Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Patriarch Alexy II Calls for Body's Reburial

Russia's Orthodox Patriarch has called for the body of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin to be removed from its Kremlin mausoleum and buried, saying the corpse was a sad memorial to communist propaganda.

"Today the condition of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's body is not a sign of respect for him, but rather a sad reminder of the use of his dead body by the previous authorities for propaganda aims against the will of the deceased," Alexy II told the weekly Argumenty i Fakty, Interfax said Wednesday.

It was the first time the leader of Russia's Orthodox Church had broached the delicate topic of reburying Lenin, which the Kremlin fears could spark the ire of die-hard communists.

A copy of the patriarch's interview was made available to Interfax ahead of publication.

When Lenin died in January 1924, his widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, called for him to be buried in St. Petersburg next to his mother and sister, saying it was his wish. But the authorities ignored her plea and built the dark red marble mausoleum outside the Kremlin on Red Square which became one of the most potent symbols of the Communist era.

Alexy II accused the Kremlin of hijacking and corrupting the religious tradition of preserving saints' remains to boost their own popularity.

"The atheistic rulers of the time were not above using the tradition of revering saintly remains for the creation of a new cult," said the patriarch.

In 1993, after authorities crushed an armed hardline revolt, officials in Moscow asked President Boris Yeltsin to sign a decree on reburying Lenin near his family in Volkovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg, known for decades as Leningrad.

But Yeltsin kept quiet on the issue -- fearing it would enflame the passions of committed communists -- and the Orthodox Church refrained from becoming involved in the reburial debate because of the political overtones.

The body's removal would be one of the last stages in the gradual process of ridding the Kremlin of Lenin's presence since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

The ceremonial sentries who guarded the tomb were removed in 1993. The mausoleum is now often closed to the public, fueling speculation that the embalmed corpse is decaying.