Lenin’s Mausoleum

Mavzolei Lenina

This memorial tomb serves as the resting place for the revolutionary leader and notable politician Vladimir Lenin. The first wooden Mausoleum was erected days after the Soviet leader died in 1924. It was designed by architect Alexey Shchusev and built in a great rush – the last nails were driven into the walls as the body was being placed in the mourning hall. Construction of the Mausoleum initially had a purely practical aim – to allow those who could not pay last tribute to Lenin before the official funeral. Low temperatures of that cold winter preserved the body in a relatively good condition, but the possibility of its further preservation was at first discussed only hypothetically, since the specialists could not guarantee that they would be able to prevent the body from irreversible changes.

Some historians believe that the idea of keeping Lenin’s body in the ‘incorruptible’ condition was used by Joseph Stalin, who wanted to create a sort of new religion for the proletariat. The idea of building a mausoleum incorporated not only the Christian tradition of worshiping the relics, but also the much older one of embalming the rulers’ bodies widely practiced in various ancient cultures (e.g. in Egypt). In 1930 the Mausoleum had undergone its third reconstruction, which gave it the today’s appearance. It was faced with stone, and new guest tribunes were built. In 1938-1939 the central tribune was constructed.

During World War II Lenin’s body was evacuated to Tumen. Between 1953 and 1961 Joseph Stalin’s body was also placed in the Mausoleum. The sarcophagus has been vandalized many times – stones were thrown at it, ink poured, it was even shot at, there have been demands to bury Lenin’s body. In 1973 a new bullet-proof sarcophagus was installed. A special embalming laboratory is ensuring the preservation of the body. Since 1924 two armed guards had been at watch by the Mausoleum doors at all times. The Number One Sentry’s guards were changed hourly according to the Kremlin chimes. The Changing of the Guard was an attraction for numerous spectators. In October 1993 the Sentry was disbanded, and reinstated in 1997 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In USSR people spent hours in the queue to get to the Mausoleum. Nowadays, there are a lot of foreigners among the visitors. The Mausoleum often featured in the movies, once it appeared in the episode of the Simpsons cartoon, it was often printed on the USSR post-stamps.

The Mausoleum and the Kremlin Wall Necropolis can be accessed free of charge through a check-point by the Nikolskaya Tower. No photo taking or video recording is allowed.

Address: Red Square (Krasnaya ploschad)
Opening hours: Tue-Thu, Sat from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., closed on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays
How to reach: Okhotny Ryad, Ploschad Revolutsii, Teatralnaya metro stations
Coordinates: 55.753760, 37.619963