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On this day: Russia in a click

RIA Novosti / STF RIA Novosti / STF

23 January

On January 23, 1924, a decision was made to build a tomb on Red Square for Vladimir Lenin. In the middle of the night, architect Aleksey Shchusev received an urgent call from the government ordering him to create a tomb for Lenin in three days.

Lenin died on January 21, 1924, and the Funeral Commission was created the night afterwards. The Commission concluded that Lenin’s lying-in-state should be a week long or more, so people from all over the Soviet Union could have the time to say their last goodbye to him. Therefore, the Commission decided to embalm the body to prevent it from decay until the burial. They invited the famous pathologist, Professor Aleksey Abrikosov, to do the embalmment. At that time there was no talk about keeping Lenin’s body unburied forever, and the Mausoleum was supposed to be built above Lenin’s grave.

On January 23, the Commission transported the coffin with Lenin’s body to Moscow and put it on display. The hall stayed open 24 hours, and hundreds of people filed through there day and night. The government began to receive letters requesting the postponement of the burial – everybody wanted to pay their respects. The workers of the Putilov Plant asked the government to “make Lenin physically stay with us”, and the railroad men from Kiev begged to “keep the body of our dear Vladimir Ilyich intact for a thousand years.”

On January 24, the government decided to meet the demands of the public and to keep the coffin in the Mausoleum, accessible for visiting, as long as possible. All Lenin’s relatives, except his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, opposed this idea, but their opinions did not affect anything.

On January 27, the first Mausoleum opened its doors for visitors. It was a wooden building, shaped like an Egyptian pyramid. In the next two months, about 100,000 people visited it. In March 1924, however, the Mausoleum was closed and two specialists, Boris Zbarsky and Vladimir Petrovich Vorobyov, embalmed Lenin’s body one more time. At first, they wanted to resort to freezing, but having done the research, they rejected this method – the accidental shutdown of the freezing machines could do irreparable damage to the body. The ancient Egyptian method of embalmment was also not suitable, because it could distort Lenin’s facial features. So Zbarsky and Vorobyov invented their own unique method, based on soaking the body in special liquids, including ethanol and glycerin.

Vorobyov and Zbarsky were not sure of success. Vorobyov was frightened and scolded Zbarsky for getting both of them involved in working with Lenin’s body. However, the government commission was pleased with the results of their work, and on July 26, the Mausoleum opened again.

The stone Mausoleum was built in 1929. It was a copy of the first wooden Mausoleum, made of granite, labradorite and porphyry. On both sides of the building were built tribunes that could host 10,000 guests. Until 1997, the Mausoleum itself had been used as a tribune for the representatives of the government.

At the beginning of World War II on July 3, 1941, Lenin’s body was evacuated from Moscow to the city of Tyumen in Siberia via an individual carriage on a train. The guards and scientists, who looked after Lenin’s body, sat in other carriages of the locomotive, and one carriage was full of equipment and chemicals. In Tyumen the staff kept the body in a special bath in the building of the Agricultural Academy. After the war, Lenin was returned to the Mausoleum.

In 1953, when Stalin died, his body was also added to the Mausoleum. In 1961, however, during Khrushchev’s famous De-Stalinization campaign, the Party decided that the presence of Stalin’s body in the Mausoleum was inappropriate, and he was removed, leaving Lenin once again alone.

There were several attempts against Lenin’s body. The first one took place in 1934, when a worker called Mitrofan Nikitin tried to shoot at the body. When the guards caught him, he killed himself. The guards found a letter to the government in his pocket saying that people could not live under Soviet power anymore.

In July 1960, the glass of Lenin’s coffin was broken by another “terrorist”. In September 1967, a bomb exploded before the door of the Mausoleum, killing several people.

In 1973, an unknown criminal exploded a home-made bomb inside the Mausoleum. The coffin was covered with bulletproof glass, however, so the criminal did not manage to do any harm to the body. Some people associate the Mausoleum with black magic. They say that the Mausoleum is full of evil energy, and it is dangerous to visit it, or even come near it. Nowadays, the government often discusses whether or not to bury Lenin. Many religious factions, in particular, think that Lenin should be committed. Until they make their decision, Lenin’s body will continue to lie in the Mausoleum. The specialists who look after Lenin’s body say that, with the right care, the body can remain as it is for another hundred years.