By Jim Heintz | Related Press
Not lengthy after the 1924 demise of the founding father of the Soviet Union, a well-liked poet soothed and thrilled the grieving nation with these phrases: “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will reside.”
A century later, the once-omnipresent picture of Vladimir Lenin is essentially an afterthought in fashionable Russia, regardless of these well-known strains by revolutionary author Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The Pink Sq. mausoleum the place his embalmed corpse lies in an open sarcophagus is not a near-mandatory pilgrimage however a website of macabre kitsch, open solely 15 hours per week. It attracts far fewer guests than the Moscow Zoo.
The goateed face with its intense glare that when appeared unavoidable nonetheless stares out from statues, however a lot of these have been the targets of pranksters and vandals. The one at St. Petersburg’s Finland Station commemorating his return from exile was hit by a bomb that left an enormous gap in his posterior. Many streets and localities that bore his title have been rechristened.
The ideology that Lenin championed and unfold over an enormous territory is one thing of a sideshow in fashionable Russia. The Communist Get together, though the most important opposition grouping in parliament, holds solely 16% of the seats, overwhelmed by President Vladimir Putin’s political power-base, United Russia.
Lenin “turned out to be utterly superfluous and pointless in fashionable Russia,” historian Konstantin Morozov of the Russian Academy of Sciences instructed the AP.
Communist Get together chief Gennady Zyuganov talks as if Lenin nonetheless was in cost: “100 years because the day when his massive and sort coronary heart stopped, the second century of Lenin’s immortality begins,” he stated.
Putin himself seems inclined to maintain Lenin at arm’s size, even aiming some darts at him.
In a speech three days earlier than the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Putin dismissed its sovereign standing as an illegitimate holdover from Lenin’s period, when it was a separate republic throughout the Soviet Union.
“Because of Bolshevik coverage, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even immediately can with good purpose be known as ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine.’ He’s the writer and the architect,” Putin stated.
In a speech a yr earlier, Putin stated that permitting Ukraine and different republics the nominal proper to secede had planted “essentially the most harmful time bomb.”
No matter objections to these insurance policies, Putin is also clearly conscious of the emotional maintain that Lenin retains for a lot of Russians, and he doesn’t assist initiatives that come up periodically to take away the physique from the mausoleum.
“I imagine it must be left as it’s, at the least for so long as there are these, and there are fairly a number of individuals, who hyperlink their lives, their fates in addition to sure achievements … of the Soviet period with that,” he stated in 2019.
Such hyperlinks could persist for many years. A 2022 opinion survey by state-run polling company VTsIOM discovered that 29% of Russians believed Lenin’s affect would fade a lot that in 50 years he could be remembered solely by historians. However that response was solely 10 proportion factors decrease than one to the identical query a decade earlier, suggesting Lenin stays vital.
Lenin’s maintain on Russia’s coronary heart remains to be sturdy sufficient that three years in the past, the Union of Russian Architects succumbed to a public outcry and canceled a contest soliciting recommendations for the way the Pink Sq. mausoleum may very well be repurposed. That competitors didn’t even particularly name for the removing of Lenin’s physique.
Lenin died on Jan. 21, 1924, at age 53, severely weakened by three strokes. His widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, needed him to be buried in a standard grave.
Lenin’s shut associates had feared his demise for months. Artist Yuri Annenkov, summoned to do his portrait on the dacha the place he was convalescing, stated he had “the helpless, twisted, childish smile of a person who had fallen into childhood.”
Amid these considerations, Josef Stalin instructed a Politburo assembly of a proposal by “some comrades” to protect Lenin’s physique for hundreds of years, in accordance with a historical past by Russian information company Tass. The concept offended Leon Trotsky, Lenin’s closest lieutenant, who likened it to the holy relics displayed by the Russian Orthodox Church — a staunch opponent of the Bolsheviks— that had “nothing in frequent with the science of Marxism.”
However Stalin, as soon as a divinity college scholar, understood the worth of the secular analogue to a saint.
The climate could have tipped the scales. Temperatures have been reportedly as little as minus 30 C (minus 22 F) when Lenin’s physique was displayed throughout a wake in Moscow, stalling decomposition and galvanizing authorities to swiftly construct a small wood mausoleum in Pink Sq. and make additional efforts to protect the physique.
A later model, a extra modernist tackle historic stepped pyramids clad in somber deep crimson stone, opened in 1930. By that point, Trotsky had been pressured into exile and Stalin was in full management, bolstered by a dedication to painting himself as completely loyal to Lenin’s beliefs.
In the long run, the cult of “Lenin After Lenin” could have labored in opposition to the Soviet Union somewhat than strengthening it by imposing a inflexible mindset, within the view of some historians.
“In some ways the tragedy of the USSR lay in the truth that all subsequent generations of leaders tried to depend on sure ‘testaments of Lenin,’” Vladimir Rudakov, editor of the journal Istorik, wrote on this month’s problem.
The Mayakovsky poem that proclaimed Lenin’s immortality was “a parting phrase, or a spell, or a curse,” Rudakov stated.
About 450,000 individuals file previous Lenin’s corpse per yr, in accordance with Tass, a few third of the variety of Moscow Zoo guests and a pointy distinction from the Soviet period when seemingly countless strains shuffled throughout Pink Sq..
The consideration guards whose goose-stepping rotations fascinated guests have been faraway from outdoors the mausoleum three many years in the past. On the annual army parade by way of Pink Sq., the construction is blocked from view by a tribune the place dignitaries watch the festivities.
Lenin remains to be there — simply tougher to see.
Jim Heintz, now primarily based in Estonia, has lined Russia for The Related Press since 1999.