A top Russian Orthodox official has suggested that a referendum might be the right way to decide the fate of Vladimir Lenin's body, Russian news agencies reported Wednesday. ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti quoted Metropolitan Kirill as saying that the question of whether the founder of the Soviet Union should be moved from his Red Square mausoleum was "strongly politicized" and care should be taken not to "inflame passions."
"From the point of view of Christians, Jews or Muslims, each dead person should be buried," Kirill was quoted as saying. "But the history of reburial of Lenin is strongly politicized and many people react very dramatically to even the very possibility of burial," he was quoted as saying.
The question, he said, deserved "political analysis, consultation with the main political forces, possibly requiring a referendum," ITAR-Tass reported.
"It makes sense for the question to be asked whether 2005 or 2006 serves as the correct moment to (hold a vote)," he said. "Our society is strained by conflicts. It's necessary to do everything to consolidate society and not disrupt harmony," the agencies quoted him as saying.
The comments by Kirill, who heads the Russian church's foreign relations department, were the latest by top Russian political leaders and influential social figures weighing in on the question of burying Lenin's body.
In recent weeks, two government officials with close ties to President Vladimir Putin publicly suggested that Lenin be removed from Red Square. In 2001, the Russian president publicly said he opposed the burial, but has said little during this most recent debate.
Communists are vehemently opposed to any such move. Lenin himself said he wanted to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg. Kirill's comments also appear to be a softening of the church's position. In 1997, Patriarch Alexy II said he opposed holding a referendum on the fate of Lenin's body, saying Russian society was still struggling to come to terms with its Soviet past, reports the AP. I.L.