Maybe the Russians are thankless - or maybe revolutions are not in vogue anymore - but voices of those willing to remove Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body from his granite mausoleum on Red Square and bury him are becoming stronger today, 20 years after the issue first emerged with the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Eighty-seven years have passed since the body of Vladimir Ulyanov, known worldwide under his pseudonym Lenin, was placed in a glass sarcophagus and displayed in a specially built mausoleum near the Kremlin wall.
When the father of Bolshevism died on January 21, 1924, inconsolable Soviet citizens sent thousands of telegrams to the government, asking them to preserve the body of Dedushka Lenin (Grandfather Lenin - this is how they affectionately referred to him) for future generations. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, proposals to remove Lenin from his Moscow shrine shock devoted Leninists at least twice a year, marking the anniversaries of Lenin's birth (in April) and death.
United Russia vs Communists
This year, the discussion was fueled with a public statement by Vladimir Medinsky, a lawmaker of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, who described Lenin's presence in the heart of Russia as "perversion" and "utter nonsense."
"There is nothing of Lenin's body there anymore," he said. "Specialists know that only 10 percent of [Lenin's] body remains there, the rest has long been disemboweled and replaced."
The statement sparked anger from Russia's Communists, whose leader Gennady Zyuganov accused United Russia of being only able to "destroy monuments, rename streets and dig up graves."
In response, United Russia launched on Saturday an online poll, asking citizens if they support the idea of burying Lenin. So far, almost 70 percent out of more than 260,000 people who took part in the poll said "yes," while 30 percent disagree.
Not every poll is that clear-cut, however. According to a survey conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) in November last year, 41 percent of Russians believed maintaining the mausoleum with Lenin's body on Red Square was "against nature." At the same time, 37 percent said they were "ok" with it since the mausoleum has been a tourist attraction rather than a "holy shrine" for a long time now. There were even 15 percent of more devoted Russians who believed that the revolutionary leader had all rights to remain on Red Square, a 7 percent drop since 2005.
Rest in peace?
"A body should be allowed to rest in peace. He can be honored and worshiped regardless of where his remains are," says Nadezhda, 27, when asked to share her opinion.
This is not what Maksim, 30, believes as the right way of thinking.
"Since Russia is the legal successor of the U.S.S.R. and Lenin is the one who created the U.S.S.R., we should leave both Lenin and the mausoleum on Red Square. This is our history," he states, expressing an opinion of millions of other Russians, mostly representing the older generation.
Comparing the Lenin mummy with those buried in Egyptian pyramids is commonplace, but it acquires different meanings depending on the speaker.
"The Mausoleum is there for the people's remembrance. Whatever they say, a memorial should remain a memorial. Look at those lying in the pyramids in Egypt. Were they less cruel than our Lenin?" asks Anatoly, 71. "But no one is going to remove them."
Kirill, a 16-year-old school student, also referrers to mummies of Egyptian pharaohs when asked about Lenin's fate.
"I think if a person is embalmed after his death, this is very bad, this is what they used to do in Egypt," he shakes his head in a sign of disapproval.
Did they notice that Lenin's Mausoleum looks indeed very similar to the Step Pyramid, the first Egyptian pyramid built to the northwest of Memphis as the resting place for Pharaoh Djoser? Or was it just a coincidence?
Natasha Doff, a British journalist living in Moscow, suggests that since Lenin did not want his body to be displayed in a mausoleum, it would probably be right to bury him.
At the same time, "Lenin is a good tourist attraction, and many people come to Moscow to see him, so it is good for Russian tourism," she says, adding: "Although, I think he does not look like Lenin. More like a plastic doll."
"Oh my God, it's quite a sensitive question," says Jana, a 35-year-old tourist from the Czech Republic. "I would say it depends on Russians. He probably still means something to them."
For Li Cuiwen, a Chinese-born Moscow resident, the issue of Lenin's burial is out of the question.
"We should certainly leave him in the mausoleum. It would even be indecent to remove him," she says, adding that no one in China questions publicly Mao Zedong's presence in a mausoleum in the center of Beijing.
'Lenin will live forever!'
"Comrades! Don't believe that they want to move Vladimir Ilich Lenin from his mausoleum!" says a middle-aged man working as a Lenin impersonator near Red Square. He charges money from excited tourists to pose in front of their cameras in a long black coat and a black cap similar to those that the revolutionary leader used to wear.
"Eighty-seven years have passed, but he still hasn't been removed. And this will never happen! The State Duma [Russian parliament's lower house] will simply reject all plots against Lenin!" says the man, slapping a cupped hand on his chest to show sincerity while pronouncing the "sacred" name, and passionately chants the old Soviet slogan: "Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live forever!"
Vladimir Kozhin, the Kremlin property chief, said recently there were no immediate plans to remove Lenin from his mausoleum, the idea that seems to be popular among Russians.
"I think that while the elderly are still alive, we should not do this [bury Lenin]," says Sergei, 58, with his eyes meaningfully reverting from the camera. "Later, when they pass away, he should be buried, according to his own will."
It may seem strange, but many Russians, both those who stand for Lenin's burial and those who oppose it, have never visited his shrine on Red Square to see for themselves what they are fighting for or against.
Marina, 30, says she sees no point in standing in a line for several hours with tourists to get inside the shrine and see Lenin's body just for a few seconds.
"I am indifferent," she responds to the issue about Lenin's proposed burial. "I have never been there. I am not interested if he lies there or not. I don't care."
The VTsIOM poll showed 39 percent of Russians being "indifferent" towards Lenin, 18 percent more than in 2001.
'Let's solve real problems first!'
In response to media speculations about Lenin's possible burial, a source in the presidential administration said on Friday "the decision whether to remove tombs from Red Square... rests with the country's political leadership."
Many Russians appear to agree with the idea, although there were even proposals made by some politicians to hold a referendum to decide on Dedushka Lenin's future.
"This country has many other problems, let's solve them first," proposes a young woman passing by the mausoleum.
"When our government raises prices, we have nothing to do but agree. If they want to remove Lenin from the mausoleum, we also agree," Yana and Yulia, both 30, told RIA Novosti next to the Kremlin wall.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti, Maria Kuchma)