Putin thinks Lenin was a saint

Ever since the macabre state so lovingly created by Lenin supposedly disappeared, the Russians have been arguing what to do with Lenin’s mummy lying in state at the Mausoleum. The very fact that so many of them think there’s something to discuss justifies the adverb ‘supposedly’ in the previous sentence.

Just imagine for the sake of argument that Hitler was killed by Stauffenberg’s bomb in 1944. Further imagine that the Nazis then embalmed his body and turned it into a national shrine. What do you suppose would have happened to the mummy after the Nazi regime disappeared in 1945, just like the Soviet one supposedly did in 1991?

Would it still be on display in the same shrine? Would the Germans still be arguing about it? Would Frau Merkel declare that keeping the relics was part of the Christian tradition?

My admiration for the post-war German state isn’t without some limits, but I can’t imagine any of this happening. After all, the Germans have repudiated their Nazi past in no uncertain terms. Tens of thousands of Nazis were convicted in the Federal Republic by the Germans themselves, not counting those convicted by the Allies at Nuremberg and elsewhere.

Ever since, the nation has been on a massive guilt trip, with the very name of Hitler practically eradicated from the history books. And Hitler’s own literary effort Mein Kampf is banned in Germany.

That is understandable, if occasionally excessive. After all, for 12 years Hitler turned Germany into a synonym of evil, besmirching the country’s reputation in ways that outlived him. Millions of Jews went up crematorium chimneys in German concentration camps, accompanied by millions of others. It’s inconceivable that the man responsible for the carnage would still be worshipped.

For millions murdered by Hitler and his German gang, read tens of millions murdered by Lenin and his Russian gang. Yet not a single KGB ghoul has been tried for a single murder, never mind convicted. Moreover, a KGB gang ably led by Col. Putin himself is still running the country in the best traditions of his sponsoring organisation (just imagine the SS surviving to this day and numbering most of Germany’s government among its members).

Hence the squat ziggurat structure of the Mausoleum still sits in Red Square, just like it did under Stalin. And the mummy is still there, though for appearances’ sake the scale of worship has been somewhat curtailed.

Clearly a comment from the national leader was called for, and now it has been uttered urbi et orbi. Keeping the mummy where it is, explained Col. Putin, is perfectly justifiable. This, you see, is in line with the Christian tradition of keeping the relics of saints. Good to see that the colonel has grasped the essence of his recently acquired religion.

The current head of the Communist Party Gennadi Zyuganov eagerly picked up on that line of thought. ‘This form of Lenin’s internment agrees with the Russian Orthodox canons and traditions. So,’ he added in the direction of liberal protesters, ‘put up and shut up.’

Of course saints aren’t usually embalmed, and nor can I recall a single one whose body is kept intact by a whole institute full of scientists solely dedicated to that purpose. But this is a minor detail, and no one expects factual accuracy from this lot. One may however suggest that their take on the Christian tradition isn’t quite irrefutable.

About a fourth of the roughly 60 million Russians murdered by the Leninists perished on Lenin’s watch (1917-1924). The victims included some 40,000 priests killed in all sorts of imaginative ways, whose description needn’t detain us here. Many of their parishioners shared the same gruesome fate – just because they believed in God. Their churches were desecrated, plundered of liturgical valuables and most of them destroyed – all on Lenin’s direct orders.

One would think that his claim to canonisation, or simply to having his relics worshipped, would be rather weakened by this arithmetic, but not for Col. Putin, his ruling gang and his loyal Communist opposition.

History apart, martyrdom is an ironclad requirement for canonisation, and Lenin falls a bit short. He didn’t die for his faith in mass murder today for the sake of nebulous happiness tomorrow. He died of syphilis, a cause not normally associated with saintliness.

The list of Russian Orthodox saints begins with Boris and Gleb, sons of Prince Vladimir who baptised Russia. They were murdered by their brother Sviatopolk who, after their father’s death, reverted to paganism, which they refused to do. The subsequent hagiographic rolls include such holy names as that of Sergius of Radonezh, along with many bishops of the church murdered on Lenin’s orders. According to Col. Putin, their executioner belongs on the same list.

But it’s not the face value of Col. Putin’s argument that’s worth discussing. It’s that such an argument could have been made at all. We know what this says about Putin and, considering the source, we aren’t surprised. But what does it say about his country?

The only possible thing I can think of is that Lenin’s body is kept intact because his cause is.





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