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‘Red Saturday’ Not Such a Celebration for Lenin With AM-Lithuania, Bjt

April 21, 1990 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ ″Red Saturday″ was different this year.

Instead of mouthing the usual praises for Soviet-founder Vladimir I. Lenin on his birthday, party officials felt compelled to defend his honor and workers who voluntered for a day’s labor sent their earnings to charity instead of the state budget.

The April Saturday is a decades-old cross between spring cleaning and solemn obeisance to the Soviet founder on the eve of his birthday, which is Sunday.

Millions of Soviets traditionally spend the day at their workplaces or tidying up yards and streets under intense social pressure to ″volunteer″ their labor. TV films, banners and assemblies mark Lenin’s birthday.

But this year, radical legislators who made major gains in Soviet regions in recent months have tried to turn the day into more of an ecological holiday than an ideological day.

The image of Lenin on his 120th birthday has been severely tarnished as the Communist Party he founded loses ground in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

On Friday night, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev complained of ″slander″ against Lenin in a speech to a holiday gala at the Bolshoi Theater.

″Disrespect for Lenin is unacceptable,″ he told the gathering. ″Slander, immoral and unfounded, ambitious and vulgar in its essence (is) directed at him as a person. (These are) foolish attempts to cast doubt on the nobility of his aims and purity of his thoughts.″

Gorbachev’s remarks and a series of impassioned defenses of Lenin in the Soviet press this week appeared aimed largely at parliamentarian Yuri Afanasyev and his backers. Afanasyev, speaking to the Soviet Congress on March 12 in a session that was later broadcast nationwide, blamed Lenin for founding a policy of ″state terror,″ violence and lawlessness.

Afanasyev shocked and infuriated many, but his remarks were no more outrageous than other recent published attacks on Lenin. Last year a Soviet journal reprinted a statement by exiled author Alexander Solzhenitsyn calling Lenin an ″evil person.″

There have also been suggestions that Lenin’s embalmed body be removed from its mausoleum on Red Square and given a traditional burial.

With the most sacrosanct of Soviet icons under attack, Lenin’s champions have launched a broad defense. This month’s edition of the journal Communist argued that Lenin should not be blamed for distortions of his thoughts, and proclaimed that ″Lenin needs protection today.″

In Arguments and Facts, the country’s most popular newspaper, Lenin’s niece argued that ″something should remain holy 3/8″ In that interview, Olga Ulyanova also objected to vandalism against statues of Lenin in Eastern Europe.

This week, deputies of the radical Moscow City Council raised proposals to remove the giant bust of Lenin from their assembly hall and to cancel his honorary possession of Deputy’s Identity Card No. 1.

The Moskovskaya Pravda newspaper condemned the proposals as ″blasphemous″ and lamented: ″It is so much easier to ruin traditions than to restore them, and we have ruined so many of them that much is impossible to restore.″

In Leningrad, where the new city council is also dominated by radical reformers, deputies refused to pay for celebrations of Lenin’s birthday and declared Saturday an ″ecological subbotnik,″ journalist Maxim Korzhov said.

Residents of the city of Kiev, said popular movements have also called for subbotnik money to be spent on ecological measures, particularly the cleanup of areas contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

Workers who put in extra hours Saturday insisted on earmarking the money for special charities, including orphanages and poor families, the official Soviet news agency Tass reported. Formerly, earnings from the day were given to the general state budget.