At least 5,000 people today spurned official Red Square ceremonies to commemorate the Bolshevik Revolution and marched through Moscow to protest food shortages, pollution, Communist rule and the secret police.
The unprecedented alternative march wound through the capital as President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership stood atop the Lenin Mausoleum and reviewed the traditional display of military hardware.
The official tolerance of a counterdemonstration on the hallowed national holiday showed how far the Soviet Union has come from the authoritarian rule of Gorbachev's predecessors.
So did the toned-down nature of the Red Square celebrations marking the 72nd anniversary of the revolution that brought the Communists to power in Russia. Not as much emphasis was placed on military might as in previous years.
"We're tired of 70 years of Communist power with nothing having changed for the better, and this is our protest," said marcher Taisya Shlyonova, a pensioner. The demonstrators represented a broad spectrum of unofficial groups.
"We don't want the people to be sheep that can be led as they have been led for 72 years," popular prosecutor Telman Gdlyan said.
In Red Square, the traditional parade of tanks, troops and banner-waving marchers selected by their workplaces passed through on schedule.
It was broadcast on state-run television, which made no reference to the unofficial march.
Gorbachev, acknowledging the country's troubles in an informal television interview during the ceremonies, said abandonment of the old system of central control without installing a new system has resulted in "a loss or weakening of control."
But to go back would be "the greatest mistake," he said, calling instead for faster movement toward a new economic order.