LENIN AND THE NEW COMMUNIST STATE IN RUSSIA

NEW COMMUNIST STATE IN RUSSIA

The history of Russia between 1922 and 1991 is essentially the history of the Soviet Union. This ideologically based empire was roughly coterminous with the Russian Empire, whose last monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, ruled until 1917. Between 1917 and 1922 a new communist state took shape from what was left of tsarist Russia. Wars, internal struggles and politics in this period shaped the new state’s borders and its government and economic policies and institutions. The Soviet Union wasn’t officially created until 1922.

From its first years, the government in what became the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the communists, as the Bolsheviks called themselves beginning in March 1918. After unsuccessfully attempting to centralize the economy in accordance with Marxist dogma during the Russian Civil War, the Soviet government permitted some private enterprise to coexist with nationalized industry in the 1920s.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Russia was governed by autocratic rulers who suppressed revolutionary ideals imported from the West. Major social and economic reform programs in the 1860s and at the turn of the century failed to address Russia’s most acute problems. In 1914, when Russia became a major participant in World War I, the economic gap between Russia and Western Europe had grown and so had dissatisfaction with the monarchy. Combined with those conditions, the stress of the war effort allowed the radical Bolshevik Party, led by Vladimir I. Lenin, to overthrow the provisional government that had displaced the tsar in 1917. At the conclusion of a bloody, four-year civil war, Russia began a 70-year period of one-party rule as the major constituent part of a new entity, the Soviet Union. At the outset, that union included Ukraine, Byelorussia, and three Transcaucasian republics; the ruling party was known as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). [Source: Library of Congress, October 2006 **]

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) is the official name of the communist party in the Soviet Union after 1952. Originally the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, the party was named the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) from March 1918 to December 1925, then the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) from December 1925 to October 1952. After the August 1991 Moscow coup, Russian president Boris N. Yeltsin banned the party in Russia and ordered its property turned over to the government.

A spontaneous popular uprising in Petrograd, in response to the wartime decay of Russia's physical well-being and morale, culminated in the toppling of the imperial government in March 1917. Replacing the autocracy was the Provisional Government, whose leaders intended to establish democracy in Russia and to continue participating on the side of the Allies in World War I. At the same time, to ensure the rights of the working class, workers' councils, known as soviets, sprang up across the country. The radical Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir I. Lenin, agitated for socialist revolution in the soviets and on the streets. They seized power from the Provisional Government in November 1917. Only after the long and bloody Civil War of 1918-21, which included combat between government forces and foreign troops in several parts of Russia, was the new communist regime secure. **

Lenin as Leader of the New Communist State

From the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, the leader of the Soviet state was Lenin even though there was a pretense it was ruled by committee. Although a collective of prominent communists nominally guided the party and the Soviet Union, Lenin commanded such prestige and authority that even such brilliant theoreticians as Trotsky and Nikolay Bukharin generally yielded to his will. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Lenin formed the world's first Communist government on November 9, 1917 and took the title of president of the Society of People's Commissars, a position he held until his death. Leon Trotsky became the military commissar. Lenin was 47 years old when became leader. He was only in power for a short time, from 1917 to his death in 1924.

Describing Lenin as he appeared to give a speech to Russian troops at the Mikaihulovosky Manege on January 1, 1918, Bessie Beatty, a reporter with a San Francisco newspaper wrote: “At last he [Lenin] came, and a mighty cheer went up. His brown eyes were shining and the chill winter evening had painted two bright sepoys upon his cheeks. He wore a black fur cap and a lack overcoat, and there was a brisk cheeriness about him that the rogues-gallery pictures of him do not suggest.” Anyone who did not get a sense of hope she said was a “blind man looking at a sunrise.” As Lenin drove off in a limousine, someone shot a bullet through the window and just missed Lenin.

In 1918, Lenin lived in Suite 107 of the National Hotel, a luxurious place with stained glass, iron-work staircases and oak paneling. Later he move into an comfortable apartment in the Kremlin. Lenin owned at least five Rolls Royces. One of them was equipped with skis and half-tracks for travel in the snow. One of these cars is displayed today in Moscow. Another is shown at the Lenin Museum in Finland.

Lenin's lived and worked in his Kremlin apartment for five years. Today, it has been left exactly like it was on the day he died. Photographs of him as a child and as a old man after a stroke are lined up on a desk. Chipped plates in the cabinets and cheap Brentwood chairs are testimony the he did in fact live a very spartan existence. Lenin lived with his wife and unmarried sister and the three of them used make music together with Lenin on the piano and the women singing. In Lenin's library are over 8,000 books.

Lenin narrowly escaped several assassination attempts. In the summer of 1918, a bullet shot by a young anarchist lodged in his neck and was removed by surgery. Lenin was shot while leaving a factory by a female Socialist Revolutionary named Fanya Kapla, who opposed Lenin's dictatorial leanings. She was promptly shot. Lenin said he wanted to make gold toilets for the public to show the triumph of socialist ideology.

Bolsheviks a Become Communist Dictatorship

The Bolshevik's wasted no time getting down to business. An armistice with the Germans was declared in December 1917 which allowed the Bolsheviks to concentrate on issues at home such as taking land from industrialists and noblemen and redistributing it among workers and peasants.

In January 1918, the Red Army was founded by Trotsky. In March 1918, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (the Bolsheviks) officially was renamed the Russian Communist Party and the capital of the new Communist state was moved from Petrograd (St. Petersburg), where tsarist sympathies remained strong, to Moscow. Moscow was also father away from central Europe and viewed as safe from a German attack. As part of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsky, signed in March 1918, Russia surrendered Poland, the Baltic provinces, Ukraine and Finland and Transcaucasus to the Germans. When World War I ended many of these places became independent countries.

The Communists took over the Russian government and created a dictatorship. University of London historian Geoffrey Hosking described it as "a new kind of imperial regime" which "rested on nothing more substantial than its own internal discipline." The Communists aimed to overhaul Russia’s economic and political systems. They took over the ownership of all land and assumed control over all industry, but they kept in place tsarist institutions such as the secret police, the Siberian labor camps and authoritarian rule for their own purposes.

Lenin's Leadership Ideology

As important as Lenin's activities were to the establishment of the Soviet Union, his legacy to the Soviet future was perhaps even more significant. By willingly changing his policies to suit new situations, Lenin had developed a pragmatic interpretation of Marxism (later called Marxist-Leninism) that implied that the party should follow any course that would ultimately lead to communism. His party, while still permitting intraorganizational debate, insisted that its members adhere to the organization's decisions once they were adopted, in accordance with the principle of democratic centralism. Finally, because the party embodied the dictatorship of the proletariat, organized opposition could not be tolerated, and adversaries would be prosecuted. Thus, although the Soviet regime was not totalitarian when he died, Lenin had nonetheless laid the foundation upon which such a tyranny would later arise. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Lenin wanted to achieve his goals as quickly as possible—no easy task. To achieve his goals he relied on suppression and brutality. Victor Chernov said: "Lenin was a man with a one-track mind. For that reason, his moral sense has been dulled. Lenin's socialism is a blunt socialism; he uses a big ax where a scalpel is needed."

Lenin based his goals on a rather unbalanced interpretation of Age of Enlightenment. He wanted to create a new society by reeducating and remodeling people in severe and brutal form of social engineering. His mode was later adopted by Mao and Pol Pot. One slogan found at a gulag read: “With an Iron Fist, We Will Lead Humanity to Happiness.

Lenin was committed to a one-party, one ideology self-preserving state. Lenin biographer Richard Pipes wrote, "Bolshevikism was the most audacious attempt in history to subject the entire life of a country to a master plan. It sought to sweep aside as useless rubbish the wisdom that mankind had accumulated over millennia. In that sense, it was a unique effort to apply science to human affairs: and it was pursued with the zeal characteristic of the breed of intellectuals who regard resistance to their ideas as proof that they are sound."

Andrei Sinyavsky, dissident from the 1960s, wrote, "the incomprehensibility of Lenin is precisely this all-consuming intellectuality—the fact that from his calculations, from his neat pen, flowed seas of blood, whereas by nature he was not an evil person. On the contrary Vladimir Ilyich was a rather kind person whose cruelty was stipulated by science and in controvertible historical laws. As were his love of power and his political inheritance."

Lenin Era Economy

The basic foundation of the Soviet economic system was established after the Bolsheviks assumed power in November 1917. The Bolsheviks sought to mold a socialist society from the ruins of post-World War I tsarist Russia by liberally reworking the ideas of political philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Soon after the revolution, the Bolsheviks published decrees nationalizing land, most industry (all enterprises employing more than five workers), foreign trade, and banking. The peasants took control of the land from the aristocracy and farmed it in small parcels. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Beginning in 1918, the new regime already was fighting for its survival in the Russian Civil War against noncommunist forces known as the Whites. The war forced the regime to organize the economy and place it on a war footing under a stringent policy known as war communism. Under such conditions, the economy performed poorly. In 1920 agricultural output had attained only half of its pre-World War I level, foreign trade had virtually ceased, and industrial production had fallen to only a small fraction of its prewar levels. *

Beginning in 1921, Lenin led a tactical retreat from state control of the economy in an effort to reignite production. His new program, called the New Economic Policy (Novaya ekonomicheskaya politika--NEP), permitted some private activity, especially in agriculture, light industry, and services. However, heavy industry, transportation, foreign trade, and banking remained under state control.*

Lenin: The Hardworking Benevolent Dictator?

Describing his feelings upon taking over a country of 150 million people, of which 90 percent were illiterate, Lenin said, "It makes one's head spin." Describing a Lenin speech in 1919, Clara Zetkin wrote: "While Lenin was speaking, his face shrunk before my eyes. Furrows, great and small, innumerable, engraved themselves deeply on it. And every furrow was drawn by a grave trouble or a gnawing pain...I was moved, shaken. In my mind I saw the picture of a crucified Christ of the medieval master Grünewald. I believe that the painting as known by the title The Man of Sorrows....As such a 'man of sorrows' Lenin appeared to me. Burdened, pieced, oppressed with all the pain and all the suffering of Russian working people."

Some scholars have cast Lenin as a relatively benevolent leader who only resorted to violence when he had to, and that Stalin was the true evil leader of the Soviet Union. These scholars point to Lenin's liberal New Economic Policy of the 1920s and argue that Lenin was driven by the concept of world revolution, used terror only in wartime, surrounded himself with independent thinkers, and abhorred personal adulation whereas Stalin was motivated by a lust for power, used terror all the time, surrounded himself with sycophants, and established a personality cult.

Lenin said he intended to create a paradise on earth where there was no injustice. Out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, Lenin tried to forge an ideal Communist state free of capitalism, private ownership, war, poverty, and religion. He believed that the state must control the economy. Among the tasks Lenin set out for his new government were creating a socialist society from scratch; redistributing the land held by the aristocracy; creating collective farms; nationalizing factories, mines, utilities and banks; bringing electricity to the interior; outlawing private property and profits; and dismantling the Orthodox church.

Achievements made by the early Communists included achieving a high rate of literacy among a society that had only emerged from feudalism 50 years before; provided free medical care and bring electricity to far reaches of the country. The Communists helped bring Russia into the modern world. Among other things, they forced the country to switch from the 16th century Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, the one most of the world uses today.⌂ ♦

Lenin: the Source of Stalinism

Other historians see Lenin as the evil genius who laid the "blueprint" for Stalin and Stalinism and was the source of the Soviet Union's tragedies and eventual demise. Aleksandr N. Yakoviev, the head of commission organized by Yeltsin to reexamine Soviet history, told a news conference, "All the repression, camps, hostage-taking, mass deportations, executions without trial, even the executions of children were not invented by Stalin. He was just the great continuer of Lenin's Task, It all began under Lenin."

Some historians argue that Lenin would have killed just as many people as Stalin if he had been in power longer and had at his disposal the same technology as Stalin. Lenin biographer, Dmitri Volkogonov wrote, Lenin sowed "the seeds of the murderous collectivization...the appalling purges...and the postwar 'punishment' of entire nations." It was Lenin who was "the father of domestic Russian terrorism, merciless and totalitarian."

Lenin was the father of the gulags—Soviet forced labor camps and prisons—not Stalin. After the Bolsheviks came to power, camps known as knotslager, which had been built 1918 to house Czech soldiers who fought for the Bolshevik forces in Siberia, were used to incarcerate kulaks, wealthy farmers. The Resolution on Red Terror, issued in 1918, called fore the “safeguarding of the Soviet republic from class enemies by means of isolating them in concentration camps.” Categories of people deemed “enemies of the Revolution” were incarcerated and used as slave labor.

Construction of new camps began in 1919. By the end of 1920, there were 84 camps with around 50,000 people. By 1924, the year Lenin died, the number of camps had quadrupled. The Soviets tried to hide the camps but they were not concealed completely. Some foreign visitors to Russia in that period described them.

See Repression and Violence Below

Repression Under Lenin

Lenin is considered the architect of the Bolshevik tradition of exile in and imprisoning intellectual dissidents, and extinguishing thinkers and artists who opposed the regime. He started the first camps and used famine as political ploy to achieve his goals. Lenin disbanded the remnants of Russia's democracy, wiped out civil rights, attacked religion, and forged the Communist party into a totalitarian force.

In 1918, Lenin decreed that all tsarist monuments had to be replaced with monuments dedicated to "the liberation of labor." In 1920, the Communist government bulldozed an outdoor exhibit of unsanctioned art in Moscow.

In 1917, Lenin transformed his revolutionary security force into the Cheka, which served as "the sword of the revolution." Under leader Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Cheka employed its "machinery or repression" to protect the proletariat dictator. By 1921, the Red Army and the Cheka had enabled the Communist Party to establish firm one party rule. Debate within the party was outlawed. By 1922, the Cheka had been reorganized into the GPU (the precursor to the KGB), which had the power to go outside the law to pursue political opponents.

The Bolsheviks were generally not very fond of the Orthodox church because of its links with the tsarist regime. Lenin aimed to dismantle it. Churches were destroyed or transformed into stores and warehouses. One Moscow church was replaced with a public toilet. Christmas was canceled. But Lenin was generally more tolerant of religious expression than Stalin and Khrushchev. Judaism was tolerated. The Orthodox church established an patriarch in Moscow, independent from the one on Constantinople (Istanbul).

Lenin and Violence

Lenin encouraged the use of terror and violence to solve political, social and economic problems. In 1918, he gave the following instructions to Bolshevik leaders on how to deal with peasant leaders who did not accept the revolution: "Comrades!...Hang (hang without fail, so that people will see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers...Do it in such a way that...for hundreds of kilometers around, the people will see, tremble, know shout: 'They are strangling and will strangle to death the bloodsucker kulaks'...Yours Lenin."

In 1918 Lenin complained that his secret police were “inordinately soft, at every step more like jelly than iron.” In September of that year he ordered authorities in Nizhni Novgorod to “introduce at once mass terror, execute and deport hundreds of prostitutes, drunken soldiers, ex-officers, etc.

He also wrote, "If we can't shoot a White Guard saboteur, what sort of great revolution is it?...What sort of dictatorship is this? All talk and no action." On another occasion he explained the killing of political rivals by saying: “If we do not shoot these few leader we may be placed in a position to where we would need to shoot 10,000 workers?”

The death penalty was authorized for children a young as 12. In retaliation for the assassination attempt that wounded him in the neck, Lenin ordered the execution of more than 800 Socialist Revolutionaries. To punish Latvia and Estonia for declaring independence in 1918 he said: "Cross the frontier somewhere, even if only a depth of half a mile, and hang 100-1,000 of their civil servants and rich people."

Pragmatic Leadership in Lenin's Last Years

Realizing the mistakes of his authoritarian rule, in the last years of his rule Lenin tried to open up to capitalist countries, reform his inefficient bureaucracy and correct abuses of his regime. In an effort to stem and avert disasters like the Kronstadt Mutiny and the Famine of 1920-21, Lenin implemented a New Economic Policy (1921-28), which allowed a limited amount of private enterprise. Managers with skill were rewarded. Agricultural and industrial productivity improved. Food supplies increased and factory products found there way to consumers.

But within the party, Lenin denounced the formation of factions, particularly by radical-left party members. Central party organs subordinated local soviets to their authority. Party members perceived as less committed periodically were purged from the rosters. The Politburo (Political Bureau), which became the elite policy-making agency of the nation, created the new post of general secretary for the supervision of personnel matters and assigned Stalin to this office in April 1922. A minor member of the party's Central Committee at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin was thought to be a rather lackluster personality and therefore well suited to the routine work required of the general secretary.

New Economic Policy

The New Economic Policy (Novaya ekonomicheskaya politika--NEP), instituted in 1921 during Lenin’s last years in power, let peasants sell produce on an open market and permitted private ownership of small enterprises. Cultural restrictions also were relaxed during this period. NEP declined with the introduction of collectivization and was officially ended by Joseph V. Stalin in December 1929.

Regarded as partial retreat from Bolshevik principles, the New Economic Policy permitted certain types of private economic activity, so that the country might recover from the ravages of the Civil War. The interval was cut short, however, by the death of Lenin and the sharply different approach to governance of his successor, Joseph Stalin. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

The NEP was announced at the Tenth Party Congress of the Russian Communist Party met in March 1921 to hear Lenin argue for a new course in Soviet policy while Kronshtadt mutinee was still tkaing place. Lenin realized that the radical approach to communism was unsuited to existing conditions and jeopardized the survival of his regime. Now the Soviet leader proposed a tactical retreat, convincing the congress to adopt a temporary compromise with capitalism under the NEP program. *

Under the NEP, market forces and the monetary system regained their importance. The state scrapped its policy of grain requisitioning in favor of taxation, permitting peasants to dispose of their produce as they pleased. The NEP also denationalized service enterprises and much small-scale industry, leaving the "commanding heights" of the economy--large-scale industry, transportation, and foreign trade--under state control. Under the mixed economy called for under the NEP, agriculture and industry staged recoveries, with most branches of the economy attaining prewar levels of production by the late 1920s. In general, standards of living improved during this time, and the "NEP man"--the independent private trader--became a symbol of the era. The Soviet sold ceramic plates in 1924 that read, "He Who Does Not Work Does Not Eat." *

Culture Under Lenin

In many respects, the NEP period was a time of relative freedom and experimentation in the social and cultural life of the Soviet Union. The government tolerated a variety of trends in these fields, provided they were not overtly hostile to the regime. In art and literature, numerous schools, some traditional and others radically experimental, proliferated. Communist writers Maksim Gor'kiy and Vladimir Mayakovskiy were active during this time, but other authors, many of whose works were later repressed, published work lacking socialist political content (see Literature and the Arts). Filmmaking, as a means of influencing a largely illiterate society, received encouragement from the state; much of legendary cinematographer Sergey Eisenstein's best work dates from this period. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Under Commissar Anatoliy Lunacharskiy, education entered a phase of experimentation based on progressive theories of learning. At the same time, the state expanded the primary and secondary school systems and introduced night schools for working adults. The quality of higher education suffered, however, because admissions policies gave preference to entrants from the proletarian class over those with bourgeois backgrounds, regardless of qualifications. *

In family life, attitudes generally became more permissive. The state legalized abortion, and it made divorce progressively easier to obtain. In general, traditional attitudes toward such institutions as marriage were subtly undermined by the party's promotion of revolutionary ideals. *

Lenin’s Declining Health and Death

In May, 1922, Lenin suffered a minor stroke. A year later he suffered a more serious stoke that left him weak, wheelchair bound and unable to write. In March 1923, he was left speechless and paralyzed by a third stroke. Despite his disabilities, Lenin issued thousands of orders for executions, arrests and deportations. Some think his strokes were related to overwork.

Lenin died in Gorki (near Moscow) on January 21, 1924 at the age of 53. The exact cause of death was not revealed. Some think syphilis was a factor. He died in a convulsion which has led some historians to speculate that he may have been poisoned by Stalin. Earlier Lenin had tried unsuccessfully to obtain cyanide to commit suicide.

Lenin died 18 months after he suffered the first stroke. On the day he died he work up at 10:30am, had some coffee, and went back to bed. By the evening he was running a high fever. His friend Nikolai Bukharin, who was at his bedside wrote: “When I ran into Ilich’s room, full of doctors and stacked with medicines Ilich let out a last sigh...Ilich, Ilich, was no more.”

Lenin's Body

In his will, Lenin asked to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg. His wish was disregarded by Stalin, who wanted to make Lenin into an object of worship as a way of building religious-like support for the Communists. Against the wishes of Lenin and his mistress, Lenin's body was embalmed, dressed in trousers and a khaki jacket buttoned to the neck, and placed in a red porphyry mausoleum in Red Square (built in 1930), where it has been viewed by millions.

The inner organs were taken out because they leak toxins. Ilya Borisovich Zbarsky, who took care of Lenin's embalmed body for 18 years, told Newsweek, "After his death his brain had been removed and sent to a special laboratory set up to look for signs of genius, They didn't find anything particularly interesting." Lenin's brain was cut into 20,000 sections and experiments were conducted that attempted to proved the superiority of his brain over those of ordinary men.

The embalming of the body was poorly done at first. The face became wrinkled and shrunken. A Russian doctor, who reportedly used techniques practiced on mummies by the Egyptians, re-embalmed the body and restored the face with a younger more serious look. The formula used to preserve Lenin remains a carefully guarded secret although it is known that contains potassium acetate. Lenin was soaked in the solution after being washed with water and different concentrations of alcohol. Cuts were made in the body to absorb the solution. Embalming fluid was not added to the veins, the usual method of embalming, because the veins were removed by doctors who performed the autopsy.

When the Lenin’s widow visited the mausoleum shortly before her death she commented that Lenin retained his youth while everyone else had aged. Shortly after the body was put on display, a bitter Moscow frost caused water pipes in the mausoleum to explode, flooding the tomb. Afterwards Patriarch Tikhon, the head of the Orthodox Church, was arrested and executed, in part for commenting on the incident by saying, "Myrrh fits the relics."

Book: Lenin's Embalmers by Ilya Zbarsky and Samuel Hutchinson (Havril Press, 1999). Zbarsky's father led the team that embalmed Lenin.

Care of Lenin's Body

Lenin was the first person evacuated from Moscow in July 1941 when the German army appeared near the capital. With the exception of the rotting of Lenin's nose and ear the corpse has held up very well. The condition of the body appears to have improved and Lenin has even put on some weight.

As of the 1990s, twelve scientists employed by the Kremlin Center for Biological Structures, working on a budget of around $1 million a year, were responsible for upkeep of the body. Two or three times a week they washed the body with a special solution to remove mold and blemishes. Every 18 months or so Lenin's corpse was removed and soaked for a couple of months in a special chemical bath. After the collapse of Communism, the people that kept Lenin's body on good shape made money by embalming murdered gangsters. They were especially adept at putting bodies back together that were ripped apart in gun battles and bombings.

Lenin’s body is kept at a temperature of 61°F and in humidity of 70 percent. During the every-18-month bath Lenin’s body is removed from the mausoleum and immersed in a bath of glycerols, potassium acetate and other chemicals. After the body is removed from the bath, liquid on the skin is allowed to drip off and the body is wrapped with rubber bandages to prevent leakage. The head and the hands are bathed in embalming fluids and checked for bacteria ever two weeks.

Controversy Over Lenin's Body

After the break up of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Leninist thought a controversy arose over what to do with Lenin's body. Some people wanted to see Lenin buried in St. Petersburg, where his family had a plot. For many this would symbolize the death of the Communist party. Others wanted it remain where it was in the mausoleum.

A 28 year-old shopping at the GUM Department Store told the New York Times, his burial "should have happened a long time ago. I mean this person died, so he should be buried underground. How long can this go on?" A 45-year-old Russian chemist said, "the mausoleum reminds me of a time when we were proud and strong. It's a symbol of the good things embodied by the former Soviet Union." Some nationalists have threatened to start a civil war if a hair on Lenin’s body is touched.

A police officers guarding Lenin's body said, "Is he bothering anyone by lying there? Anyway, if they close the mausoleum there will be absolutely nothing to do on Red Square." A rock singer said it should be buried but only after going on a world tour first.

In a 1998 poll, 51 percent of the Russians asked said they were in favor in an honorable burial. 25 percent were opposed. Communists and nationalists are particularly opposed to Lenin's burial. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin proposed holding a nationwide referendum on the issue. President Vladimir Putin objected to the removal of Lenin's corpse on the basis that it implied Russians "had worshipped false values.”

Lenin Clones and Cakes

In 1997, a leading Russian scientist reported it would be possible to produce a clone from Lenin's body. Professor Valeri Bykov of the Russian Institute of Biological Studies, told a Turkish newspaper, "with intensive efforts, the clone of Lenin is possible because the cell structure and the genetic code have been conserved." Russian scientist have been able to preserve bodies so that cell tissues remain virtually intact. "We can mummify a body for $350,000 with a guarantee of 200 years," Bykov said.

At a party at the former Lenin Museum in Moscow in 1998, a cake was made in the form of a life-size Lenin replica lying in the Red Square Mausoleum. It was made from 180 pounds of biscuits, cream, gold-colored icing and decorated with 220 sugar roses made by artists Yuri Shabelnikov and Yuri Fasenko.

Lenin's Legacy

Lenin dictated his last will in December 1924. Known as "Lenin's Statement,” it appeared to make amends for the totalitarian nature of his regime. He recommended that the Central Committee be enlarged and include more workers and peasants. Also, he wrote: "I propose to the comrades to find some way of removing Stalin from his position and appointing somebody else who differs in all respects...someone more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and considerate to his comrades, less capricious."

Pulitzer-prize winning author David Remnick wrote: "Lenin was the initiator of the central drama—the tragedy of our era, the rise of totalitarian states...[With] a general's tactical instincts, Lenin introduced to the 20th century the practice of taking an all embracing ideology and imposing it on an entire society rapidly and mercilessly; he created a regime that erased politics, erased historical memory, erased opposition...Lenin created a model not merely for his successor, Stalin, but for Mao, for Hitler, for Pol Pot."

A personalty cult grew up around Lenin after his death, the poet Joseph Brodsky wrote: He began to hate Lenin in the first grade "not so much because of his political philosophy or practice...but because of the omnipresent images which plagued almost every textbook, every class wall, postage stamps, money, and what not, depicting the man in various ages and stages of his life...This face in some ways haunts eery Russian and suggest some sort of standard for human appearance because it is utterly lacking in character...coming to ignore those pictures was my first lesson in switching off.”

Historian John Keegan wrote, "After Lenin's death, his followers in Europe, Asia and Africa created other Bolshevik regimes that propagated regional wars, fostered terrorism and destroyed economies. Not until 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, was Lenin's maligning influence definitely reversed. Its after-affects will persist into the 3rd millennium.”

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2016

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