Tags: Beichman: | Putin | Stalin-lite

Beichman: Putin as Stalin-lite

Tuesday, 06 December 2005 12:00 AM

It is an obscenity that the cadavers of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Zedong are entombed in shrines open for public viewing.

Wherever you go in Russia and Ukraine you will find statues of a man who is responsible for a tragedy that afflicted the people of the once Soviet Union for seventy years. This monster, Lenin, inspired an even greater tragedy for the people of Communist China because his heritage still dominates that vast land and its billon-plus population.

China is still ruled by a Communist Party dictatorship so it is understandable that Mao's mummy lying in a glass container is still on show in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. But Russia is not ruled by a Communist dictatorship. It is ruled as a quasi-democracy by a quasi-democrat, Vladimir Putin, who calls his governing rule, "managed democracy" - which is like calling Putin's rule "libertarian autocracy."

Anyway, why is Lenin's mummy in a glass container still on show in Moscow's Red Square?

Some four decades ago while there was still a Soviet Union, Yevgeny Yevtushenko published a famous poem titled "Stalin's Heirs." It was an invocation to the then Soviet leadership to prevent a return to Stalinism. At the time, the embalmed corpse of Josef Stalin, which had been lying in state in the Red Square mausoleum alongside Lenin's embalmed body, had been removed and reinterred in the Kremlin wall.

Despite Nikita Khrushchev's 1956 anti-Stalin speech and the symbolic act of removing Stalin's mummy from Lenin's tomb, there was a growing alarm, strikingly expressed by Yevtushenko's poem, that the spirit of Stalin, who died in March 1953, was alive and well:

Yevtushenko's poem concluded with this refrain:

So now it is time to ask: Why is Lenin still lying in state in his dimly lit, air-conditioned shrine in Red Square?

The New York Times reported that "the inevitable question has returned: should his body be moved?" The question was asked by a senior aide to President Putin.

"Our country has been shaken by strife, but only a few people were held accountable for that in our lifetime," said Georgi Poltavchenko, the aide. "I do not think it is fair that those who initiated the strife remain in the center of our state near the Kremlin."

Khrushchev in 1962 ordered removal of Stalin from Lenin's tomb, implying that Lenin's remains were still sacred. But if Leninism had lost its importance in Russian political thought at the highest levels, if Russian public opinion abominated Lenin's memory, the founder of the Soviet Union would have been reburied in some cemetery faraway - as Boris Yeltsin reportedly once intended - in a symbolic act of desecration.

Think. Supposing a German provincial government were to announce opening of a Hitler Tomb in, say, Bavaria and people lined up daily to see a wax museum replica of the founder of Nazism lying in state in his sarcophagus. Western public opinion would be outraged at so monstrous a celebration.

Anytime a skinhead throws a fire-bomb in some German tenement peopled by Turkish immigrant families or when a rightist party gets a big vote in Austria, a wave of apprehension about Hitler's heirs swamps the media. But the Bolshevik who brought so much misery to the Russian people and imposed a proto-Stalinism (proto- only because Lenin died in 1924), which enslaved a working-class and a peasantry Lenin had pledged to liberate, is still an object of veneration; lines still wait to enter the tomb. Is Lenin morally superior to Hitler?

Some years ago it was reported that Yeltsin would shortly order Lenin's remains to be buried in the Volkov cemetery in St. Petersburg (the onetime Leningrad). Even more, Yeltsin it was said would shortly order removal of the remains of other Soviet leaders, such as Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, all of whom are now interred in the Kremlin wall, to Moscow's Novodevichie cemetery or elsewhere if their families so requested it.

But nothing happened. Yeltsin, reported the Financial Times (May 10, 1996), "embraced the symbols and ceremonies of the Soviet era." In fact, while still president of Russia, Yeltsin commemorated May 9, the anniversary of the allied victory in World War II, with a speech delivered from atop the Lenin mausoleum while the red flag, with a star substituting for the old hammer and sickle, waved in the breeze.

Now if one thing is clearer today than ever before in Soviet history it is that Lenin was an unscrupulous, inhuman revolutionary prepared to impose not only on Czarist Russia but on all the world his messianic totalitarianism.

The late Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin's biographer who had full access to the Lenin archive, wrote:

If Leninism were still not a powerful ideological force in Russia, Lenin's remains, like Stalin's, would have been removed years ago.

Perhaps it is time for another poet to write an ode this time titled "Lenin's Heirs," with a new refrain:

How to describe Putin's "managed democracy"? Stalin lite.


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It is an obscenity that the cadavers of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Zedong are entombed in shrines open for public viewing. Wherever you go in Russia and Ukraine you will find statues of a man who is responsible for a tragedy that afflicted the people of the once...
Tuesday, 06 December 2005 12:00 AM
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