It’s well known in Russia that Vladimir Lenin didn’t want a mausoleum, and that his relatives, at the time of his death, were against a ghoulish display of Communist pride, or in fact any monument whatsoever. Think Ivan cared!?!? Nyet!!! Lenin was placed in a display chamber and preserved for future generations.
At least since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the anniversary of Lenin’s death on January 21 has prompted annual debate over whether Lenin should continue to be preserved, or be placed in a grave. Before 1991, the preservation of Lenin’s body was maintained by funding from the Russian government; since then, it’s been supported by private donations.
Yahoo News now reports that an online poll resulted in 70% of Russians voting supporting the removal and burial of Lenin’s body. Which I wouldn’t take too seriously, since the vote was at goodbyelenin.ru. Kinda stacks the deck, if you know what I mean. But that reminded me about the brain fry I experience every time I realize that, 87 years after his death, Lenin’s body is preserved and you can go see it.
How does that work? Wikipedia has the answer:
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.
…The Mausoleum is open every day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, except Mondays and Fridays. Visitors still wait in long lines to see Lenin’s body, for which entrance is free of charge. 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.