Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tsar, Lenin Should Be Laid to Rest

Two unburied corpses are haunting Russian political life, and both should be laid to rest as quickly as possible.


On one hand, moves are afoot to lay to rest the disinterred bones of Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, who was murdered by Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918. On the other, many would like to see the body of Vladimir Lenin, hero of the October Revolution, given a fitting burial.


The government this week indicated it was eager to do something about Nicholas, or at least the bones discovered in a swamp in Yeketerinburg, which DNA tests have identified as those of the tsar and his family.


Everyone agrees that if the bones discovered in 1991 are indeed the autocrat's, they should receive a fitting burial; but the power of the tsar as a symbol means that no one can agree how or when to do so.


The Russian Orthodox Church, which is considering sanctifying the bumbling monarch as a symbol of Russia's historical tragedy, is wary of the scientific findings about the tsar because they contradict a whole popular folklore about the macabre details of his murder.


For instance, the church is asking that scientists dismiss an apparently widely held belief that the tsar was killed as part of a Jewish ritual.


Even setting aside the church's agenda, the government will have to adjudicate a bizarre contest among three cities vying for the right to bury the tsar: Moscow, the nation's capital; St. Petersburg, the old imperial capital; and Yekaterinburg, which has little claim to the tsar except that he happened to be shot there.


The government has promised to answer all these questions by January. Perhaps then it can turn to burying Lenin, whose corpse lies in state on Red Square.


The mere suggestion of burying him appalls Communists who will be marching Friday to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution masterminded by Lenin; but it would delight liberals and President Boris Yeltsin, who see the embalmed corpse as a barbaric symbol of the Communist past.


Both Nicholas and Lenin are powerful ghosts that trouble the minds of Russians who seek a return to a dominant ideology, either of Orthodoxy or of Communism.


But Russia must draw a line under its ghastly history in a way that underscores its new pluralistic and humanistic ideals.


The tsar should be buried, perhaps on the 80th anniversary of his assassination next year, and he should be buried in St. Petersburg alongside the other members of his family. Lenin should also be interred, as evidence suggests he wanted, alongside his family in St. Petersburg.