Last week, while in Nanjing, I gave a lecture on the veneration of Lenin after his death. I ended by pointing to the increase in support for the Russian communist party over recent years, and the increasing stature of Lenin (and Stalin) in these times. During a lively and fascinating discussion afterwards, someone asked whether that popularity was merely nostalgia among the older generation, the one that can remember what life was like. I responded by pointing out that the support is actually quite strong among young people, and told a story of two of my own experiences in this regard – drinking toasts to the USSR and so on with groups of 20-somethings.
As we finished the session, a young woman came up to me, a postgraduate student, and said:
‘Many young people in China venerate Mao’.
‘You too?’ I said.
‘Of course’, she smiled. ‘We venerate him more than our parents do’.
‘Yes’, I said, ‘That explains a lot. I visited the Mausoleum last year and I was stunned at how many young people were present. In fact, the majority of the thousands there, on a regular weekday, were in their teens and twenties’.
‘I have been twice’, she said.