Monitor archives:
Copyrighted material

Can The Russians Ever Bury Lenin?

by Kester Kenn Klomegah

40% want body of the "leader of the world proletariat" to stay on display

(IPS) MOSCOW -- A political storm over proposals to bury the embalmed remains of the leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin shows no signs of subsiding.

Inevitably, the debate centers not just on the man who led the Red Revolution, but on the burial of communism itself that Lenin came to symbolize.

No one is opposing the burial move more than Russia's communists. Left-wing political and social organizations have expressed strong opposition to plans to remove the body from its mausoleum in Moscow's Red Square for burial.

"There have been persistent calls to dig up Red Square for the communist leader's body," a group of 18 organizations said in a joint statement posted on the Communist Party Web site. "Lenin's name is being attacked fiercely, and it has become clear by now that this is an artificially and politically fanned campaign."

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told IPS that the proposal was "sacrilegious, irresponsible and provocative." He said "it defies the country's history and common sense. With their filthy hands and drunken heads they are crawling into the sanctuary of the state. The desire to take up the remains of the dead is a great sin and a sign of mental pathology."

Communism has not been replaced by a functioning democracy, he said, but by a "total mismanagement of democracy."

The confusion and disorder in the Kremlin has spread to the entire fabric of society, he said. "For the Kremlin to begin thinking of reburial of our great leader amounts to complete hatred for the Communist Party and its ideals," he said.

The move to build new democracy by relegating the legacies of communism is an attempt to destroy history, he said. "It's all just because Lenin's name was associated with decades of communism."

Vladimir Lenin masterminded the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, and he was the architect and first head of the Soviet state.

He grew up in a typical provincial family. He excelled at school and went on to study law at Kazan University in the Tatarstan province of Russia. He was exposed to radical thinking in college, and his views were influenced greatly by the execution of his elder brother, a member of a revolutionary group.

Expelled for his radical views, Lenin managed to complete his law degree as an external student in 1891. He moved to St. Petersburg and became a full-time revolutionary.

Lenin was born Ulyanov Vladimir Ilyich, but took on the pseudonym Lenin in 1901. He spent most of the first 15 years of the 20th century in Western Europe. He emerged as leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party.

In 1918 Lenin survived an assassination attempt. His health was affected, and in 1922 he suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered. He died Jan. 21, 1924. He came to be seen as a cult figure after his death. His body was embalmed, and not buried in St. Petersburg alongside his mother as he had wanted.

The first calls for the body to be removed from Red Square came 16 years ago when communism faced collapse, and reformers wanted Lenin buried along with Marxism-Leninism. Former president Boris Yeltsin said Red Square "must not resemble a cemetery," and proposed a national referendum in 1997 on disposal of the body. But Communist Party members opposed the move firmly.

The matter should now be resolved, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told IPS. "It is necessary to do this within one year."

Zhirinovsky supports a burial. "Is Peter the Great lying somewhere in a crypt? People believe they have parted with communist ideas. Just imagine Hitler lying in Germany, in the center of Berlin. Who would then believe that Germans had parted with Nazism?"

Some others think it is too early to bury Lenin.

"To my mind the time has not come yet," spokesman for the culture ministry Alexander Sokolov told IPS. "This is one of our most delicate questions. I don't think any rash steps should be taken. There is a need to publicly discuss this problem and make sure that everyone wishing to speak does so, and then a decision should be made on this basis, but now it is clearly premature."

But in time the body would have to be buried, he said. "We are talking about elementary things -- dead people must be committed to the earth. I don't want to name any dates, but this might be quite pernicious if done without elaborate thinking."

The Yury Levada Analytical Center found in a survey that 40 percent of respondents said the body of the "leader of the world proletariat" should remain in the mausoleum in Red Square, while 36 percent thought his body should be buried in St. Petersburg. Fifteen percent proposed burying him near the Kremlin wall, while 9 percent were undecided.

His country is clearly divided over his remains.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor November 9, 2005 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.