Lenin may lie with old foes

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW - The Mayor has asked President Boris Yeltsin to evict Lenin's corpse from Red Square and replace it as the centre of attention with a bronze tribute to a 17th-century butcher credited with saving Russia in the Time of Troubles, writes Andrew Higgins .

Details are outlined in a planning document entitled 'On Restoring the Historical Appearance of Moscow's Red Square'. With Lenin gone, the centrepiece would be a statue of Kuzma Minin and Prince Pozharsky, celebrated for having saved Muscovy from Polish conquest. Their statue used to stand near the middle of the square but was moved to St Basil's Cathedral in 1931 to avoid crowding Lenin's tomb. City authorities want to move it back.

A guard of honour was withdrawn from Lenin's mausoleum two weeks ago, two days after tanks drove rebellious MPs from the White House (parliament). But the tomb has remained open pending a decision on what to do with the world's most visited corpse - 44,000 viewers so far this month - and Russia's most ghoulish political symbol.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov wants Lenin to join his mother in a family plot in St Petersburg. Also to rejoin their families - or, if relatives decline, their old enemy Nikita Khrushchev - in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery will be Stalin, Brezhnev and others whose ashes are buried near the Kremlin Wall. For Stalin it will be the second time politics has disturbed his remains. From his death in 1953 until 1961 he lay next to Lenin in the mausoleum.

However, a decision may be some time off. The director of the Lenin Museum, Vladimir Melnichenko, was quoted yesterday as saying only the new parliament due to be elected in December had the right to move Lenin.

Ready to make his peace with such a decision, it seems, is Sergei Debov, Mocow's master embalmer. After devoting his life to mummifying Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and other Marxists, Dr Debov looks on the bright side: 'Even if the body is buried, it can be preserved for many years still.'