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Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Vladimir Lenin for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, accusing the former communist leader of planting a "time bomb" under the state. The 63-year-old leader was responding to a question at an inter-party forum about the legacy of Lenin and the Communist Revolution of 1917.
Putin was critical of Lenin's arbitrary drawing of borders within the old USSR and his establishment of a federal state in which the constituent territories had the right to secede. "That right [to secession] was the time bomb planted under our statehood. This is what caused the country's eventual breakup," the Russian president was reported as saying by the state-owned Tass news agency.
Lenin, who laid the foundation for the Soviet Union as a one-party communist state, is the subject of much historical debate. He led the Russian – and later Soviet – government from 1917 to 1924, generating mass social upheaval to recreate Russia.
Putin denounced Lenin's backing for the purge of Tsar Nicholas II's royal family, the clergy and political opponents during the Red Terror of 1917-18.
"Why did they kill Dr Botkin (the royal family's doctor), why did they kill the servants, people of proletarian origin by and large? What for? Just for the sake of concealing a crime," the Russian leader stated.
He also recalled the Bolsheviks' large concessions of territory to Germany in World War I, noting that Russia "lost to the loser country".
However, Putin was guarded when asked about the future of Lenin's body in Moscow's Red Square. A 2012 poll revealed more than half of Russians wanted his body to be removed from display at the mausoleum and laid to rest.
"The way I see it, this issue must be approached carefully. There should be no steps that might split our society," Putin said. "On the contrary, it should be consolidated."
Putin added that he still had a soft spot for socialist ideals and that he kept his USSR membership card at home. He went on to say that the Soviet communist system was ideologically sound but "the practical embodiment of these wonderful ideas in our country was very far from what the utopian socialists had proclaimed".