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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bill Forbids Red Square Alterations

The tense debate over how Russia should view its Soviet past was brought back to life again when the State Duma passed a bill that effectively forbids the demolition of Lenin's mausoleum on Red Square.

Although there is no mention of the red granite and marble tomb in which the embalmed leader has lain since 1930, six years after his death, the bill insists that Red Square is "a symbol of the united peoples of the Russian Federation" and bans all reconstruction work that could destroy the "historical facade" of the square.

The Communist-dominated Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, approved the measure Friday, easily passing the required 226-vote mark with 280 deputies voting in favor. Only one voted against it and one abstained.

Those in favor included the Communist Party, its allies in the Agrarian and People's Power factions, and the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party.

If the bill is approved by the Federation Council, the upper house, it goes to President Boris Yeltsin to be signed into law. But Alexander Kotenkov, the president's representative to the Duma, said Yeltsin was likely to veto the bill, which he said may not comply with guidelines set by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"There are certain questions regarding the coordination of this document with UNESCO's position on places and buildings of historical or cultural worth," Itar-Tass quoted Kotenkov as saying.

He added that it was unclear how it would be possible to ascertain whether the historical appearance of Red Square had been altered.

"Who will lay down the rules relating to this kind of violation?" he said Friday.

The measure sparked controversy last time it came up for debate in June 1997. Although the Duma voted to endorse the legislation then, the Federation Council rejected it, demanding that a working committee be set up to clarify notions in the bill it called too vague.

Now the amended bill will go back to the Federation Council, but even with the changes the upper house is unlikely to pass it, liberal Deputy Konstantin Borovoi said Monday.

"It is quite obvious the law has political implications," Borovoi said. "I hope that the Federation Council will recognize that and dismiss the law entirely."