The queue to see the original Communist leader snakes across Red Square, the wait seemingly as interminable as Lenin himself. Stick with it, though, and you'll be rewarded with a truly unique - albeit quite eerie - experience.
Lenin was entombed in a mausoleum almost immediately upon his death in 1924: the Soviet establishment keen to create a sense of myth; increase devotion amongst the population. This initial construction was of wood, however, and was replaced with the current, dramatic red and black marble monument in 1929.
We won't say too much about Lenin's actual appearance (although, having said that, don't go expecting a heart-stoppingly theatrical experience). Do expect, though, a suitable air of solemnity, reverence and austerity. Armed guards usher visitors around the central display, nudging, prodding and gesturing disapprovingly at any signs of enjoyment or disorder. This is not the time to linger - and whatever you do, don't put your hands in your pockets.
It's an entirely no-nonsense affair. However, the starkness of the situation only seems to add to the sense of history and importance. Absorb, reflect, contemplate and come to your own conclusions. Just make sure you don't miss this essential piece of Soviet history and Russian consciousness.
Vladimir Illyich Lenin - leader of the Bolshevik party during the October Revolution and subsequent founder of the USSR - died on 21January 1924, having suffered a stroke, as well as wounds sustained in various assassination attempts.
The impact of Lenin on the history of the Russian people cannot be overstated. Winston Churchill is said to have remarked of the leader:
"He alone could have found the way back to the causeway... The Russian people were left floundering in the bog. Their worst misfortune was his birth... their next worst his death."
Immediately after Lenin's death, renowned pathologist and anatomist Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov was engaged by the Soviet government to have the leader's body embalmed, to preserve it until burial. Architect Alexei Shuchusev was also immediately instructed by those at the top: to design, construct and open to the public a tomb for Lenin's body. Shuchusev fulfilled his instructions within a week, and a wooden mausoleum was erected on Red Square.
The popular reaction to Lenin's death has understandably been recounted in great detail by Soviet historians. It is claimed that over 1000,000 people made the journey to see Lenin's corpse during the first month and a half after his death. By August of that year, Shuchusev was forced to upgrade the tomb's design, to accommodate a greater capacity, such was the public's clamour to pay their respects.
During this time, it is said that the government received more than 10,000 telegrams from mourners, asking that Lenin's body be preserved for future generations. In 1929, it was finally established that this could be possible. As such, the wooden tomb was replaced by a marble structure, which was to be visited by over 10 million people over the subsequent half century.
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