Russians back ruling party's Goodbye Lenin poll

24th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

An online poll launched by Russia's ruling party and called Monday claimed overwhelming public support for removing the body of revolutionary leader Lenin from its Red Square mausoleum.

The poll opened Saturday on United Russia's website and had gained more than 260,000 votes by Monday afternoon, with almost 70 percent supporting the Bolshevik chief's burial.

The unusual move by the ruling party comes after one of its deputies, Vladimir Medinsky, last week strongly backed Lenin's burial, a hugely emotive question for many Russians.

"It's well known that Lenin himself did not plan to put up any mausoleums to himself, and his living relatives, his brother and sister, were categorically against," Medinsky was quoted as saying on the poll's website.

"Communists could not care less about what Lenin himself or his relatives wanted."

A top party official, Andrei Vorobyov, denied however that the call to bury Lenin reflected the party's official policy.

"It's the initiative of individual party members, but it is a hot topic in society," Vorobyov, head of the party's central executive committee, told the RIA Novosti news agency.

"According to Christian rites and the logic of life, it is going to happen sooner or later," he added.

State television news covered the poll approvingly Sunday, with a newsreader mocking what he called "the worship of a mummy on the country's main square."

Critics included Lenin's 88-year-old niece, Olga Ulyanova, who was two when he died. She slammed the poll in an interview to party newspaper Pravda on Monday.

"I am categorically against the reburial of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. There is no basis for this," she said, arguing that his body lies at the same depth as a coffin and so can be considered as buried according to Russian traditions.

A report in Vedomosti business daily last week cited sources in the presidential administration as saying that the Kremlin backed Lenin's burial and was keen to test public opinion.

The presidential administration later denied any plans to bury Lenin.

The Communist Party argued that the poll was skewed and criticised the idea as "grave-digging."

Only around 40 percent of adult Russians have Internet access, according to a recent poll by the independent FOM agency. The Communist Party gains much of its support from elderly, impoverished voters, unlikely to vote in the poll.

The findings roughly matched those of a survey by state polling agency VTsIOM two years ago, which found that 66 percent supported Lenin's burial, although some said this should only happen when a generation has passed.

The debate on what to with Lenin's body surfaces every year on the anniversary of his death in 1924, since when his body has lain embalmed in the mausoleum.

The mausoleum is still open to the public free of charge, though it does not attract the enormous queues of Soviet days. It is due to close next month for a regular spruce-up of Lenin's body and his clothing.

Stalin's body lay next to Lenin's in the mausoleum until his successor Khrushchev denounced the Stalin-era cult of personality in 1956. He was then buried by the Kremlin walls.

© 2011 AFP

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