Is Lenin's Corpse Really Still on Display?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

In 1924, the revered Russian political leader Vladimir Lenin died, ostensibly from the effects of several major strokes. A public outcry for the preservation of Lenin's corpse spurred the Bolshevik government to create a suitable mausoleum for public display. As architects scrambled to complete the mausoleum itself, several specialists worked under top secret conditions to embalm the body. The results of their work was said to be one of the finest examples of preservation ever attempted on a human body.

Lenin's corpse is on display in Moscow's Red Square.
Lenin's corpse is on display in Moscow's Red Square.

Lenin's corpse went on public display by 1925, in a fairly small but stately mausoleum located on Red Square, the public courtyard outside the Kremlin in Moscow. Thousands of Russians filed through the mausoleum to catch a very quick glimpse of the corpse as it lay in state. Under Communist rule, visitors to Lenin's mausoleum were under constant scrutiny by armed guards. Any signs of disrespect or inappropriate behavior while in the presence of Lenin's body would not be tolerated.

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, some have questioned the need to display the corpse of Vladimir Lenin.
Since the fall of Communism in 1989, some have questioned the need to display the corpse of Vladimir Lenin.

During World War II, the preserved corpse was removed from Red Square for safekeeping, but it was returned within a few years. For a short time in the mid-1950s, the less-preserved body of Josef Stalin was also placed in the mausoleum. This may have been seen as a cruel joke to Lenin's supporters, since Lenin had tried to remove Stalin from power as early as 1922. Stalin's body was later removed from Lenin's mausoleum and cremated elsewhere.

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, some have questioned the need to maintain Lenin's corpse as a symbol of a repressive system. Many older Russians and tourists still visit the body as part of a larger pilgrimage to the Kremlin and Red Square, but visiting hours have been curtailed in recent years. Lenin's corpse is periodically removed for inspection and reparations, and some visitors have noted a wax-like quality to its visible portions, primarily his head and hands. This could indicate that the actual corpse has been replaced with a wax sculpture, or the embalmers have made a number of significant adjustments to the original body.

Lenin's corpse is indeed still on display in his mausoleum in Red Square, and visitors still file by during visiting hours. Whether or not they are seeing the actual body of Vladimir Lenin or a wax substitute is still up for debate, although the preservation technique used to stabilize it has also been used to preserve the bodies of other Communist leaders such as Mao Zedong of China and Kim Il Sung of North Korea.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


Lenin wasn't a killer? Nicholas II would disagree with that.


I visited this display a few days ago. Is it real? I doubt it, but I am not a expert. In this day and age is it needed. To me, it's just a con to keep the Russian people hanging on to something.


Lenin was a great leader, great revolutionary and great visionary. What he did for society was great and unmatchable. I hope Lenin is born again in 21st century to save the world.


Lenin was not a killer. He wanted a classless society that brings hardworking people together. Lenin helped Russia get away from the more primitive ways and saved lives in World War I. Lenin is a hero of Russia. Who knows what Russia would be without him? Lenin has the right to be seen by the people that love him and want their children to see a real hero. But Stalin was a killer.


His body was recently exhumed. They found evidence Stalin poisoned him.


Lenin was a mass murderer whose brutal dictatorship gave rise to further brutal dictatorships, which indeed threatened for fifty years to destroy civilisation as we know it and in its place establish similar monstrosities. They nearly succeeded, and for half a century the people of Eastern Europe were slaves to a system that offered them nothing.

It’s time to burn that shameful corpse in the crematorium of a former gulag and in the mausoleum establish a memorial to the 120 million victims of Marxist philosophy in the 20th century. Over the doorway, where now the name “Lenin” is displayed, in letters five feet high write "never again."


Lenin was not killed for or by Stalin, although his paranoid nature would fit this conclusion. Rather, Lenin's death was caused by complications from strokes {he suffered from three} and the hardening of his arteries. As far as I know, assassins don't cause strokes.

As far as his body is concerned, wax sculpture has only really advanced to the point of this level of deception within, I'd estimate, the last ten years. I suppose it would be entirely plausible that his real body was replaced, but I find it more plausible that it is still Lenin's actual corpse. The embalming techniques used on Lenin originally were kept very secret, and it was speculated that there was some sort of peroxide in the solution as his skin was very white. There was an amazing technique used on Eva Peron when she died that replaced all of the water from her body with wax. It leaves the body in miraculous condition and does not need any sort of aftercare. This technique, however, does have a slight waxy look to it, so this could very well be what happened to Lenin's body to explain the waxiness.

That or they really screwed up when doing some maintenance and had to replace some things with wax versions.


I think that they keep a wax figure on display to make money off of it. It is a good idea, but deceptive. The actual Lenin is probably deteriorated and buried. This practice is much like the old usage of relics, which usually weren't what they were cut out to be.


It is possible that Stalin may have had Lenin killed after Lenin began to show misgivings about Stalin. Stalin was a very paranoid leader, and in comparison to him, Lenin was an angel. Lenin recognized that Stalin had some very serious combative psychological disorders and was seeking to create an environment of fear, which he very effectively did after the death of Lenin. It is no surprise that Russians would have shown a nostalgia for the less-than-perfect Lenin.

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