Sixteen years is a long time to wait before unveiling a bust. But there is a certain logic in choosing the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution — rather than, say, the 74th anniversary — to unveil a bust of dear old Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov a.k.a. Lenin. But that’s what India’s communist leaders decided to do at last on Wednesday, the day revolutionaries overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave power to the Soviets dominated by the Bolsheviks in 1917 (November 7 being October 25, according to the old Julian calendar still used in Russia).
The marble bust of the Bolshevik leader will now be proudly displayed next to that of Comrade A.K. Gopalan at the CPI(M) headquarters in New Delhi. But it’s not only our desi comrades who’re conducting a fond remembrance ceremony of Lenin. Leader of the Italian Communist Party Oliviero Diliberto has suggested that if the Russian government decides to bury the Great Leader’s mummified body — an idea that Moscow has been toying with for some time — then Lenin’s body could be sent to Rome. While Mr Diliberto’s colleagues in Parliament thought he was joking after a few rounds of vodka, Lenin’s niece Olga Ulyanova took matters quite seriously and disapproved moving her uncle outside Moscow. Vladimir Putin, for all his uncommunist ways, also knows that Lenin’s body is as much of an attraction for tourists visiting Russia as King Tut’s is for people visiting Egypt. So expect him to be ‘nationalistic’ on this front.
As for Germany, the country where Lenin and his guru Karl Marx expected communism to make the biggest impact, authorities in Schwerin, formerly part of communist East Germany, decided against removing a 13-foot statue of the man. They did, however, decide to add an explanatory plaque that would state Lenin’s often brutal political legacy, and point out that his family had strong links with the region. No need for all that bourgeois pusillanimity at AKG Bhavan.