standing in the sunshine on the banks of the Volga, smiling a little self-consciously, an importance about them, their faces framed by the hammer and sickle on one side, the stars and stripes on the other.
Times Moscow Bureau Chief William J. Eaton contributed to this report.