By Paul Goble
For a documentary film on the Valaam monastery, Vladimir Putin says that communism at the ideological level is “in fact” very similar to Christianity and that the veneration of Lenin’s body in the mausoleum on Red Square resembles the veneration of the remains of Christian saints by believers.
“Communist ideology is very much like Christianity in fact,” the Kremlin leader says. “Freedom, brotherhood, equality and justice all this is at the core of the Holy Scriptures. And what is the code of the builder of communism? This is sublimation and a primitive extract from the Bible. Nothing new was invented” (gazeta.ru/social/news/2018/01/14/n_11046320.shtml).
And as for Lenin’s body in the mausoleum, Putin asks, “How is this different from from the relics of saints for Orthodox or simply for Christians. I’m told: ‘No, in the Christian world, there is no such tradition. But isn’t there? Go to Mount Athos and look at the holy relics there and even here are the relics of Serhiy and German.”
On the one hand, Putin’s remarks are nothing but the latest iteration of the view, widespread among many, that communism from beginning was a modernized and secularized version of Christianity. Some, for example, have even referred to Karl Marx as “the last great Catholic priest.
But on the other and more seriously, they are part and parcel of Putin’s efforts to overcome divisions in Russian history by presenting the two sides of many conflicts, in this case between the faithful and the Soviet dictatorship, as in fact simply two facets of one and the same thing, trivializing fundamental differences in the name of promoting political unity.