One of the few features of Communism that can induce a smile is how reputations and monuments have to change in conformity with the party line. So yesterday’s Supreme Leader is transformed on the spot into today’s great monster. They made it harder for themselves in the old Soviet Union by embalming Lenin and Stalin and exhibiting them in a mausoleum on the edge of Red Square in Moscow. Stalin was put there in a mass ceremony that got so out of control that about 500 of the faithful were trampled to death. Side by side, the two were the same sinister color, giving rise to repeated rumors that they were actually waxworks. A few years later, Stalin was held to have perverted Leninist Communism, and his corpse was surreptitiously removed and buried elsewhere. “To each his mausoleum” is a slogan that has continued to fit Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh.
After the Soviet collapse, Bulgarians exceptionally vandalized the mausoleum erected in central Sofia for Georgi Dimitrov, once the head of the Comintern. The place became a dump. Boris Yeltsin as president of newly minted Russia tried to turf out Lenin but couldn’t manage it. Now Vladimir Medinsky has his turn. As the minister of culture just appointed by a Vladimir Putin claiming freehold rights to the Kremlin, he proposes to rebury Lenin and convert the Red Square mausoleum into a museum for some unspecified purpose. As befits present-day practice, however, entrance tickets will be expensive. Putin maintains in public that the Soviet collapse has been a world disaster. Spokesmen in the opposition wonder whether Medinsky and Putin aren’t playing games. Until such time as Putin ceases to believe that the Soviet collapse has been a world disaster, Lenin is sure to go on making the flesh of Red Square visitors creep.