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Life is fleeting, but a body can be on display forever
November 21, 2011 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Atlas Obscura provides a Guide to Communist Mummies, and there's plenty more online. Visit Lenin's Mausoleum, where he has been kept since 1924, defying his wishes to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg. He wasn't alone forever, as Stalin's body was kept in the mausoleum after his death in 1953, until his body was quietly removed in October, 1961. Just under eight years later, Hồ Chí Minh died, and against his wishes to be cremated, a very large state funeral was held and Uncle Ho's embalmed remains were placed in a mausoleum. Chairman Mao Zedong made A Proposal that all Central Leaders be Cremated after Death in 1956, but his wishes were overlooked when he died in 1976, and he joined the growing ranks of the preserved communist leaders in his own crystal casket, housed in a grand mausoleum.

If you're looking for more on the preservation of famous bodies, here's an interview with the doctor who leads the team who preserves Lenin's body and have helped with Hồ Chí Minh's body. If you're looking for more, here are pictures of Lenin's annual bath in a soup of formaldehyde, methanol and ethanol.

As of January 2011, the Kremlin decided to bury Lenin, claiming it is "just a question of when." In contrast, Hồ Chí Minh's body was inspected in 2009 by a joint team of Vietnamese and Russian embalmers. "The embalmers will evaluate the situation and status of the body of President Hồ Chí Minh and how to maintain the corpse in the years to come," said prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, in a statement at that time. In that linked article, various visitors stated that they were skeptical that the body on display was the same Uncle Ho from years prior. Mao's remains have been the subject of similar suspicions, with rumors of Mao's leaking corpse, or that he was replaced by a waxy body double following an extended period of renovation on his mausoleum in 1998.

Here's a longer list of once-pickled dictators, including a few more names and details than Atlas Obscura's article.
posted by filthy light thief (30 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really need a Che Tutankhamen T-shirt.
posted by JHarris at 11:23 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excellent. I was hoping someone would make this FPP — I find the topic fascinating, but rather ghoulish. There's quite a bit of history to Lenin's mausoleum and the preservation of his remains. Apparently, the remains are periodically restored by a team of experts. If you Google around, you can find photos in the Russian press of the body being handled, inspected, and soaked.
posted by Nomyte at 11:29 AM on November 21, 2011


Are you sure that Mao isn't just resting?
posted by Winnemac at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nomyte, there's some of that in the second link below the break, and there's also a linked WMV video, which appears to still be downloadable, but I didn't watch it.

I find it fascinating that a number of the preserved leaders wanted to be dead in peace. One common idea is that in his will, Ho Chi Minh stated his wish to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered in the hills of north, central, and southern Vietnam.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:37 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ummm... in the link for Chairman Mao's memorial (last link, above the fold), I'm pretty sure that second picture is the Lincoln Memorial.
posted by sbutler at 11:46 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


WE WILL WON'T BURY YOU!
posted by zamboni at 11:51 AM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Boy, the masses of the people sure do love to stuff their autocrats!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


You forgot Jeremy Bentham.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:54 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ummm... in the link for Chairman Mao's memorial (last link, above the fold), I'm pretty sure that second picture is the Lincoln Memorial.

The capitalist pigdog American Imperialists clearly stole their design from the great glorious leader.
posted by kmz at 11:58 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Once pickled dictators.

Will store for years in the basement, but check for mold on the lid before using.
posted by lstanley at 12:00 PM on November 21, 2011


Erp, I forgot to copy the second (and more interesting line) from Wikipedia: He said that he preferred cremation because it would be "more hygienic than burial and would also save land for agricultural purposes."

Instead: a giant stone structure with a few well-pruned ornamental plants in front.

MrMoonPie, I read about him on the modern mummies section of the Mummy wiki page, but didn't check out his personal page to see his Auto-Icon. I am both happy and sad that there is no picture of his "distastefully macabre [head] with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:02 PM on November 21, 2011


You know they were all winking when they said they wanted to be buried or cremated.
posted by longsleeves at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will store for years in the basement, but check for mold on the lid before using.

And what use might that be???
posted by indubitable at 12:17 PM on November 21, 2011


And what use might that be???

Don't tell me you've never seen Hollywood's blueprint for what to do in this situation, Weekend at Bernies?
posted by nomisxid at 12:35 PM on November 21, 2011


Another example of how Soviet technology just couldn't keep up with the west - communist mummies are clearly no match for neoconservative zombies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:40 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here are a couple of pictures of Jeremy Bentham's "distatefully macabre" head
posted by briank at 12:42 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chairman Mao entomed, or "peasant under glass" as we used to refer to him.
posted by charlesminus at 12:48 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does just having a fancy mausoleum count? Then don't forget Tito.
posted by princelyfox at 12:53 PM on November 21, 2011


How is this commie cult of personality any different than the cult of personality surrounding Lincoln, Jefferson, or Reagan?
posted by three blind mice at 12:57 PM on November 21, 2011


They have mummies.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:01 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'd still argue that the Egyptians were the best at it.
posted by infini at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2011


They have mummies.

You say that with the confidence, MrMoonPie, that you know for certain that conservatives have not mummified Reagan.
posted by three blind mice at 1:26 PM on November 21, 2011


Lincoln's funeral train was our first mourning by rail.
posted by nomisxid at 1:41 PM on November 21, 2011


An interesting footnote to Lenin: the first photo of his embalmed body ran in the late lamented Casket & Sunnyside (embalmers' trade mag), who managed to scoop even LIFE magazine by doing it.

Interesting the way certain groups deify their leaders. Is this done to fill some sort of religious vacuum?
posted by kinnakeet at 2:51 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once pickled dictators.
Will store for years in the basement, but check for mold on the lid before using.


I think we have a new assignment for Anthony Bourdain here!
posted by zomg at 3:11 PM on November 21, 2011


deify their leaders

I think you're begging the question here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:13 PM on November 21, 2011


Is this done to fill some sort of religious vacuum?

Yes. Revolutions that don't incorporate religion (or any other feature of civil society) absolutely must replace it with something else.
posted by SMPA at 4:14 PM on November 21, 2011


The phrase, "remains to be seen," always brings these guys to mind. And, of course, Snow White.

In future, perhaps plastination should be considered.
posted by 0rison at 7:20 PM on November 22, 2011


nomisxid: "Lincoln's funeral train was our first mourning by rail."

Could have gone worse.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:06 AM on December 14, 2011


Kim Jong-Il is under glass, perhaps to remain visible like his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2011


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