Russia, January 21, 1999
The Man behind all the MadnessJanuary 21, 1999, Itar-Tass News Agency
"Russia Marks Lenin's Death Anniversary With Mixed Feelings;"
By Andrey Yarushin, Olga Kostromina, Lyudmila Yermakova, Inna Zhukova
MOSCOW -- The Russian Orthodox Church is extremely cautious about the interment of the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin which has lain in the Mausoleum in Red Square for 75 years. Burying embalmed bodies appears to be at variance with Russian historical tradition, but the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Aleksiy of Moscow and All Russia, has repeatedly stressed that any radical measures in this case are inadmissible as they can spark instability in society in which many citizens still cherish communist ideas. Neither the Church, nor the state must undertake moves that would cause a rift, the Patriarch cautioned. Forcible measures can lead to confrontation in society, which would have particularly grievous consequences in conditions of on-going political confrontation of different political forces.
Despite recurring rumours, the body of Vladimir Lenin, who died 75 years ago at the age of 53 has been well preserved in the Mausoleum. It is unstained and it is not a wax work. Specialists of the Scientific centre of biological structures have been taking care of the body for 75 years, a unique experiment in conservation of the leader's body.
All through these years, specialists and researchers have regularly visited the Mausoleum to keep an eye on the body, cover the face with a special preparation to prevent the decomposition of the tissues, taking microscopic slices of skin for molecular studies and even bathing the body in a special solution and changing the clothes.
The Centre used to be a top-security scientific organisation, but at the beginning of the 1990s, the government funding ran out and the centre "entered the commercial world." A contract was signed with a funeral parlour for the provision of all services to prepare dead bodies for burial, including long-term embalming. The Institute which is in charge of keeping intact the body of Lenin has offered its embalming techniques for sale to whoever might wish to acquire them.
The institute has to its credit a number of prominent "clients" apart from the famous Russian leader. These include famous communist leaders Ho Chi Minh (North Vietnam), Klement Gotwald (Czechoslovakia), Agostino Neto (Angola).
The embalming principle applied by the Russian specialists does not turn the dead body into a mummy, it soaks the body in a special solution that does not change the appearance and tissues. The past decades have revealed that the embalming method devised by Professors Vorobev and Zbarskiy has no analogues in the world. Unfortunately, Itar-Tass has been unable to obtain a more detailed information as Centre director Valeriy Bykov declines to be interviewed by journalists for fear that his words can be "distorted or misquoted in some publications."
Lenin's boyhood home
All through the 1990s, debates have gone on in Russian society about the possibility of re-burying the body of Lenin in keeping with Christian tradition. However strange it may appear, these domestic debates about the possibility of burying the body of Lenin have been closely watched in many countries, particularly those in which the Soviet example was followed and the local communist leaders were embalmed for the laying in state in eternity: Mao Zedong in China, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Kim Il-song in North Korea. Any public "encroachment" on the mummified marxists is regarded their with great aversion, especially since decades after the body of Stalin was removed from the mausoleum in Red Square, first Bulgaria (in 1990) and then Angola (in 1992) buried the mummies of their national leaders Georgiy Dimitrov and Agostino Neto.
It is indicative that both countries made their decisions in response to pleas from the relatives of the deceased. In Vietnam, however, the politburo of the of the Central Committee of the Communist party of Vietnam did not fulfil Ho Chi Minh's last will: he had asked to be cremated and his ashes to be buried in three parts of the country. Russia, too, failed to fulfill Vladimir Lenin's last will: he had asked to be buried next to his mother's grave at St. Petersburg's Volkovo cemetery.
Eyewitnesses have testified that every leader's embalmed face had a serene and majestic expression. Probably because the mummies of Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Czechoslovak leader Klement Gottwald, Kim Il- song and even Guyana's leader Forbes Barnhem were created by Moscow specialists from the Scientific and technical centre of biological structures.
One of the Centre's leading specialists, Sergey Debov,admitted bitterly in his time that his unique profession "will probably disappear soon because it has no real future ahead." Indeed, it was rooted in a belief that the communist system was here for all eternity, but recent years have seen one state after another reject it. But the words "eternity" and "eternal peace" are hardly applicable to the body of Lenin which is expected twice every week and covered with the embalming liquid and once every 18 months is soaked in a bath with conservatives.
Whether Lenin's body will ever be buried is a moot question. It is up to the future generations of Russian people to decide at a time when debates will no longer spark so many negative emotions capable of upsetting political stability in the country.
Chairman of the Federation Council, or the upper house of Russian parliament, Yegor Stroyev said, "History will objectively evaluate Lenin, one of the greatest thinkers and revolutionaries." He told Itar-Tass that "Accents and emphasis in his historic role for Russia and the world will be put by the generations that will come later."
None of the world politicians has been pictured in such a great amount of post stamps and other philatelist items as Vladimir Lenin who died 75 years ago today. More than 1,000 post stamps,to say nothing about envelopes and picture cards depicting the man, have been put into circulation to date in nearly 20 countries of Europe, Asia, America and Africa, and their value is seen as growing by collectors worldwide. The last Chinese miniature of Lenin appeared on his birthday anniversary last year. The first post stamp featuring Lenin appeared on the day of his burial in 1924. It was followed by a picture card depicting Lenin in October of the same year. Both are now collector's items. Russian stopped printing post stamps, envelopes and picture cards with Lenin's image in 1992.