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How Difficult Is It to Keep Lenin’s Body on Display?

Maintaining Lenin's body in a lifelike state is a complex scientific feat, involving a secretive embalming process repeated every two years. This preservation effort requires meticulous care and a dedicated team, reflecting the deep historical significance Russia places on this revolutionary figure. What are your thoughts on the lengths taken to preserve historical figures for posterity? Continue reading to join the conversation.

Vladimir Lenin, founding father of the Soviet Union, died in 1924 after suffering his third stroke at age 53. Thanks to a century of embalming efforts, he still looks (more or less) like he did when he was entombed in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square, and put on public display.

While online polls have found that more than 60 percent of Russians favor giving him a proper burial, leaders in the Kremlin continue his costly preservation. In fact, in 2016, the Russian government announced it would spend 13 million rubles (about $200,000 USD) a year to maintain the corpse. Scientists are constantly working hard to try to keep the body in good shape, including changing out embalming fluids every 18 months.

How they keep Lenin looking like Lenin:

  • To maintain Lenin's body, the mausoleum staff perform regular maintenance on the corpse. Specialists have preserved his skeleton and muscles, though some parts of the body have been replaced, including his eyelashes and a few patches of skin.

  • Some parts of Lenin's body have been reconstituted to restore the “original feel and appearance.” A moldable substance made of paraffin, glycerin and carotene replaced most of the skin fat in order to maintain the body’s original “landscape."

  • Lenin's brain was removed and analyzed at the Soviet Brain Institute. Some remnants are still preserved at the Neurology Centre at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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    • The annual cost of maintaining Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body is about $200,000; it has been on display since 1924.
      The annual cost of maintaining Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body is about $200,000; it has been on display since 1924.