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BBC Radio 3 to broadcast programme about Highgate Cemetery’s ‘most recognisable grave’

PUBLISHED: 18:03 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 18:25 15 August 2017

The unveiling of the famous Karl Marx grave, in 1956, will feature in a BBC Radio 3 programme about the fate of the philosopher's grave.

The unveiling of the famous Karl Marx grave, in 1956, will feature in a BBC Radio 3 programme about the fate of the philosopher's grave.

Archant

The final resting place of Karl Marx is reputed to be one of the most recognisable graves in the world and will soon be the focus of a BBC Radio 3 documentary.

Aleksei Kosygin, Soviet Union Premier, visits Marx's grave in 1967. Aleksei Kosygin, Soviet Union Premier, visits Marx's grave in 1967.

At his graveside eulogy in 1883 fellow philosopher and co-author of the Communist Manifesto, Friedrich Engels, said: “On the 14th March at a quarter to three in the afternoon the greatest living thinker ceased to think”.

Marx died at his Kentish Town home at 41 Maitland Park Road and was buried days later in a three guinea family plot with his wife Jenny von Westpahlen who died 15 months earlier.

Although the Prussian-born theorist’s death was reported in the press, there was only a low-key gathering of friends and family. But no one there on that spring day could have predicted the bizarre fate of Marx’s grave.

Now Radio 3 presenter Alan Dein and producer Mark Burman are calling for people to share their memories of visiting the grave or living near Highgate Cemetery.

Sculptor Laurence Bradshaw working on the Marx headstone. Sculptor Laurence Bradshaw working on the Marx headstone.

Mr Burman said: “This is our way of marking the Russian Revolution and its key intellectual wellspring not to mention icon. We are now planning to go to Chemnitz in Germany to hear stories of living with the vast bust of Marx erected in the 70s, a very different space and place to the leafy quiet of Highgate!”

Mr Dein added: “We wanted to do a programme a bit different. It’s about the impact of having this grave in the area. There are a lot of twists and turns in the grave’s story that are really interesting.

“It’s a local story as well as a global one,” Mr Dein added.

A year after the burial news of a mass, Communist led procession from central London to the grave shocked Highgate Cemetery into locking its gates and so began the pilgirmages which have included Russian and Communist delegations from the world over, including Vladimir Lenin.

In the 1920s Russia’s Soviet government even peitioned the British calling for Marx to be disinterred and sent to Moscow for burial beside Lenin.

Marx’s descendants, the Longuets family, refused. and after World War Two the grave’s caretakers, the Marx Memorial Library, decided the philosopher would have a new grave.

In the dead of night in 1954, Marx and Jenny, along with their grandson and housekeeper, all buried in the same plot, were secretly disinterred and reburied on the eastern side of Highgate Cemetery with sculptor Laurence Bradshaw’s famous Marx headstone unveiled in 1956.

To share your experiences email alan.dein@bbc.co.uk and mark.burman@bbc.co.uk. The Plot for Karl Marx airs on Between the Ears on Saturday, November 18.

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