Miéville returns to the dazzling reality of the events of 1917 and sees nothing inevitable about their eventual degradation
Gone are the days when visitors to the mausoleum in Red Square were forced to leave their cameras behind before being marshalled two-by-two in a tightly ordered queue that could take up to an hour to reach the cold cavern where Lenin’s body lies. Cameras are still not allowed inside but everything else is now different. A much smaller crowd ambles forward with big gaps in the line while stragglers pause to take selfies in front of the plinths that carry busts of former Soviet leaders. Having a snap of yourself beside Stalin is a particular favourite, whether out of respect for the dead dictator or because it is seen as an amusing thing to do.
Solemnity has been replaced by casual curiosity, just one among many signs of the confusion that today’s Russians feel over the legacy of the revolution of 1917. What is true for sightseers outside the Kremlin walls also applies to those who hold power within them. Vladimir Putin has not ordered Lenin to be properly buried, as many anti-Communists hoped would already have been done by Boris Yeltsin, but the current Russian strongman seems totally unsure how to mark the revolution’s centenary this October, or indeed whether to mark it at all. This is not really surprising for a man who started his career as a Soviet loyalist and public atheist, but now claims to be a Christian and has accused Lenin’s Bolsheviks of being enemies of the state for stabbing tsarist Russia in the back.