Mikhail Gorbachev, Russia’s last Communist leader, has set off a storm among conservative Russians by suggesting “it’s time for Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin to be given a Christian burial”.
The former communist leader also warned against recent attempts to glorify the USSR’s former dictator Joseph Stalin.
In an indirect criticism of former Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gorbachev slammed officially-promoted views of Stalin that depict him as a “brilliant manager” rather than a bloody tyrant, who murdered and imprisoned millions of innocent citizens.
“Forgetfulness must be overcome; democracy and freedom must be strengthened,” Gorbachev told a news conference on Wednesday. “As for the memory of people who fell into the milestone of Stalin’s repressions, there is still a great deal to be done.”
Although a few monuments have been erected for Stalin’s victims, including one inaugurated by Putin in a Moscow suburb last year, Russia still lacks a museum to collect the evidence of the USSR’s vast system of the Gulag prison camps and the murderous “purges” carried out by the former KGB secret police.
Gorbachev also angered Russia’s still powerful Communist Party by saying that the time will come to remove the embalmed remains of USSR founder Vladimir Lenin from the Red Square mausoleum, where they’ve lain for 84 years and bury them in a normal grave.
“There is no need to get involved in digging graves right now, but it is a matter of time, when the mausoleum would lose its relevance and Lenin will be buried,” Gorbachev said.
Communist Party members in St Petersburg said in a statement on Thursday that they will campaign to have Gorbachev’s Nobel Prize, won in 1990, taken away for his “destructive” comments.
“We will demand that Gorbachev’s prize be withdrawn following his calls for vandalism of the architectural ensemble on Red Square,” the statement said.