Lenin Mausoleum


Lenin Mausoleum

Except for a brief interval during World War II, when his body was evacuated to the Urals, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924) has lain in state here since his death. His body is said to be immersed in a chemical bath of glycerol and potassium acetate every 18 months to preserve it. Whether it's really Lenin or a wax look-alike is probably one of those Russian mysteries that will go down in history unanswered. From 1924 to 1930 there was a temporary wooden mausoleum, which has been replaced by the pyramid-shaped mausoleum you see now. It's made of red, black, and gray granite, with a strip of black granite near the top level symbolizing a band of mourning. Both versions of the mausoleum were designed by one of Russia's most prominent architects, Alexei Shchusev, who also designed the grand Kazansky train station.

In the Soviet past, there were notoriously endless lines of people waiting to view Lenin's body, but this is now rarely the case, although if a large tourist group has just encamped the wait may be long. Now only the curious tourist or the ardent Communist among Russians visits the mausoleum. A visit to the mausoleum, however, is still treated as a serious affair. The surrounding area is cordoned off during visiting hours, and all those entering are observed by uniformed police officers. It's forbidden to carry a camera or any large bag. The interior of the mausoleum is cold and dark and it's considered disrespectful to put your hands inside your pockets (the same applies when you visit an Orthodox church).

Outside the mausoleum you can look at the Kremlin's burial grounds. When Stalin died in 1953, he was placed inside the mausoleum alongside Lenin, but in the early 1960s, during Khrushchev's tenure, the body was removed and buried here, some say encased in heavy concrete. There is discussion almost every year of finally burying Lenin as well, and though this would still be a controversial move in today's Russia, momentum has steadily been gaining for the mausoleum to be closed. Also buried here are such Communist leaders as Zhdanov, Dzerzhinsky, Brezhnev, Chernenko, and Andropov. The American journalist John Reed, friend of Lenin and author of Ten Days That Shook the World, an account of the October revolution, is buried alongside the Kremlin wall. Urns set inside the wall contain ashes of the Soviet writer Maxim Gorky; Lenin's wife and collaborator, Nadezhda Krupskaya; Sergei Kirov, the Leningrad Party leader whose assassination in 1934 (believed to have been arranged by Stalin) was followed by enormous purges; the first Soviet cosmonaut, Yury Gagarin; and other Soviet eminences.


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