Saint Petersburg, April 29 (RFE/RL) - Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov campaigned last Saturday (April 27) in Saint Petersburg.
He paid hommage to the victims of the Leningrad blockade at the Piskaryevskoye Cemetery. He laid lowers at monuments to both Peter the Great and Vladimir Lenin. And alluding to the historical symbolism of his visit to the cradle of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Zyuganov said that historical monuments such as that of Lenin should serve to unite, rather than divide a nation.
Zyuganov claimed that his support in Saint Petersburg (which he continually referred to by its Soviet name of Leningrad) was higher than public opinion polls show. Local surveys find Zyuganov running fourth in Saint Petersburg - behind Boris Yeltsin, Grigory Yavlinsky and Svyataslav Fyodorov - with only nine percent of the vote. He accused the local authorities and mass media of manipulating public opinion against him.
"In the five times I visited here [local state TV] Channel 5 has ignored me," Zyuganov said. "What kind of democracy is that? That isn't democracy, it isn't glasnost, it is the manipulation of public opinion."
At a packed press conference in the city's Dom Druzhba (House of Friendship), Zyuganov said that free elections and a multi-party system would be preserved if he wins the Russian presidency.
"We guarantee free elections and a multi-party system," Zyuganov said. "All elections will take place on time and according to the law, this bloc is dedicated to being one bloc among many in a multi-party system." On the other hand, Zyuganov also promised to resurrect Gosplan, the Soviet era ministry formerly charged with planning the economy.
"Gosplan will be reinstated," he said. "All authorities must plan, if they don't then everything goes to hell." Regarding the difficulties involved in the state taking a greater role in society and the economy, Zyuganov said that private property will be allowed to exist beside state property. But he also said that, "social control will be established more quickly than industrial control."
In contrast to other occasions when the Communist leader had tried to charm Western investors, he was critical of them on Saturday. In response to a question about what his relations would be with foreign investors, Zyuganov said that "Westerners come here and hunt."
"Everybody asks about the prospect of the country losing Western investment if we win. I ask, what investment? There are only 5 billion dollars in Western capital currently invested in Russia. A small country like Hungary, by comparison, has 3 billion dollars."
Outside the Dom Druzhba on Saturday, a group of mostly elderly Zyuganov supporters carried pro-Communist and Soviet era signs and waited for Zyuganov to emerge. When he did, several of them began to call out, "Gennady Andreevich! We are with you! We are for you!"
Zyuganov, accompanied by Saint Petersburg mayoral hopeful Yuri Sevenard, stopped briefly and spoke with the group before boarding a bus that left with a police escort.
Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who declined to meet with Zyuganov, characterized the visit as just another one by a presidential candidate whom he does not support.
Sobchak, who has pledged to support Yeltsin, has also declined to meet with candidates Yavlinsky, Fyodorov, Alexander Lebed and Mikhail Gorbachev when they earlier visited Saint Petersburg.