Deadly dilemma: where to bury a late dictator

Paris (AFP) –


Settling on a final resting place for deceased leaders, such as Spain's dictator Francisco Franco, has long been troublesome for many countries.

Spain on Thursday was exhuming Franco's remains from a grandiose state mausoleum near Madrid in order to rebury them at a more discreet spot.

Here are some similar cases from the past:

- Soviet Union: Joseph Stalin -

Following his death in 1953, Stalin was buried in the Moscow mausoleum of his predecessor, Vladimir Lenin.

Eight years later a process of "de-Stalinisation" was launched to dismantle the dictator's personality cult. His remains were quietly transferred to a more modest resting place near the Kremlin, which still attracts diehard communists.

- Albania: Enver Hoxha -

The authoritarian communist ruler of Albania for 40 years was buried as a national hero in the Martyrs' Cemetery in Tirana after his death in 1985.

But after the fall of communism, Hoxha's remains were exhumed in 1992 and transferred to an ordinary public cemetery in a suburb of the capital.

A pyramid-shaped complex in his honour served for a while as a cultural centre but today lies in ruins.

- Romania: Nicolae Ceausescu -

Communist dictator Ceausescu and his wife Elena were arrested after a popular uprising in 1989, summarily judged and executed by firing squad.

Amid fears their graves might be desecrated, they were surreptitiously buried at night under crosses bearing false names.

The bodies were exhumed in 2010 to dispel doubts about their identity and reburied at Ghencea cemetery in Bucharest, this time together.

Rising nostalgia for the communist era prompted some Romanians to visit the red marble grave in January 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of Ceausescu's birth.

- Iraq: Saddam Hussein -

The Iraqi president, who ruled from 1979, was arrested by US-led forces in 2003 who found him hiding down a hole north of Baghdad.

After his execution in 2006 for crimes against humanity, his body was buried in a mausoleum he had built for himself in the village where he was born outside the city of Tikrit.

The tomb became a place of remembrance for his family and supporters but around 2014 it was destroyed in mysterious circumstances.

Some suggested an attack by the Iraqi air force was responsible, while others said it had been blown up with dynamite.

The whereabouts of the body, including whether it remains in the ruins, is a subject of much speculation.

- Libya: Moamer Kadhafi -

Killed during the Libyan revolt in October 2011, the dictator for nearly 42 years was buried in a secret desert location after a religious ceremony.

The military said it wanted to avoid Kadhafi's gravesite becoming a rallying point for supporters.

One official said the aim was to follow the example of what happened to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, whose body disappeared after his suicide as Soviet troops stormed Berlin in 1945.