A top Russian Orthodox official said Tuesday that the country's dominant church believes the body of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin should be removed from display in a Red Square mausoleum and buried, Russian news agencies reported. He was quoted as saying caution was needed to avoid angering opponents of such a move.
There has been debate over whether to bury Lenin's body, which has been on display in a mausoleum just outside the Kremlin since 1924. In what appeared to be a Kremlin attempt to gauge public reaction to the divisive issue, a regional envoy of President Vladimir Putin said in September that Lenin's body should be taken from the mausoleum and buried.
Several senior lawmakers in the Kremlin-controlled parliament followed up on his call, proposing burial. Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov warned that his party would stage a massive civil disobedience action if authorities tried to remove the body, and the Communists launched a petition drive this month soliciting signatures against such a move.
Kirill, who heads the church's external relations department, called the public display of the body "an artificial phenomenon with some sort of very strange mysticism," the reports said.
At the same time, Kirill said care should be taken so that "Lenin's burial does not unsettle our society again, bring protesters out into the streets of Moscow and create tension between a portion of the people and the authorities," ITAR-Tass reported. It quoted him as saying that he believed the issue would be settled, given time, the AP reports.
Earlier this month, Kirill suggested that a national referendum might be the right way to decide the fate of Lenin's body.
The Russian Orthodox Church was harshly persecuted under officially atheist Communist rule, after the 1917 revolution, but it has experienced a strong resurgence since the Soviet collapse of 1991. A.M.