Russians Undecided on What Should Happen to Lenin Remains

By Luxmoore, Jonathan | National Catholic Reporter, February 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

Russians Undecided on What Should Happen to Lenin Remains


Luxmoore, Jonathan, National Catholic Reporter


When Russia's communist members of parliament urged followers last summer to defend the mausoleum housing the body of Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870-1924), it touched off the latest of many rows to engulf this controversial Moscow landmark.

Since Soviet rule collapsed, no communist emblem has been more argued over than the tinted-marble Red Square edifice, where the ghoulish remains of the Bolshevik revolution's leader have been viewed by millions for over eight decades.

Pressure is strong to have Lenin moved.

"Of course, many people don't really care whether he stays or not," explained Sergei Filatov, a Russian religious sociologist. "Yet his presence has symbolic importance for democrats, who want him out, and for communists who say he must stay."

Many believe communist rule will finally be laid to rest only when its mastermind is buried with it.

"The Catholic church has no official position," western Russia's vicar-general, Fr. Antoni Hej, told NCR.

"For communists who hold the parliamentary majority, Lenin is still the leader -- since his mausoleum is their temple, it's obvious they'll keep on defending it. But there are plenty of other Russians who believe today's problems all arise from the fact that he still isn't buried."

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, even non-communists argued pragmatically in favor of keeping Lenin's body in place, believing it was risky to remove the symbolic mainstays of the Soviet state too quickly.

However, Russia's still-entrenched communists had deeper ideological reasons for defending the mausoleum.

In 1997, they forced through a Duma resolution forbidding the Red Square's "architectural reconstruction." In 1998, the head of Russia's Communist Youth League, Igor Maliarov, even called for Lenin's body to be cloned.

Despite this, the great helmsman faces tough opposition.

Before his Dec. 31, 1999, resignation, President Boris Yeltsin proposed burying Lenin alongside his mother, Maria Alexandrovna, in St. Petersburg's Volvovsky Cemetery, and even hinted at a national referendum.

He also urged the removal of other communist figureheads buried in the nearby Kremlin Wall, including Soviet bosses Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, as well as U.S. journalist John Reed and Lenin's lover Inessa Armand.

Press reports said plans were laid two years ago to have Lenin and the murdered Tsar Nicholas II interred in parallel St. Petersburg ceremonies as a mark of national reconciliation.

In the end, only Nicholas and his family were consigned to dust in the city's Petropavlovsk Cathedral.

The head of Russia's dominant Orthodox church also recommended Lenin's burial last May, in the first such statement by a church leader. …

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