Skip to comments.With Lenin's Ideas Dead, Russia Weighs What to Do With Body
Posted on 10/06/2005 9:21:15 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
MOSCOW, Oct. 4 - For eight decades he has been lying in state on public display, a cadaver in a succession of dark suits, encased in a glass box beside a walkway in the basement of his granite mausoleum. Many who revere him say he is at peace, the leader in repose beneath the lights. Others think he just looks macabre.
Time has been unkind to Lenin, whose remains here in Red Square are said to sprout occasional fungi, and whose ideology and party long ago fell to ruins. Now the inevitable question has returned. Should his body be moved?
Revisiting a proposal that thwarted Boris N. Yeltsin, who faced down tanks but in his time as president could not persuade Russians to remove the Soviet Union's founder from his place of honor, a senior aide to President Vladimir V. Putin raised the matter last week, saying it was time to bury the man.
"Our country has been shaken by strife, but only a few people were held accountable for that in our lifetime," said the aide, Georgi Poltavchenko. "I do not think it is fair that those who initiated the strife remain in the center of our state near the Kremlin."
In the unending debate about what exactly the new Russia is, the subject of Lenin resembles a Rorschach inkblot test. People project their views of their state onto him and see what they wish. And so as Mr. Poltavchenko's suggestion has ignited fresh public sparring over Lenin's place, both in history and in the grave, the dispute has been implicitly bizarre and a window into the state of civil society here.
First came a rush to second the idea, from figures including Nikita Mikhalkov, a prominent film director and chairman of the Russian Cultural Foundation, who shares Mr. Poltavchenko's distaste for the relic.
"Vast funds are being squandered on a pagan show," Mr. Mikhalkov told Russian journalists, saying that Lenin himself wished to be buried beside his mother in St. Petersburg. "If we advocate Christian ideals, we must fulfill the will of the deceased."
Then came the backlash. Gennadi I. Zyuganov, leader of Russia's remnant of the Communist Party, lashed out at proponents of moving the remains, insisting that Lenin had no wish to be buried elsewhere.
He also made a pre-emptive strike against any suggestion of relocating other deceased Soviet leaders, who are buried under a lawn behind Lenin's mausoleum. There, along the Kremlin wall, are the remains of Yuri V. Andropov, Leonid I. Brezhnev and Konstantin U. Chernenko, as well as those of Stalin and Feliks Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret police.
At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Zyuganov described those who would dare move those Communist figures as people "who do not know the country's history and stretch out their dirty hands and muddy ideas to the national necropolis."
His position has only hardened. "Raising this issue smells of provocation and illiteracy," Mr. Zyuganov said Tuesday in a telephone interview, during which he accused President Putin of hiding behind an aide to test the idea in public. "It seems unlikely that Poltavchenko would come out with a proposal of such desecration of Red Square without approval from the highest power."
Lenin, who led the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, died in 1924 at the age of 53. A near theology rose around him in the ensuing decades.
Depending on who is speaking about him now, he is either a hero or a beast, a gifted revolutionary or a syphilitic mass murderer. (By some accounts he died not of strokes, the official cause of death, but of an advanced case of sexually transmitted disease.)
Some still see in him the architect of a grand and daring social experiment. Others describe an opportunist who ushered vicious cronies to power, resulting in a totalitarian police state. "It is time to get rid of this horrible mummy," said Valeriya Novodvorskaya, head of the Democratic Union, a small reform party. "One cannot talk about any kind of democracy or civilization in Russia when Lenin is still in the country's main square."
She added: "I would not care even if he were thrown on a garbage heap."
Others propose moving Lenin on religious grounds, combining words and ideas rarely associated with the man. Setting aside the matter of Lenin's atheism, Svetlana Orlova, a deputy speaker of the upper house of Parliament, told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday that his followers should consider "Lenin's soul, which has been searching for peace."
Informal polls conducted Monday by the radio station Ekho Moskvy found that 65 percent of people who called in, and 75 percent of people who contacted the station via the Internet, said that not just Lenin but all of the Soviet figures should be evicted from Red Square.
But the polls were hardly scientific, and for every Ekho Moskvy listener there often seems to be another Russian who still believes. "The name of Lenin is quite sacred," said Nikolai Kishin, 51, a clerk from the Siberian city of Irkutsk who emerged from the mausoleum on Tuesday, having paid his respects.
Such opposing views cannot be bridged any time soon, but on one point all agree: Lenin, the central symbol of the Soviet period, has survived Russia's transition and found an enduring place in public life.
His once ubiquitous statues may have mostly been torn down in Eastern Europe, but they scowl at passers-by from the Russian Pacific to the Baltic, and it is not hard to find him on pedestals, murals or plaques in nations that have made great show of shaking free from Moscow's reach, including Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine.
He loiters even in Grozny, the destroyed capital of Chechnya, the region in southern Russia where separatists have waged war against Moscow for more than a decade. While he is loved by a dwindling number of followers and hated by many, he is tolerated for reasons that mix nostalgia, resignation, political expediency and ennui.
Where Mr. Putin stands is now the central remaining question of Lenin's future address.
Mr. Putin said in 2001 that he did not want to upset the civic order by moving the founder's remains. "Many people in this country associate their lives with the name of Lenin," he said. "To take Lenin out and bury him would say to them that they have worshiped false values, that their lives were lived in vain."
Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Mr. Putin, said Tuesday that the president's position was unchanged and that he was not allied with Mr. Poltavchenko and others who have embraced his idea. "He is not supporting those who are insisting on removing the body immediately," Mr. Peskov said.
But Ms. Novodvorskaya and Mr. Zyuganov, two politicians who agree on almost nothing, both say the president is testing the reaction.
Ms. Novodvorskaya suggested that the president could find it useful, at a time when he is being portrayed as an autocrat, to lead a catharsis of the Lenin phenomenon. "He is trying to be taken as a democrat in the eyes of the West," she said. "He is also very fond of playing his comedies of national reconciliation."
No matter what Mr. Putin decides, there already are indications that time may ultimately do what no politician has yet achieved. The youngest Russian adults barely recall the Communist times, and some show little interest in looking back.
"Lenin," mused Natasha Zakharova, 23, as she walked off Red Square on Tuesday, admitting that she was not quite sure whose body she had just seen. "Was he a Communist?"
Instead his ashes should be scattered to the four winds so that his followers will have no place of pilgrimage to pay their respects to the fiend and celebrate his evil deeds.
The true believers still insist that if Lenin had lived longer and prevented Stalin from coming to power then the USSR would have turned out differently. That doesn't change the fact that he was the chief architect of the concept of One Party Rule.
I think his body would do well in a circus freakshow horror house....maybe call it "Commie Ride To Hell."
What fertile ground for a Fark.com Photoshop contest.
This is the yarn he told me
As we sat in Casey's Bar,
That Rooshun mug who scammed from the jug
In the Land of the Crimson Star;
That Soviet guy with the single eye,
And the face like a flaming scar.
Where Lenin lies the red flag flies, and the rat-grey workers wait
To tread the gloom of Lenin's Tomb, where the Comrade lies in state.
With lagging pace they scan his face, so weary yet so firm;
For years a score they've laboured sore to save him from the worm.
The Kremlin walls are grimly grey, but Lenin's Tomb is red,
And pilgrims from the Sour Lands say: "He sleeps and is not dead."
Before their eyes in peace he lies, a symbol and a sign,
And as they pass that dome of glass they see - a God Divine.
So Doctors plug him full of dope, for if he drops to dust,
So will collapse their faith and hope, the whole combine will bust.
But say, Tovarich; hark to me . . . a secret I'll disclose,
For I did see what none did see; I know what no one knows.
I was a Cheko terrorist - Oh I served the Soviets well,
Till they put me down on the bone-yard list, for the fear that I might tell;
That I might tell the thing I saw, and that only I did see,
They held me in quod with a firing squad to make a corpse of me.
But I got away, and here today I'm telling my tale to you;
Though it may sound weird, by Lenin's beard, so help me God it's true.
I slouched across that great Red Square, and watched the waiting line.
The mongrel sons of Marx were there, convened to Lenin's shrine;
Ten thousand men of Muscovy, Mongol and Turkoman,
Black-bonnets of the Aral Sea and Tatars of Kazan.
Kalmuck and Bashkir, Lett and Finn, Georgian, Jew and Lapp,
Kirghiz and Kazakh, crowding in to gaze at Lenin's map.
Aye, though a score of years had run I saw them pause and pray,
As mourners at the Tomb of one who died but yesterday.
I watched them in a bleary daze of bitterness and pain,
For oh, I missed the cheery blaze of vodka in my brain.
I stared, my eyes were hypnotized by that saturnine host,
When with a start that shook my heart I saw - I saw a ghost.
As in foggèd glass I saw him pass, and peer at me and grin -
A man I knew, a man I slew, Prince Boris Mazarin.
Now do not think because I drink I love the flowing bowl;
But liquor kills remorse and stills the anguish of the soul.
And there's so much I would forget, stark horrors I have seen,
Faces and forms that haunt me yet, like shadows on a screen.
And of these sights that mar my nights the ghastliest by far
Is the death of Boris Mazarin, that soldier of the Czar.
A mighty nobleman was he; we took him by surprise;
His mother, son and daughters three we slew before his eyes.
We tortured him, with jibes and threats; then mad for glut of gore,
Upon our reeking bayonets we nailed him to the door.
But he defied us to the last, crying: "O carrion crew!
I'd die with joy could I destroy a hundred dogs like you."
I thrust my sword into his throat; the blade was gay with blood;
We flung him to his castle moat, and stamped him in its mud.
That mighty Cossack of the Don was dead with all his race....
And now I saw him coming on, dire vengeance in his face.
(Or was it some fantastic dream of my besotted brain?)
He looked at me with eyes a-gleam, the man whom I had slain.
He looked and bade me follow him; I could not help but go;
I joined the throng that passed along, so sorrowful and slow.
I followed with a sense of doom that shadow gaunt and grim;
Into the bowels of the Tomb I followed, followed him.
The light within was weird and dim, and icy cold the air;
My brow was wet with bitter sweat, I stumbled on the stair.
I tried to cry; my throat was dry; I sought to grip his arm;
For well I knew this man I slew was there to do us harm.
Lo! he was walking by my side, his fingers clutched my own,
This man I knew so well had died, his hand was naked bone.
His face was like a skull, his eyes were caverns of decay . . .
And so we came to the crystal frame where lonely Lenin lay.
Without a sound we shuffled round> I sought to make a sign,
But like a vice his hand of ice was biting into mine.
With leaden pace around the place where Lenin lies at rest,
We slouched, I saw his bony claw go fumbling to his breast.
With ghastly grin he groped within, and tore his robe apart,
And from the hollow of his ribs he drew his blackened heart. . . .
Ah no! Oh God! A bomb, a BOMB! And as I shrieked with dread,
With fiendish cry he raised it high, and . . . swung at Lenin's head.
Oh I was blinded by the flash and deafened by the roar,
And in a mess of bloody mash I wallowed on the floor.
Then Alps of darkness on me fell, and when I saw again
The leprous light 'twas in a cell, and I was racked with pain;
And ringèd around by shapes of gloom, who hoped that I would die;
For of the crowd that crammed the Tomb the sole to live was I.
They told me I had dreamed a dream that must not be revealed,
But by their eyes of evil gleam I knew my doom was sealed.
I need not tell how from my cell in Lubianka gaol,
I broke away, but listen, here's the point of all my tale. . . .
Outside the "Gay Pay Oo" none knew of that grim scene of gore;
They closed the Tomb, and then they threw it open as before.
And there was Lenin, stiff and still, a symbol and a sign,
And rancid races come to thrill and wonder at his Shrine;
And hold the thought: if Lenin rot the Soviets will decay;
And there he sleeps and calm he keeps his watch and ward for aye.
Yet if you pass that frame of glass, peer closely at his phiz,
So stern and firm it mocks the worm, it looks like wax . . . and is.
They tell you he's a mummy - don't you make that bright mistake:
I tell you - he's a dummy; aye, a fiction and a fake.
This eye beheld the bloody bomb that bashed him on the bean.
I heard the crash, I saw the flash, yet . . . there he lies serene.
And by the roar that rocked the Tomb I ask: how could that be?
But if you doubt that deed of doom, just go yourself and see.
You think I'm mad, or drunk, or both . . . Well, I don't care a damn:
I tell you this: their Lenin is a waxen, show-case SHAM.
Such was the yarn he handed me,
Down there in Casey's Bar,
That Rooshun bug with the scrambled mug
From the land of the Commissar.
It may be true, I leave it you
To figger out how far.
--- Robert Service
Bonfire of the inhumanities?
The human body was created in God's image and as such deserves
I would say overlooking a nice big mall would be a good spot.
Give the body to the DNC. They can put it in their headquarters.
Since Communist Washington State now proudly displays his statue here, I would assume the local commissars would vote to have his body also, so they could put it in Red Square over at the University of WA. That way all the future and current leftists/ communists / socialists / abortionists / sodomites, etc. here could go and cry over his dead body.
The "true believers" are wrong. "Lenin was different" is a myth. Lenin was every bit as ruthless and bloodthirsty as Stalin. It's all in Simon Montefiore's marvelous, definitive biography, "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar."
Sell him on e-bay. That would convince me that Russia has embraced capitalism.
Don't know Moscow - why not reserve a display room in a national museum for Lenin, if that's an option? Maybe call it the 'Bolshevik Room':). I see no real reason not to continue to display his body for posterity regardless of the eventual verdict on his ideology.
This is exactly what the Klintons, Kerrys, Kennedys, and socialist democrats wish for this Republic. To be just like their beloved Soviet Union. Kennedy and Klinton both look like their white haired Soviet brothers in arms. Kennedy has those Vodka cheeks like ole Boris has.
Whatever happened to the guy whose job it was to take deli-thin slices of Lenin's brain to study microscopically?
There was a prophetic statement that the things will not turn for the better there until the mausoleum is turned into a sh*thouse. The embalmed corpse could then be left in place.
I say, sell him on Ebay!
Not sure lenin was a bad guy. Communism does have an appeal expecially when the alternative is a czar. Also, back then, it was not a slam dunk that communism did not work. It had not been tried. So they tried it and now it is clear that it fails, but it was not clear then.
It is sort of like saying that the US should have known slavery was bad in 1770's.
The body should be burned in front of the Kremlin and televised around the globe.
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