Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Patriarchate Official Calls for Turning Lenin’s Mausoleum into Museum of the Victims of Soviet Power

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 22 – On the 138th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, a leading Russian Orthodox hierarch with close ties to the military and security agencies has urged transforming the mausoleum on Red Square into a museum “about all the repressions and cruelties of Soviet power toward the Russian people.”
As far as the remains of “the worst evil doer” in Russian history are concerned, Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, who heads the Patriarchate’s office for work with the uniformed services, said they should be “burned and thrown into a forgotten mineshaft, whose location no one should know” (www.rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=176548).
Smirnov’s comment is intriguing in a double sense. On the one hand, his reference to the mineshaft clearly recalls what the Bolsheviks did to the Imperial Family after they murdered them in 1918 and thus would represent a kind of closure for many Russian nationalists.
And on the other, Smirnov’s ties to the military suggests that his ideas may reflect not just the view of the Church but also of many in the military who remember what the Soviet authorities did to their predecessors, although it seems unlikely that the archpriest’s views reflect those of the successors of the Cheka and KGB.
The “Russkaya liniya” portal surveyed other Orthodox leaders, and they too were uniformly in denouncing Lenin and thus in favor of removing Lenin’s body from the mausoleum as soon as possible, although what they would do with both it and the mausoleum itself varied widely.
Archpriest Aleksadnr Shargunov said that “the activities of Lenin and his followers” were diabolical, that his ideology was “a revolt against the Church, against everything divine and eternal in order to achieve temporary earthly well-being at any price.”
To that end, Father Aleksandr continued, Lenin and his party sought to liberate human beings from everything holy and in the final analysis from moral norms, truth, and justice.” Consequently, his body like the man himself deserves no respect, although given the other problems Russia faces, “the question about [them] is not the most important.”
Father Maksim Kozlov, who serves as a pastor for students at Moscow State University, insisted that Lenin was “one of the msot terrible figures of our history.” But unlike the other religious figures with whom “Russkaya liniya” talked, he suggested that Lenin’s life had some important lessons for the Church today.
When he was a child, Father Maksim said, Lenin “received [the top grade] in his religious courses in school, so that he could advance to the next class of the gymansium or enter a university. In this there is a certain warning message for us:” We must not profane religious live by using state power to advance the faith.
Doing so, as many now urge, he suggested risked producing more “people like [Lenin].”
And finally, Valentin Lebedev, the chairman of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, told the website’s journalists: “The personality of V.I. Lenin in the millenium of Russian history is the most horrible. It was his fault that the collapse of the Russian Empire took palace and that crisis that even now is being overcome with such great difficulty occurred.”
Consequently, “the mausoleum like all communist monuments ought to be destroyed and the body of V.I. Lenin burned and thrown into the wind. One must not give a Christian burial to the body of a man who so totally hated Orthodoxy and other religions. Cremation would thus correspond to the will of the one who died.”

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