Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lenin - Lucky Stiff ?????

Vladimir Lenin, the founder of Soviet communism, has been dead for over 80 years, felled by a massive heart attack at the age of 53. Lenin died, aged 53, in 1924 after a series of strokes, he said that he wanted to be buried alongside his mother in St Petersburg, but Joseph Stalin, his successor, ignored the pleas of Lenin’s wife and insisted that he be embalmed and placed in a specially built mausoleum on Red Square, where he has lain in state since.

His successor, Josef Stalin, ordered doctors and scientists to find a way to preserve Lenin's body. They succeeded, and Vladimir Ilich Lenin still lies in a specially designed mausoleum on Red Square, where Russians and tourists alike come to see him.

Twice weekly, a group of elderly scientists visits Lenin's tomb off Moscow's Red Square to inspect his body. His glass coffin is opened, and his custodians dab embalming fluid onto his face and hands, the only visible parts of his body (the rest is covered by a suit, with a blanket over the legs).

Once every 18 months, the now 124-year-old Lenin spends about 60 days immersed in a glass tub of chemicals inside his red marble mausoleum residence. With watchful soldiers never far off, the scientists oversee the bath, in which the clear chemical solution penetrates the skin, assuring that, as in a living person, Lenin's body remains about 70 per cent liquid. Lenin's minders then hoist the body out of the tub onto a hospital stretcher and lay it out to rest for a few hours while the excess liquids drip off. When the body is dry, the scientists bind Lenin with rubber bandages to prevent leakage and put his clothes back on.

Just a few years ago, this procedure and the chemical solutions used in it--a mixture consisting mostly of glycerol and potassium acetate--were considered a top secret of the Kremlin. The 120 million visitors who had entered the mausoleum since 1924 could only guess whether the body was real or a wax doll, and if it was real, how it was maintained.

New clothes - including a trademark white spotted tie - are ordered for Lenin every three years

Mr Denisov-Nikolsky (one of the care takers) said the new suit would be Lenin's 10th during the 30 years in which he has been involved in preserving the body. He said that when Lenin was first buried in the Red Square's mausoleum, he was dressed in a military uniform. But shortly before the 1941-1945 war "someone decided that the uniform symbolised Lenin's militant character and totalitarian policy, and he was immediately dressed in civilian clothes", Mr Denisov-Nikolsky said.

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