Working With Us | Products | Case Studies | FAQ | About Online Media

What Oh What is To Be Done?


He’d make a lovely corpse. – Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

It is an opportunity foregone and it is likely that no one regrets it more than Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin. Especially when he considers the more likely alternative.

Since his death in 1924, Lenin has received more tender care than most of us receive during our lives. For the last 81 years he has been enshrined in a mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow where his every wish has been his corpse tenders’ command. They check on his health on a twice-weekly basis, administering a touch of refreshing embalming lotion with each visit. Every 10 years they take him from his resting place and give him a bath. It is not, for obvious reasons, the kind of a scrubbing bath mother gave us on Saturday nights. Instead, Lenin is undressed and immersed in a bath of embalming compound where he remains for one month. This insures his remains remain fresh and attractive for the visitors he entertains each day. Every four or five years a commission of senior scientists performs a thorough inspection, taking small samples of skin for testing and checking the body with devices designed to spot the smallest change in size or tint.

Notwithstanding the attention, life after death in the mausoleum has not been all peaches and cream. From 1924 until 1953, Lenin was lonely. Even though millions of people regularly trooped through the mausoleum, none of them was permitted more than a minute or so in front of his corpse and that was hardly enough to permit any reminiscing with visitors. In 1953, however, a happy event occurred. Josef Stalin died.

Shortly after Stalin’s death, he was placed in the mausoleum with Lenin and time passed much more quickly since Lenin had someone with whom he could share recollections of the good old days. Sadly for Lenin, their association was short lived. In 1961 Stalin’s life and corpse fell into disgrace. Stalin was removed from the mausoleum and buried in the Kremlin wall. Lenin was alone again. Then really bad things happened. The Soviet Union ceased to exist and Lenin was no longer the hero he had once been.

In 1993 the honor guard that had stood patiently outside his tomb for years, was removed. The long lines of visitors disappeared. Newlyweds no longer considered a visit to the corpse a requirement for a happy marriage. And, worst of all, talk was rampant that something must be done with the body. Lenin’s place of honor was in peril. And then an offer was made that if accepted would have guaranteed Lenin a bright future. It came from an unlikely source: the Neighborhood Association of Parla, a working class suburb of Madrid, Spain.

There are apparently few tourist attractions in Parla. The Neighborhood Association let it be known that it would be happy to have Lenin’s corpse come live with them, believing that it would serve as a tourist attraction that would bolster the local economy.

Although Lenin might not have fancied leaving Red Square where he had lived as an icon in order to go to Spain as a tourist attraction, he might have preferred that to being buried six feet under where no one except creepy crawly things would be his visitors – for a bit longer than the minute or two permitted his human visitors. Nothing came of Parlas’s offer, however, and now, 15 years later, those in charge in Russia have resurrected the question of burial.

Georgi Poltavchenko who first raised the prospect of Lenin’s removal from the mausoleum was quoted in the New York Times as saying: “Our country has been shaken by strife but only a few people were held accountable for that in our life time. I do not think it is fair that those who initiated the strife remain in the center of our state near the Kremlin.”

If the decision to remove Lenin from the mausoleum is made, the question to be addressed is where will he now go? Parla is probably out. Nikita Mikhalkov, director of the Russian Cultural Foundation, said Lenin had expressed a wish prior to his death, to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg’s (formerly Leningrad) Peter and Paul Cathedral. Lenin knows that she is not there alone. It may come as a shock to him to learn who one group of inhabitants is, since there is no chance they’d be there had he had anything to say about it.

On the 90th anniversary of the deaths of Czar Nicholas II and his family, they were interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral. If Lenin joins his mother, the two families will end up spending eternity cheek by jowl. It would be fun to see their faces when they find out.

Editor’s note:This post was written by Christopher Brauchli but published, for technical reasons, by Spot-on editor Chris Nolan.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 7:21 PM | Permalink

<< Back to the Spotlight blog

Chris Nolan's bio
Email Chris Nolan

Get Our Weekly Email Newsletter

What We're Reading - Spot-On Books

Hot Spots - What's Hot Around the Web | Promote Your Page Too

Spot-on Main | Pinpoint Persuasion | Spotlight Blog | RSS Subscription | Spot-on Writers | Privacy Policy | Contact Us