With Lenin's Ideas Dead, Russia Weighs What to Do With Body





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.

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.



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