Visiting Lenin

I have followed the many ranks of people who have gone to ogle at a dead man in a glass box. Not any dead man, granted, but the (in)famous Lenin, who’s image is all across the city.

What strikes you first, of course, is the imposing size of the mausoleum, the large, dark stone slabs and the minimalist, geometric style. Nice guards at the gate give away to frowning, serious guards inside, shushing any conversation, and hurrying you along, creating a feeling of rushed solemnity.

The man himself is also a surprise. Small, lying seemingly asleep, he looks like a wax statue from Madame Tussauds. The only thing I could think, as I walked around the glass coffin, was that small men have large power complexes…and immediately felt sacrilegious so attempted to look at the big hall, the minimal soviet symbolism (the use of red blocks, some common motifs on the coffin).

It was all over surprisingly quickly, especially when you take into account that there was barely anyone there. We felt rushed however, under the watchful gaze of the grim, uniformed men.

It is a bizarre experience. I don’t know what else to say.

4 thoughts on “Visiting Lenin

  1. I had a similar experience when I went to see Ho Chi Minh’s body in Hanoi in Vietnam. Interesting relationship with Russia – supposedly the body is sent there every so often for touch ups! Maybe a communist tradition..? Mao, Kim Jong-Il and Chavez have all been preserved in this way!

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    1. Weird! I did not know that this is not the only case of — well, almost mummification. Although I have heard that Lenin is also removed from display a few months every year to make sure he is kept in tip-top condition. To be honest, after walking past Jeremy Bentham in UCL every day for a year, I doubt that people would notice if they replaced the bodies with wax statues. I know that’s not the point, but it would have the same propaganda value.
      (In case you are not familiar with Bentham- his body is in a glass case in one of the entrance halls of the University, but his head has been replaced with a wax model because students from a rival university stole it (something like 100 years ago), played football with it and then put it on a spike. Since then the real head has been stored in a vault, rumour has it its not really something you want to see.)

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