- - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MOSCOW — Russians soon may come not to praise Lenin, but to bury him.

The embalmed body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin has lain in a glass coffin in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square since his death in 1924.

But recent comments by Russia’s new culture minister have brought closer the possibility that the father of the Bolshevik Revolution could finally be laid to rest, signaling an end to the cult of Lenin.

“I have always believed that a body should be entrusted to the earth,” said Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky late last month. “And Lenin’s relatives begged the authorities not to place him in the mausoleum.”

“Many things in our life would symbolically change for the better after this [burial],” Mr. Medinsky said, adding that he thinks Lenin should be buried with full state honors and his Red Square mausoleum turned into a museum of the Soviet era.

More than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lenin remains very much an everyday presence in modern Russia.

The country’s biggest library and a nearby subway station in Moscow are both named after the founder of the Soviet state. And though the city of Leningrad reverted to its czarist-era name of St. Petersburg in 1991, the region that surrounds it still bears Lenin’s name — as does Leningrad, one of the country’s biggest rock bands.

Dozens of Lenin statues still stand across Russia, with more than 80 in Moscow alone. A newly restored Lenin statue was unveiled in the Urals city of Ufa late last year, and the ceremony was attended by senior Communist Party officials.

A ‘hot’ issue

Not everyone is happy with the abundance of monuments to the man whose Red Terror saw tens of thousands of people executed in the battle to establish Soviet power.

In 2009, unidentified vandals used explosives to blow a massive hole in the buttocks of a Lenin statue in St. Petersburg, triggering outrage among communist-era pensioners.

All this Lenin mania stands in stark contrast to the fate of his successor, Josef Stalin, who was denounced by the Communist Party for his “cult of personality” after his death in 1953, leading to the wholesale destruction of statues and monuments in his honor.

The question of whether to bury Lenin has been raised every year since the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time over a snowy Red Square in December 1991. But this is the first time such an influential figure has spoken in favor of it.

President Vladimir Putin — a native of Leningrad — has simply said the “people must decide” but has given no indication of when that is likely to occur.

Andrei Vorobyov, a leading official from the ruling United Russia party, has described the issue as a “hot one.”

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