The Lenin Mausoleum is located on Red Square at the foot of the Kremlin Walls, occupying a commanding central position in the square. The name of Lenin (ЛЕНИН) is carved in massive Cyrillic letters over the central entrance of his mausoleum, which are impossible to miss.
When Lenin died in 1924 after a long illness, a temporary wooden structure was built on Red Square so that the soviet nation could file past and pay its last respects. But the numbers of well-wishers were so great that months later there was still no end of them, and the temporary wooden hut was replaced with something more able to withstand the elements. The stepped design of this wooden structure consciously avoided all reference to religious architecture, and in some ways resembled an Aztec burial mound. It was without ornamentation, and unpainted – instead the wood was treated with dark oil to preserve it from the winter weather.
Five years and many millions of visitors after the wooden mausoleum was built, the present stone Mausoleum was built – 24 metres (78 feet) in length, and to a height of 12 metres (or 39 feet). The Mausoleum Complex had the peculiarity that its upper floor could be used as a Viewing Platform for reviewing the troops marching past on occasions of national military events. From 1953 until 1961 the mausoleum held a second guest – Joseph Stalin, who arranged for his body to be interred here alongside his forebear. However, events conspired against his plans.
Materials for the construction of Lenin’s Mausoleum were collected from all over the USSR. Marble, granite, porphyry and labradorite were all put into use. Crimson quartzite was specially requisitioned from deposits in Karelia to form the lettering of the name “Lenin” above the central entrance.
The Hall of Mourning within the mausoleum is executed in the shape of a cube with a stepped roof. The Mausoleum closes every eighteen months so that prophylactic works can take place on Lenin’s mummified body to maintain it. The pyramid shape of the overall structure of the mausoleum is one which it shares with other necropolis constructions in Egypt and the Americas.
Lenin was the spiritual leader of the Russian Revolution, and became the first political leader of the USSR. He was born in middle-class provincial Russia under the name Vladimir Ulyanov – he used the name “Lenin” to evade arrest in the Tsarist era, when he was a wanted by the police. In fact he was caught and served 1.5 years in a Siberian prison.After prison Lenin lived abroad for 17 years, where he wrote revolutionary books distributed in Russia. During World War One he controversially accepted an enemy offer from Germany for safe passage back to Russia in an armoured train. On arrival he was declared leader. He initiated a ruinous Civil War against opponents of Communism. He survived assassination in 1918 but suffered a series of strokes which left him bedridden in a sanatorium.Lenin died in 1924, creating a leadership crisis in which Stalin seized power. A cult of Lenin’s personality was promoted by the USSR after his death, in which an idealised image of Lenin was fostered as the nation’s saviour. He remains buried in a Mausoleum on Red Square as part of this cult – Russia is gripped by indecision as to how to deal with this mausoleum today.Lenin’s subsequent image was probably harmed by the best intentions of the Communist Party, which ascribed incredible and improbable abilities to him posthumously. One of the strangest was the Institute Of Lenin’s Brain, which studied his brain under a microscope to discover the secrets of his genius. The Institute was quietly closed in the 1960s, without ever publishing its conclusions.