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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lenin Visits Yeltsin's Gorky in Haunting 'Kukly'

Lonely and tormented, Boris Yeltsin wrestles with the ghosts of communist leaders haunting his Gorky-9 country home. From a corner, his chief serenades him toward death with a somber Beethoven piano melody. NTV's popular program "Kukly," or Puppets, marked the president's 66th birthday Saturday with a cutting satire comparing Yeltsin's "working convalescence" at Gorky-9 with communist state founder Vladimir Lenin's isolation in the months before his 1924 death. Intrigue abounds, and his allies use him only for their own ends.

The satire, using Kukly's trademark rubber puppets, opens with Yeltsin pointing at an old sepia photograph of Lenin in a wheelchair at his country estate, which was also called Gorky. Beside Lenin, amid the snow, sits the scheming Josef Stalin.

"Listen Anatoly, did he live long here?" Yeltsin asks his aide, Anatoly Chubais, in a plaintive voice.

"They don't live very long here," Chubais replies wistfully.

"What?" an alarmed Yeltsin asks.

"Well, they relax, and then they return to the Kremlin to active work," Chubais adds, slyly.

Yeltsin, recovering from heart surgery and pneumonia, is relieved and sighs at the prospect of active work. "So much to do," he says.

The unfortunate coincidence of names in Yeltsin's residence and the estate where Lenin spent his last days, isolated and at the mercy of those -- especially Stalin -- who controlled access to him, has not been lost on Russia's media.

Opponents portray Yeltsin as too weak to rule, a man brazenly manipulated by a regent Chubais.

Yeltsin, wrapped in a heavy scarf and looking up from a volume of Lenin's works, winces at an image of the bearded Bolshevik leader, beckoning him from his wheelchair beneath a snow-spattered arcade of trees outside.

"Anatoly, do you believe in ghosts?" His voice quivers.

"The ghosts of communism? That's all rubbish."

"I tell you," says Yeltsin, wheezing. "He's here."

"One last question, Anatoly, then I won't bother you any more," says the former communist party politburo member, after a pause. "Why is it called Gorky-9?"

"Count for yourself."

Yeltsin counts on his fingers the leaders who have passed through Gorky, from Lenin and Stalin to Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Chernenko. "And then that windbag," says Yeltsin in a reference to his enemy Mikhail Gorbachev. "Eight, and then me."

Later in conversation with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin is startled to see him turn into Stalin and begin talking in his characteristic Georgian accent.

"Don't worry," Stalin says, in words he would have used with Lenin. "Just sit here in deepest Gorky and get better, if you can."