Revolutionary's Remains

The body of Vladimir Lenin as it lies in state in a mausoleum in Moscow's Red Square.
He's lain in state for more than 80 years... But his time may have finally come.

Some Russian officials want to move Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, from his mausoleum on red square to a cemetery.

Russia's Communists, who still revere Lenin, say "nyet".

Viktor Anpilov of the group "Working Russia" says, "if we permit to destroy the mausoleum, if we permit these talks about burying lenin, we permit the resurrection of fascism."

Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, was entombed near the Kremlin just days after he died.

But since the Soviet Union fell apart, Russians have been split on what is to be done with communism's most famous corpse. Boris Yeltsin removed Lenin's goose-stepping guards, but stopped short of a funeral. Now president Vladimir Putin is assessing whether Russians would support a burial.

"President Putin's now at the end of his term," said Boris Nadezhdin of the Union of Right Forces. "And maybe he will decide to make some historical movement."

Thousands of Russians a week still visit Lenin's tomb, and not just the communist faithful. Some people are just curious--others want to see a piece of history while they still can. It seems Lenin is bound to be pulled out of Red Square sometime, because young Russians just don't know who he is. Communism isn't discussed anymore in Russian elementary schools.

Russia's communist party leaders say they will fight if the government tries to touch Lenin.

Olga Ulyanova will fight, too. She's Lenin's closest living relative--his 83 year old niece.

"Lenin was a genius," she says. "and should be left in his mausoleum. The communist system may be gone now, but it may be back again."

Some politicians claim that Lenin wanted to be buried near his mother in St. Petersburg, but that's just not true says Ulyanova. "My uncle didn't leave a will, so we can only guess what he would have wanted," she explains.

Opinion polls show Russians divided nearly 50-50 on moving Lenin...and that adds up to trouble for the Kremlin.

Because Lenin is still a powerful symbol for millions of Russians who believed in the communist system. If Putin alienates them by pushing for a burial too hard or too fast, he risks digging his own political grave.

by Beth Knobel