Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin for placing a "time bomb" under the state, and denounced brutal repressions by the Bolshevik government.

The harsh criticism of Lenin, who is still revered by communists and many others in Russia, is unusual for Putin, who in the past carefully weighed his comments about the nation's history to avoid alienating some voters.

Putin's assessment of Lenin's role in Russian history during Monday's meeting with pro-Kremlin activists in the southern city of Stavropol was markedly more negative than in the past.

He denounced Lenin and his government for brutally executing Russia's last czar along with all his family and servants, killing thousands of priests and placing a "time bomb" under the Russian state by drawing administrative borders along ethnic lines.