Russians Ready To Remove Lenin’s Body From Mausoleum?

It’s been more than a decade since the Soviet Union collapsed, and longer since the Communist Party in that country lost power, and yet the body of the founder of the U.S.S.R. still lies embalmed in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square where, inexplicably, tourists wander in to gaze upon the preserved body of a dead man who founded a dead nation. Now, some Russian officials are talking about removing his body and burying it in the ground:

[T]he return of Vladimir Putin for a third term as president of Russia in May, could pave the way for Lenin’s removal.

This week, Russia’s new culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, re-ignited the controversy when he told the radio station Ekho Moskvy that Lenin should be buried.

“A body should be interred in the earth,” Medinsky said, who added that he was in favour of making it a state occasion. “I would observe all the appropriate ceremonies. As [Lenin] was a senior public figure the funeral should happen with all fitting state rituals, distinctions and a military salute in a suitable place.”

With this observation, Medinsky was drawing a comparison with the treatment of Stalin, whose embalmed corpse was spirited away from its place beside Lenin one night in 1961 on the orders of Nikita Khrushchev and buried by the Kremlin’s walls.

The famous mausoleum where Soviet leaders stood to review military parades, should stay, said Medinsky. “It must remain,” he said. “It would be possible to turn it into a museum of Soviet history that would be very well visited and could have expensive tickets.”

But the comments created such a furore that Medinsky had to clarify his position.

“It remains exclusively my personal opinion as a citizen,” the culture minister, whose appointment Putin approved last month, later wrote on his blog.

While some parts of society, including the Orthodox church, support the idea of a burial, others are vigorously opposed.

The Communist party, Russia’s second most popular political party, is particularly outspoken on the issue, which some suggest could be resolved by a referendum.

“Discussions about removal and re-burial have are simply provocative,” Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Communist party, said in 2009. “Any attempt to vulgarise or re-write the Soviet period and diminish the memory of Lenin … is an attempt to undermine the integrity of the Russian federation.”

But many Communists are ageing and Medinsky’s comments on the subject show that support may be growing for Lenin’s final burial.

An April opinion poll suggested that 56% of Russians were in favour of removing the corpse, compared to 46% six years ago.

One suspects as the post-Soviet generation becomes older, public opinion on this issue will shift even more, and that the odd custom that began in the 1920s will finally be put to an end.


FILED UNDER: Europe, World Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brett says:

    But if he’s buried and rotting in the ground, how will he smash his way out of his glass container in order to crush capitalism?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Russians. They know nothing still about making money. Three words:

    Lenin: Road Tour!

    You start off shipping him around to various museums for the Lenin Experience. LIke KIng Tut. Then of course there’s the Trump reality series which we’ll call Dead Apprentice. Each week the dead guys compete to perform various tasks. Finally, there’s WWE wrestling where Lenin’s embalmed corpse – manipulated by puppeteers hired from Jim Henson’s people, or perhaps worn as a skin by Andy Serkis – plays the role of a somewhat stiff but still frightening villain.

  3. @michael reynolds:

    Obviously, the Russians still haven’t figured out the whole capitalism thing

  4. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds: Personally, I’d love to see that fantasy play out in a thunderdome style match between Lenin’s post-human soviet science body vs Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen head mounted on a robot (extra points if the Robot is actually the Epcot Sphere transformed Unicron style). I can think of no better symbolic battle between soviets and the west than that.

    On the flip side, there’s an interesting side conversation to be had about whether or not Lenin’s body should be buried given the strange embalming procedures that have been performed on it. Seriously, the “body” is so infused with chemicals that it is constantly breaking down the suit that Lenin wears.

  5. Franklin says:

    Hey, I’m alright with moving him out of the mausoleum as long as they quickly replace him with Putin, embalmed and most certainly dead.