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Lenin still controversial figure in Russia

January 26, 19:48 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Sergey Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, January 26. /TASS/. Russia’s public mind remains split over whether the body of the Soviet Union’s founder, Vladimir Lenin, still kept in a dark-red polished stone mausoleum at the foot of the Kremlin wall in Moscow’s Red Square, should be buried at last. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday had to call for calm, as conflicting opinions suddenly clashed with renewed force. "The way I see it, this issue [of discussing the question of the body’s reburial] should be approached with utmost care so as to avoid taking any steps that might split society. On the contrary, society is to be consolidated," Putin said.

It looks like Putin himself had not expected that his casual remark to the effect the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin, had planted a powerful bomb under the basement of the country’s statehood would have a shell-shock effect. On January 21, day of the 92nd anniversary of Vladimir Lenin’s death, Putin chaired a meeting of Russia’s Council for Science. One of the scientists called for creating research organizations capable of "governing the flow of thought," thus quoting a line from a Soviet-era poet, who once wrote the Russian revolution’s leader "governed the country for the sole reason he ruled the course of thought." Putin replied there was nothing wrong about governing the course of thought, provided the action taken brought about the correct results. Putin criticized Lenin for his idea of building the Soviet Union as an association of autonomies. "It was an atom bomb planted under the building called Russia. After a while it went off. There was no need for a world revolution, either," he said.

The theory of world revolution was originally proposed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and further developed by Vladimir Lenin and his associates, in particular, his successor Joseph Stalin. Russian State Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov, grandson of the Head of the Soviet Union’s Cabinet of Ministers during Stalin’s rule, Vyacheslav Molotov, has told TASS, "Proletarian internationalism and a policy sparking world revolution with the ultimate aim of establishing working-class government around the world was a major component of Soviet foreign policy. My granddad once said - and I found his remark really amazing - that by 1953, the year Stalin died the Soviet Union had controlled about 70% of humanity. The margin left was not a very big one. But, as my granddad added, there came Nikita Krushchev and sent everything down the drain." Nikita Kurshchev led the Soviet Union from 1958 to 1964.

Russia’s former chief archivist, Rudolf Pikhoya, says Lenin was really certain that Russia would work as a trigger of future world revolution. The idea of building the country as an alliance of autonomies was also his. "In 1922, when a discussion on the future principles the Soviet Union should rely on was in progress, Stalin firmly came out against the idea of autonomization so as to avoid nationalities problems. But Lenin preferred to have it his way and the Soviet Union emerged as an alliance of constituent republics enjoying the right to secession. Putin’s arguments to the effect Lenin’s ideas of a world revolution and of autonomization of ethnic republics led to the country’s collapse look convincing," Pikhoya told TASS.

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Socialist Revolution of 1917 it would be appropriate to hold a public discussion about his role in history, as it often happens on the eve of memorable dates. Instead, Russian politicians in chorus demanded Lenin’s body should be removed from the Mausoleum in Red Square and buried. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said: "He [Lenin] must be cremated and his ashes buried at the far end of a federal cemetery. The crimes committed under Lenin were the most terrible ones ever." Many were surprised to hear that even the head of the republic of Ingushetia, with its predominantly Muslim population, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, has called for burying Lenin’s body in accordance with Christian customs.

This idea is not new. Back in 1991 it was proposed at a Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR, by the future mayor of Leningrad, Anatoly Sobchak, who eventually secured the city’s renaming to St. Petersburg. Sobchak acknowledged that he had more than once asked President Boris Yeltsin to issue a decree to rebury the body of Lenin at a cemetery in St. Petersburg next to the grave of his mother. Yelstin did not dare take such a step so as not to anger the Communists, who were in the majority in the Russian parliament in those days and even brought up the issue of impeaching the president. Aleksandr Voloshin, the chief of the presidential staff under Yeltsin, whose office in the Kremlin was just 10-15 meters away from the mausoleum, is rumored to have joked once: "He lies there. I work here. We don’t bother each other."

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