Millions suffered untold tragedies under the iron fist of the Soviet empire, but many Russians look back on the era with a bit of nostalgia.
November 7th and 8th mark the 100 year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution (also known as the October Revolution), the movement led by Vladimir Lenin which established what would later become the Soviet empire. Communism eventually collapsed in the early 1990s, freeing millions from the totalitarian regime, but many Russians do not believe the fall of the U.S.S.R. was a positive. In fact, many wish to see a revival of the strength and unity the Soviet empire provided... even if it came at the end of a gun.
"We can achieve everything but under the flag of Lenin, under the flag of victory, under the flag of the October Revolution," Gennadi Zyuganov, leader of Russia's Communist Party, told a crowd during the anniversary festivities in Moscow. "In 1991 (dissolution of the Soviet Union) we were all betrayed, but didn't give up and we were united by the Communist Party of Russia."
To celebrate the anniversary, re-enactors recreated the famous 1941 march in Red Square, which itself commemorated the 1917 revolution. Dozens of soldiers marched in lock-step, dressed in Soviet-era uniforms and carry old weapons. There were also pro-Communist marches attended by many who remember life under the old regime who don't seem let the tragedies of the past overshadow what they see as a glamorous era.
It's easy to look back on Soviet history with rose-colored glasses, especially when life at the time was essentially sanitized by those in charge. As many as 20 million people are believed to have been killed in Russia's Soviet era, but the revolution also sparked many similar uprising abroad... some with a push from the Kremlin itself. China, North Korea, Cuba and several countries in Eastern Europe and Eurasia all fell under the Iron Curtain, often by force. The repercussions are still being felt today, especially in the case of North Korea and China.
The fall of the Iron Curtain was not a cure-all solution. Russia undoubtedly continued to suffer after the fall of communism. The economic and political turmoil that resulted from the fall of the Iron Curtain upended the lives of millions used to living in a society in which every aspect of daily life was regimented for them. To make matters worse, a group of speculators cornered many of Russia's newly privatized industries, hoarding economic opportunity for themselves. This oligarch culture continues to plague Russia today, as the country's economy grows increasingly precarious. With limited opportunities and a poor quality of life, some are embracing communism's history, however dark it may be.
"I am marching with great feeling - the feeling that it all (the revolution) will come back. It will definitely come back," said Pavel Tit as he marched with fellow demonstrators, wearing a hat emblazoned with the Soviet red star.
There are many, though, who still remember how the revolution how its fallout ravaged the world.
"Today here in Prague on the Vltava River we have performed a symbolic last shot from the Aurora, the last shot that should end the communist era," said Czech citizen Petr Marek, after firing off a mock up of the Aurora, the ship which fired the signal shot that started the revolution.
The Czech Republic was one of many countries which was conquered by the Soviets, and Marek's group "Without Communists," wants to make sure the world does not forget.
"That 100 years was enough and in fact, the first shot should not have happened."