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Lenin's Mausoleum, Russia

Experienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyagerExperienced voyager Joshua Brook
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Lenin's Mausoleum has to be one of Moscow's most curious tourist attractions. Locals tend to regard it either as an awkward reminder of the country's communist past or a cherished relic of the good old days, but for visitors to the city it is not only one of Moscow's finest examples of Soviet architecture but it holds an endless fascination.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin has been described as not only the greatest revolutionary leader and statesman in history, but also the greatest revolutionary thinker since Karl Marx. Little in Lenin's childhood years seemed to point to his revolutionary destiny. He was born in the Russian town of Simbirsk (later renamed Ulyanovsk in his honor) in 1870 to a large, loving and very well educated family. He excelled in school and studied in both Kazan and at university in St. Petersburg before he became involved in underground revolutionary activity. These activities eventually led him into a 3-year exile in Siberia, but he continued his political agitation undeterred on his return. In 1903 he prompted a split between the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party at their Second Congress and following the February 1917 revolution, he returned to Petrograd (St Petersburg) from Zurich, and urged the immediate seizure of political power by the proletariat under the slogan "All Power to the Soviets'. In October 1917 he led the Bolshevik revolution and became head of the first Soviet government.

Having suffered numerous debilitating strokes and become more and more isolated from the political life of the country, Lenin finally died on January 21st 1924 in the town of Gorky. The leader's coffin was brought to Moscow two days later and placed in the Kremlin to allow members of the party to pay their final respects. The architect, Alexei Shchusev, after whom one of the city's architectural museums is now named, was commissioned to design and build a temporary mausoleum near the Kremlin walls, where Lenin's body would be placed until his funeral on January 27th. Shchusev's wooden structure was built in the shape of a cube; the symbol of eternity, and Lenin's body was placed in a glass sarcophagus past which thousands of people filed each day in mourning. Despite the objections of Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, the former leader's party colleagues saw a way to manipulate Lenin's death to their own political advantage and decided to attempt the embalming of his body. Shchusev designed a larger mausoleum, still made from wood but this time forming a stepped pyramid from the top of which party officials could gather and make speeches on important Soviet holidays. When it became apparent that the embalming process had been successful, Shchusev began work on a stone replica of the mausoleum, which was constructed between 1929 and 1930. The mausoleum is a step-pyramid of cubes faced with red granite and black labradorite. It bears the simple inscription "Lenin" over its bronze doors, which were originally flanked by a guard of honor, who changed every hour on the hour.

After Stalin's death in 1953 his body was also embalmed and put on display alongside Lenin's, but he was later removed in 1961 on the orders of Krushchev and buried by the Kremlin wall alongside various other significant party functionaries. Visitors should note that the mausoleum is only open in the mornings, when the rest of Red Square is cordoned off. After 1pm the mausoleum closes and the square is opened again to the public. More info on: www.moscow-taxi.com

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