Lenin’s Mausoleum (Russian: Мавзоле́й Ле́нина) also commonly referred to as Lenin’s Tomb, is located in Red Square between the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral. This tomb has held the body of Vladimir Lenin since shortly after his death January 21st 1924 resulting from a stroke..
The line to visit the tomb starts at a security checkpoint outside of Nikolskaya Tower. They will screen you for everything that they would at an airport. The line builds to the north west from Nikolskaya Tower along the northern Kremlin wall. The end of the line is usually near the entrance to Alexandrovsky Gardens.
After you clear the security checkpoint you will be let into the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. This all leads behind the actual mausoleum where Lenin is housed. After you finish your walk behind the main pyramid structure you will be able to actually enter the front entrance of the mausoleum.
Be cautious when you enter as the lights are quite dim. You will walk down 2 sets of stairs. All stairs will have a yellow stripe on them so that even with your eyes not fully adjusted to the dark you will be able to tell that there is a step there. Once you finish the second set of stairs you will enter the room with Lenin.
Lenin is in the center of a U shaped room within a glass case and illuminated. Remember that no pictures or video recording is permitted within this building. There are a number of security wearing dark uniforms in every corner of the room as if to make them blend into the darkness, who will quickly remind you that pictures are not permitted if you should forget.
After you spend 60 to 90 seconds in the room containing Lenin you will ascend 2 sets of stairs on the opposite side of the room as you entered that will take you to where you entered the mausoleum.
A number of people that visit Lenin’s body report feeling underwhelmed after seeing him. A large number describe it as if a wax figure is wearing a suite that is laid over top of the figure and tucked underneath it, the same way you might lay a blanket on someone. Given the age of the body it is not terribly difficult to imagine how fragile the body is, and how little they would want to move it when putting a new suite on him every few years.
On January 23rd 1924, Aleksey Shchusev was tasked with building something suitable to display the body of Lenin to the thousands of mourners. On January 26th a wooden tomb was completed located within Red Square near the Kremlin wall. The next day on January 27th Lenin’s body was placed in the tomb for mourners to pay their respects. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people came to visit the tomb over the next 6 weeks.
By the end of summer 1924 the original tomb had already been replaced by a much larger one. Lenin’s body was moved into a sarcophagus that was designed by Konstantin Melnikov.
It’s been said that Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaya did not want her husband on public display after his death, but that she was “convinced” to allow it for a short period of time. January 2017 marks 93 years since he was put on display.
In 1929 the Pathologist who had embalmed Lenin, Alexei Abrikosov, determined that it may be possible to preserve Lenin’s body for far longer than they originally thought. In 1930 work began on a new mausoleum, the one you will see now when you visit Lenin’s Tomb.
is a mausoleum that currently serves as the resting place of Vladimir Lenin. His preserved body has been on public display there since shortly after his death in 1924, with rare exceptions in wartime.
Lenin’s death and final dispositions
Pathologist Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov had embalmed the body shortly after Lenin’s death, but by 1929 it was determined that it would be possible to preserve the body for much longer than usual; therefore, the next year a new mausoleum of marble, porphyry, granite, and labradorite (by Alexey Shchusev, I.A. Frantsuz and G.K. Yakovlev) was completed.
In 1973 sculptor Nikolai Tomsky designed a new sarcophagus.
On January 26, 1924, the Head of the Moscow Garrison issued an order to place the Guard of Honour at the mausoleum. Russians call it the “Number One Sentry”. After the events of the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993, the Guard of Honour was disbanded. In 1997 the “Number One Sentry” was restored at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden.
The body was removed in October 1941 and evacuated to Tyumen, in Siberia, when it appeared that Moscow might be in danger of capture by German troops. After the war, it was returned and the tomb reopened.
More than 10 million people visited Lenin’s tomb between 1924 and 1972.
Joseph Stalin’s embalmed body shared a spot next to Lenin’s, from the time of his death in 1953 until October 31, 1961, when Stalin was removed as part of de-Stalinization and Khrushchev’s Thaw, and buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis outside the walls of the Kremlin.
Lenin’s body was to have been transferred to the Pantheon upon its completion but the project was cancelled in the aftermath of de-Stalinization.
Preserving the body
One of the main problems the embalmers faced was the appearance of dark spots on the skin, especially on the face and hands. They managed to solve the problem by the use of a variety of different reagents in between baths. For example, if a patch of wrinkling or discoloration occurred it was treated with a solution of acetic acid and ethyl alcohol diluted with water. Hydrogen peroxide could be used to restore the tissues’ original coloring.
Damp spots were removed by means of disinfectants like quinine or phenol. Until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the continued preservation work was funded by the Russian government. At that point the government discontinued financial support and now private donations support the preservation staff. However in 2016 the Russian government planned to spend 13 million Rubles from the federal budget, in order to preserve Lenin’s body.
Lenin’s Mausoleum today
The Mausoleum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 13:00, except holidays as of August 11, 2015. Visitors still wait in lines to see Lenin’s body although they are not as long as they once were. Entrance is free of charge.
Before visitors enter the mausoleum, armed police or military guards search them. Visitors are required to show respect while in the tomb: photography and videotaping inside the mausoleum are forbidden, as is talking, smoking, keeping hands in pockets, or wearing hats (unless female).
Since 1991, there has been some discussion about removing the Kremlin Wall Necropolis and burying Lenin’s body. President Boris Yeltsin, with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, intended to close the tomb and bury Lenin next to his mother, Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova, at the Volkov Cemetery in St. Petersburg. His successor, Vladimir Putin, opposed this, pointing out that a reburial of Lenin would imply that generations of citizens had observed false values during 70 years of Soviet rule.
In January 2011, the United Russia party created a website where visitors could vote whether Lenin’s body should be buried and 70% percent of the voters were in favor of his burial
The mausoleum has undergone several changes in appearance since the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the first noticeable changes was the placement of gates at the staircases leading to the central tribune. After the removal of the guard, this was necessary to prevent unauthorized usage of the tribune.
Beginning in 2012, the mausoleum underwent foundation reconstruction caused by the construction of a building attached to the mausoleum in 1983. The building houses an escalator once used by members of the politburo to ascend the tribune. In 1995 and 1996, when Boris Yeltsin used the tribune, he used stairs and not the escalator.
Now the tribune is no longer used, therefore it became acceptable to remove the escalator. The building was closed in 2013 due to renovations. It was finally opened on April 30, 2013 in time for the May 1 celebration of “The Day of Spring and Labor”.
Hours: 10am to 1pm on Tuesday to Thursday & Saturday to Sunday except national holidays.
Closest Metro Stations: Okhotnyy Ryad (red line) & Ploshchad Revolyutsii (dark blue line).
Secret tips from the Expat:
- Rain or shine you can expect a line in the summer months of 45 to 90 minutes.
- The best time of year to go is in the fall or winter as there are far fewer tourists in these months and the line is almost non existent.
- Arrive early to get in front of the many Chinese tourists that will visit the tomb. More Chinese visit the tomb now than Russians.
- If you are not inside of the Nikolskaya Tower security checkpoint at 1pm, you can expect the exhibit to be closed and being told to come back another day.