Walking Through Lenin's Mausoleum and the Kremlin Necropolis

by Kenneth Rayman on August 12, 2018

Just got a call from a community asking for more information on my presentations before booking me because of possible problems with reliving a time of fear. I took the opportunity to go through step by step the way I present Russia through passion, not persuasion, and the analogies I use. So, it gave me the idea to post another story I use during Moscow’s talk. This pic is from the Fremont area of Seattle, this story takes place in Moscow.

The Mausoleum is only open for two hours twice a week. I saw on the website that photos are not permitted so I left my camera back at the hotel. The line wraps around the Square and enters the Alexander Garden where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is. I get up to the metal detector and realize that I have a bunch of junk in my pockets and, like at the airports, I struggle with getting through and putting things back quickly. As you walk in, you walk past a soldier standing at attention who, if any noise is heard, gives a loud “Shhhh!!!” as complete silence is observed within the Mausoleum. This concerned me as I walked past him because to enter the darkened chamber, you descend a few stairs, then a few steps later up a few more to the viewing platform. With my poor balance and the low light, I really had to focus on not falling or letting out a muffled “woah” if I struggled to keep it as I didn’t want to be Shhh’d. Standing still isn’t permitted so you walk in, walk around Lenin’s body and walk out. As I observed him I was amazed at how well he looked. Even though I don’t like the look of an embalmed body because someone, to me, either can look in pain or at peace, Lenin looked peaceful but you could see the jugular veins in his neck were visible reaching up through his cheek. He has a red light shining on his face from above that makes him look like his head is glowing bright orange and I found it ironic that his hands matched Lincoln’s at the statue in D.C. with one hand clenched in a fist, the other relaxed on his thigh.”

As you walk out of the chamber you pass the busts of all the Politburo leaders from the Soviet Union and I realized I could have brought my camera as people started snapping away at the busts of Stalin, Brezhnev, and the others. I only knew a few of the names from the busts but I knew the camera would have just added to my woes at the metal detector and chose to enjoy the moment instead. Past the Politburo leaders in the Kremlin Necropolis are the honored heroes of the Soviet Union, like Yuri Gagarin, who are buried within the wall itself and marked by plates on the bricks.

I then tell them the story of how Lenin opposed the creation of the Mausoleum opting for a simple funeral but Stalin saw an opportunity to elevate Lenin’s image and therefore himself in the power struggle that ensued after Lenin’s sudden death. 
And if there’s time, I mention Sergei Korolev as the only civilian given the honor of burial in Necropolis for his efforts during the Space Race.