Lenin's Mausoleum

Lenin's Mausoleum (Russian: Мавзоле́й Ле́нина; Mavzoléy Lénina) also known as Lenin's Tomb, situated in Red Square in the center of Moscow, is the mausoleum that serves as the current resting place of Vladimir Lenin. His embalmed body has been on public display there since shortly after his death in 1924 (with rare exceptions in wartime). Aleksey Shchusev's diminutive but monumental granite structure incorporates some elements from ancient mausoleums, such as the Step Pyramid and the Tomb of Cyrus the Great.

History
Lenin's death and final dispositions

Soon after January 21, 1924, the day that Lenin died, the Soviet government received more than 10,000 telegrams from all over Russia, which asked the government to preserve his body somehow for future generations. On the morning of January 23, Professor Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov—a prominent Russian pathologist and anatomist (not to be confused with physicist Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov, his son)— embalmed Lenin's body to keep it intact until the burial. On the night of January 23, architect Aleksey Shchusev was given a task to complete within three days: design and build a tomb to accommodate all those who wanted to say their goodbyes to Lenin. On January 26, the decision was made to place the tomb in Red Square by the Kremlin Wall. By January 27, Shchusev built a tomb out of wood and at 4 p.m. that day they placed Lenin's coffin in it. More than 100,000 people visited the tomb within a month and a half. By August 1924, Shchusev upgraded the tomb to a bigger version. The architect Konstantin Melnikov designed Lenin's sarcophagus.

In 1929, it was established that it would be possible to preserve Lenin’s body for a much longer period of time. Therefore, it was decided to exchange the wooden mausoleum with the one made of stone (architects Aleksey Shchusev, I.A. Frantsuz, and G.K. Yakovlev). Marble, porphyry, granite, labradorite, and other construction materials were used. In October 1930, the construction of the stone tomb was finished. In 1973, sculptor Nikolai Tomsky designed a new sarcophagus.

The body was removed in October 1941 and evacuated to Tyumen, in Siberia, when it appeared that Moscow might be in imminent danger of falling to invading Nazi troops. After the war, it was returned and the tomb reopened.

On January 26, 1924, the Head of the Moscow Garrison issued an order to place the Guard of Honour at the mausoleum. Russians call it the "Number One Sentry". After the events of the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993, the Guard of Honour was disbanded. In 1997 the "Number One Sentry" was restored at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden.

More than 10 million people visited Lenin's tomb between 1924 and 1972.

Joseph Stalin's embalmed body shared a spot next to Vladimir Lenin, from the time of his death in 1953 until October 31, 1961, when Stalin was removed as part of de-Stalinization and Khrushchev's Thaw, and buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis outside the walls of the Kremlin.

Lenin's body was to have been transferred to the Pantheon upon its completion but the project was cancelled in the aftermath of de-Stalinization.

Preserving the body

The family of Lenin's embalmers states that the corpse is real and requires daily work to moisturise the features and inject preservatives under the clothes. Lenin's sarcophagus is kept at a temperature of 16 °C (61 °F) and kept at a humidity of 80 - 90 percent. The chemical used was referred to by the caretakers as "balsam", which was glycerine and potassium acetate. Every eighteen months the corpse is removed and undergoes a special chemical bath. The chemicals were unknown until after the fall of the Soviet Union, kept secret by authorities. The bath consists of placing the corpse in a glass bath with potassium acetate, alcohol, glycerol, distilled water, and as a disinfectant, quinine. This was the process used for all subsequent treatments of Lenin's body and continues to be used even now.

One of the main problems the embalmers faced was the appearance of dark spots on the skin, especially on the face and hands. They managed to solve the problem by the use of a variety of different reagents in between baths. For example, if a patch of wrinkling or discoloration occurred it was treated with an acetic acid diluted with water. Hydrogen peroxide could be used to restore the tissues' original colouring. Damp spots were removed by means of disinfectants like quinine or phenol.

Until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 the continued preservation work was funded by the Russian government. At that point the government discontinued financial support and now private donations support the preservation staff.

Lenin's Mausoleum today

The Mausoleum is open every day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, except holidays, Mondays and Fridays. Visitors still wait in lines to see Lenin's body although they are not as long as they once were. Entrance is free of charge. All items capable of recording video or audio as well as taking a picture are strictly forbidden inside the mausoleum. All electronic items must be checked in a nearby building containing lockers. Before visitors are allowed to enter the mausoleum, armed police or military guards search each visitor. Visitors are required to show respect while in the tomb; photography and videotaping inside the mausoleum are forbidden, as are talking, smoking, keeping hands in pockets, or wearing hats (if male). The mausoleum is still heavily guarded, although the Changing of the Guard has been moved to the Eternal Flame by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Since 1991, there has been some discussion about removing the Kremlin Wall Necropolis and burying Lenin's body. President Boris Yeltsin, with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, intended to close the tomb and bury Lenin next to his mother, Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova, at the Volkov Cemetery in Saint Petersburg; however, his successor, Vladimir Putin, opposed this, pointing out that a reburial of Lenin would imply that generations of citizens had observed false values during 70 years of Soviet rule.

In January 2011, the United Russia party created a website with voting on a question whether Lenin's body should be buried.

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