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A L L
I A N C E ! A Revolutionary Communist Monthly
Bulletin Lenin's Death January 21, 1924
Stalin at Vigil Lenin's funeral
Where We Stand: Lenin’s Mummification — Preliminary Step in the Building
of the Personality Cult
We have long pointed out that cults
of personality in the communist movement serve the purposes of the revisionists
(See for instance: "Stalin : The Myth And The Reality", By W.B.Bland At: http://www.allianceML.com/STALIN-TXT/WBBSTALINMYTHSPARIS1999.html.
We argue here that the decision taken to mummify Lenin’s
body, was the beginning of the revisionists attempts to undermine the socialist
state by erecting cults of personality. The ultimate target was Stalin, who
would be blamed for “god worship”. However by the 1930’s the revisionists
had extended their attacks on the socialist state by erecting a cult of personality
to the living Stalin, in order to disguise their attacks on the state.
The Death of Lenin and the Funeral
On 21 January 1924, Lenin died. The Central Executive
Committee formed a Funeral Commission – headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky,
with the following members: Muralov, Lashevich, Bonch-Bruevich, Voroshilov,
Molotov, Zelensky and Yenukidze. Stalin, who also called for steps
to maintain calm, informed all regional Party Committees. The Funeral Commission
proposed extending the lying-in state period at the Kremlin. Consequently,
A.I.Abrikosov performed a normal embalming that would suffice to forestall
putrefaction for 6-7 days.
Embalming is a process once performed with
spices to preserve it. (Oxford English Dictionary: “To impregnate a dead body
with spices to preserve it from decay”; Oxford 1973; p.643). The practice
was common in ancient Egypt and Peru, and other early societies where reverence
for dead leaders was important in maintaining continuity, in a pantheon extending
from living humans to dead humans and to gods (Sigerist H; “Primitive and
Archaic Medicine”; Yale 1951; p. 268). In modern times various chemicals are
used to achieve the same goal of halting the putrefaction of tissues.
On the 24th January the Politburo discussed whether or
not to prolong the period of preservation, to which it was already known that
Lenin’s widow – Krupsakaya – and Lenin’s brother and sisters – had
objected. Zinoviev and Bukharin were deputed to:
“persuade Nadezhda Konstantinova: if she will not agree not to
insist on acceptance of her proposal, the question can be discussed again
in a month”;
At the same time it instructed that:
Volkogonov D; Lenin – A New Biography; New York 1994; p.440; p. 437; citing
APRF, f.3, op.22, d.309, il.15, 16, 21.
“1) The coffin containing V.I.Lenin’s corpse is to be kept in
a vault which should be made accessible to visitors;
Lenin’s state funeral was held on the 26 January.
2) The vault is to be formed in the Kremlin wall on Red Square among the
communal graves of the fighters of the October revolution. A commission is
being created today for the construction of a mausoleum (temporary for now).
Academician A.B.Shchusev is commissioned to prepare drawings for the
In the interim the debate about whether or not, to embalm
the body, continued. The decision was taken ultimately to entrust the preservation
for ever, of Lenin’s body to Professor Boris Illich Zbarsky and Professor
We have no direct evidence of Stalin’s views on the
Why was Lenin’s body embalmed?
There are two major, but conflicting views.
The first takes the view that this was an attempt
to convert Lenin into an icon for Bolsheviks, a religious vestibule where
true Bolshevik traditions could be ‘discarded’ by the anti-Leninist Stalin
and his comrades.
“Having created their relic, the Bolsheviks had taken the first
decisive step towards turning Lenin's ideas into a secular religion; a religion,
moreover, comparable in the unquestioning obedience of its adherents only
to the faith of fanatical fundamentalists……. The first decrees of the Central
Committee after Lenin's death affirmed that the Party leadership in its struggle
to build the Communist society' would make Lenin's mummy and everything
associated with it one of the most important tools for accomplishing the task.”
Unsurprisingly this line takes its’ cues from Trotsky.
It was Trotsky’s view that since Stalin’s first education had been in a Georgian
seminary for the priesthood, Stalin was in essence a ‘religious’ and anti-Bolshevik,
a crude unsophisticate. This line was more widely popularised by Trotsky’s
followers such as Isaac Deutscher. Deutscher portrays Stalin’s eulogy
to Lenin, delivered on January 26th 1924, at the Second All-Union Congress
of Soviets as a religious invocation:
Ibid., pp.440, 441.
“It is perhaps natural that the triumvir who had spent his formative
years in a Greek Orthodox seminary should become the foremost agent of that
change, that he should give the fullest expression to it. The oath to Lenin,
which he read at the second congress of the Soviets, remains to this day the
fullest and the most organic revelation of his own mind. In it, the style
of the Communist Manifesto is strangely blended with that of the Orthodox
Prayer Book; and Marxist terminology is wedded to the old Slavonic vocabulary.
Its revolutionary invocations sound like a litany composed for a church choir.
Continued on page eight.
Deutscher goes on to quote from Stalin's speech:
The Second view: On the other and second hand,
the view is put that this was a simple method of ensuring that the masses
(of the then present, but also of later times) wish, to pay some recognition
to him, was enabled:
‘Comrades, we Communists are people of a special cut. We have
been cut out of peculiar stuff... There is no loftier title than that of a
member of the party, of which Comrade Lenin has been founder and leader. .
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordained us to hold high and keep pure the
great title of member of the party. We vow to thee, Comrade Lenin, that
we shall honourably fulfil this thy commandment. . .
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordained us to guard the unity of our party
like the apple of our eye. We vow to thee, Comrade Lenin, that we shall fulfil
honourably this thy commandment, too. . .
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordained us to guard and strengthen the dictatorship
of the proletariat. We vow to thee, Comrade Lenin, that without sparing our
strength we shall honourably fulfil this thy commandment, too. . .
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordained us to strengthen with all our might
the alliance of workers and peasants. We vow to thee, Comrade Lenin, that
we shall fulfil honourably this thy commandment, too. . .
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordained us to strengthen and broaden the Union
of the Republics. We vow to thee, Comrade Lenin, that we shall honourably
fulfil this thy commandment, too. . .
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordained us to keep faith with the principles
of the Communist International. We vow to thee, Comrade Lenin, that we
shall not spare our lives in the endeavour to strengthen and broaden the alliance
of the workers of the whole world ‑ the Communist International.”
Stalin; Works, vi; pp.46-51
“A.E. Yenukidze, Secretary of the TsK declared at
the Commission for Perpetuating the Memory of V.I. Ulyanov‑Lenin: 'We did
not want to make of Vladimir Ilyich's remains some sort of "relic", as
a means to popularize or preserve his memory ... We ... accorded and still
accord the greatest importance to preserving the image of this remarkable
leader for the rising generation and future generations, but also for those
hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even millions, who would be extremely
happy to see the image of this man..”
An out-pouring of mass grief naturally marked the funeral.
Very early on however, there was a drive to erect statues, and memorabilia
of Lenin. Kruspkaya publicly took a position against this:
“From the day of the funeral, ..The seemingly unstoppable process
started of creating museums, erecting statues and publishing countless books
and miscellanies, of renaming towns, streets, factories, palaces, ships and
workshops……Only two days after the funeral, Pravda published a brief letter
from Krupskaya in response to the announcement of a Lenin Fund aimed at building
monuments to him: 'I wish to make a big request: don't let your grief for
Ilyich run away into outward regard for his personality. Don't build monuments
to him, palaces in his name, grand ceremonies in his memory and so on. When
he was alive he had no time for such things, he found such things oppressive."'
………. In one decree after another, monuments to Lenin were erected throughout
the . period and throughout the Soviet Union, to say nothing of the effort
that went into carrying on the practice outside the USSR.”
Despite Krupskaya’s pleas, it was inevitable that some
statues would be built, Lenin was simply too loved and had done too much for
the peoples of the USSr for it to be otherwise. But the erection of a permanent
edifice for Lenin’s embalmed body was another matter. At first there was
only a temporary building to house Lenin’s body:
“the temporary mausoleum… Krupskaya was the first person to visit
the temporary resting place, with Lenin's brother Dmitri, on 26 May 1924.
In general she was to visit it infrequently, not even once a year, preferring
to spare herself the emotional upset it caused her. The curator of the mummy,
B.I. Zbarsky, recalled that the last time Krupskaya visited the tomb
was in 1938, a few months before her death in February 1939‑ She is said to
have stood by the catafalque for a while, muttering quietly: 'He's just the
same, but look how I've aged. . . ‘
Moves to the Mummification
Ibid., p. 441
But shortly after, discussions began in the Politburo
as to the possibility of longer term preservation of the body:
“After the…funeral, the Politburo set out, with the aid of Dzerzhinsky,
Krasin and the scientists, to find ways of preserving the dead leader, and
even debated the technical aspects of the problem. On 13 March 1924, having
heard reports by Molotov and Krasin, it decided:
In the space of months, the decision was taken to proceed
to embalm and the process was completed:
'In view of the absence of other methods for conserving the
body of V.I. Lenin, the commission should be ordered to resort to measures
for preserving it using low temperature." Volkogonov D: Citing
APRF, f.3, op.22, d.309, I.38. Ibid; p. 443.
“The Politburo was able to approve a system devised by V.P. Vorobiev,
a chemist from Kharkov, and on 24 July 1924 it recognized his achievement
by conferring on him the title of Honorary Professor. The embalming process
took four months. Meanwhile .. to design the mausoleum ..The Politburo
… decided to hold a competition, with prizes for the four best entries: first
prize was to be 1000 roubles, second 750, third 600, and fourth 500. . . “
There was however a significant delay until the final
agreement to proceed with a permanent structure – the ‘Lenin Mausoleum’:
“It was not, however, until 4 July 1929 that the Politburo, after
innumerable reviews of the question, finally decided to proceed with the building
of the permanent structure.”
In that intervening time, open disagreement with the
plans for embalming became causes for reprisals:
“For all practical purposes, the preservation of the mummy had
up to now been handled by political security, the OGPU, and the least hint
of criticism of the matter was subject to severe suppression. For instance,
in July 1929, when Lazar Shatskin, writing in Kovuomolskaya pravda on 'Party
philistinism', cast doubt on the idea of the mausoleum, the Politburo
at once denounced his position as 'a crude political error', and drew the
corresponding administrative, i.e. punitive, conclusions: Shatskin was
expelled from the Party soon after for 'factional activity', and was executed
in 1937, his 'error' of 1929 no doubt figuring on the charge sheet.”
Continued on page nine.
This length of delay strongly implies that there was
a serious difference of opinion as to the advisability of embalming the
body and creating in effect, what might be considered to be a ‘shrine’.
It was in the period of about 1930-1937, that the Cult of Personality was
being built by hidden revisionists, around Stalin.
Stalin was very angry with these attempts, and tried
to prevent it. Numerous references testify to his overall abhorrence of such
a cult. For instance in December 1931, he insisted on a correct understanding
of the role of an individual in history, and the meaning of collective decision-making
in the life of a party :
"As for myself, I am just a pupil of Lenin's, and the aim of my
life is to be a worthy pupil of his. . . .
It was the hidden revisionists, such as Khrushchev
and Radek who developed the Cult of Personality around Stalin.
Khruschev introduced the term 'vozhd' ('leader', corresponding to the
German word 'Fuhrer'). At the Moscow Party Conference in January 1932, Khrushchev
finished his speech by saying:
Marxism does not deny at all the role played by outstanding individuals
or that history is made by people. But . . great people are worth anything
at all only to the extent that they are able correctly to understand these
conditions, to understand how to change them. If they fail to understand
these conditions and want to alter them according to the promptings of their
imagination, they will find themselves in the situation of Don Quixote.
Individual persons cannot decide. Decisions of individuals are always, or
nearly always, one-sided decisions. . . . In every collective body, there
are people whose opinion must be reckoned with. . . . From the experience
of three revolutions we know that out of every 100 decisions taken by individual
persons without being tested and corrected collectively, approximately 90
are one-sided. . . Never under any circumstances would our workers now tolerate
power in the hands of one person. With us personages of the greatest authority
are reduced to nonentities, become mere ciphers, as soon as the masses of
the workers lose confidence in them". J.V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 107-08,
109, 113. http://www.allianceml.com/harikumar/STALIN-TXT/WBBPERSONALITY1991.html2)
"The Moscow Bolsheviks, rallied around the Leninist Central Committee
as never before, and around the 'vozhd' of our Party, Comrade Stalin, are
cheerfully and confidently marching toward new victories in the battles for
socialism, for world proletarian revolution".
That Stalin himself was not unaware of the fact that
the concealed revisionists were the main force behind the ‘cult of personality’
was reported by the Finnish revisionist Tuominen in 1935, who describes
how, when Stalin was informed that busts of himself had been given prominent
places in Moscow's leading art gallery, the Tretyakov, Stalin exclaimed:
"That's downright sabotage!". (A. Touminen: op. cit.; p. 164). http://www.allianceml.com/harikumar/STALIN-TXT/WBBPERSONALITY1991.html
('Rabochaya Moskva', 26 January 1932, cited in: L. Pistrak: The Grand Tactician:
Khrushchev's Rise to Power, London; 1961; p. 159).
The German writer Lion Feuchtwanger, in 1936 confirms
that Stalin suspected that the 'cult of personality' was being fostered by
'wreckers' with the aim of discrediting him:
"It is manifestly irksome to Stalin to be worshipped as he is,
and from time to time he makes fun of it. Of all the men I know who have power,
Stalin is the most unpretentious. I spoke frankly to him about the vulgar
and excessive cult made of him, and he replied with equal candour. He thinks
it is possible even that 'wreckers' may be behind it in an attempt to discredit
him". (L. Feuchtwanger: 'Moscow 1937'; London; 1937; p. 93, 94-94).
Who Took the Decision to
According to Zbarsky I & Hutchinson S: "Lenin's
Embalmers"; (London 1998)- there are two possible sources for
the initial idea and its acceptance:
(i) The Funeral Commission Decided to Embalm Lenin
Zbarsky & Hutchinson suggest that the idea came first
from Felix Dzerhinsky, Chairman of the Funeral Commission, who said
apparently on January 23rd:
"Kings are embalmed because they are kings. In my opinion, the
question is not so much if we should preserve Vladimir Illich's body but how.";
They also suggest that the other members of the Funeral
Commission, formed a "committee of three" - Molotov, Yenukidze and Krasin
– who had first:
Zbarsky I & Hutchinson S; p. 16; Citing the Russian Centre for
the preservation & Study of Contemporary Historical Documents (CRCEDHC);
coll.16; inv.2s, un.con.49; f.4.
"tried frantically to find a way of saving the corpse from decomposition..
Krasin , a former engineer with no specific qualification in biology was the
first to come up with a solution- refrigeration"; Zbarsky I & Hutchinson
S; p.21 ibid; citing; CRCEDHC; coll.16; inv.2s, un.con.51, f.2.
2) Did Stalin Decide to Embalm Lenin?
But at the same time, these authors suggest that the
idea was really traceable back to before Lenin’s death, to Stalin:
"first aired by Stalin at the secret meeting of the Politburo
in late October 1925";
However, they do NOT cite a source other than
“according to Bukharin”:
Zbarsky I & Hutchinson S; p.21 ibid; p.15.
“Valentin-Volsky tells us that Stalin took it upon himself to
summon a meeting, held behind closed doors, of the Politburo, at which he
was the first to moot the idea of embalming Lenin’s body. Held in late October
1923, the secret conference was attended by six of the eleven members of the
Politburo: Trotsky, Bukharin, Kamenev, Kalinin, Stalin and Rykov. No minutes
of the meeting exist; no decision was recorded. All that is certain ‑ at
least, according to Bukharin ‑ is that these discussions took place some
time after Lenin's last visit to the Kremlin on 19 October 1923.”
Zbarsky I & Hutchinson S; p.10-11; ibid; citing: Valentin-Volsky NV, “The
NEP and the Crisis in the Party after Lenin’s Death”; California Hoover Institution
Press, Stanford U, 1971; pp. 90-93.
Bukharin of course was an enemy of Stalin’s.
On 19 October, Stalin is supposed to have said:
"Comrades, Vladimir Illich's health has grown so much worse lately
that it is to be feared he will soon be no more. We must therefore consider
what is to be done when that great sorrow befalls us. I understand our comrades
in the provinces are exercised about this matter. They believe that it is
unthinkable that Lenin, as a Russian, should be cremated. Some of them suggest
that modern science is capable of preserving his body for a considerable time,
long enough at least for us to grow used to the idea of his being no longer
Continued on page ten.
Zbarsky I & Hutchinson S; p.10-11; ibid;
Apparently, according to Zbarsky and Hutchinson, the
following exchanges thereafter too place, with both Trotsky and Bukharin
rebuking Stalin for trying to ensure a ‘reliquary’ would follow Lenin’s death:
“Trotsky angrily replied:
In this period of 1924-30, it would seem that a ‘preparatory’
phase of the Cult of Lenin was being erected
"If I understand Comrade Stalin correctly, he proposes to replace the relics
of Saint Sergei Radonezhsky and Saint Serafun Sarovsky with the remains of
Vladimir Ilich. This is what, to judge by his lengthy and obscure remarks,
he seems to be driving at in his reference to what is and is not fitting for
'a Russian'. I myself should very much like to know who these 'comrades in
the provinces' are who imagine that science is capable of preserving Vladimir
Rich's body. I should like to tell them that they have learnt absolutely nothing
about Marxist dialectic."
"Trotsky is right," said Bukharin.
"To turn Lenin's remains into a relic would be an insult to his memory.
We should not even contemplate such a thing." Kamenev agreed with Trotsky
and Bukharin: "There are other equally effective ways of honouring his name.
For instance, to remind people of the role he played in the October Revolution
we could change the name of Petrograd to Leningrad, Or we cold print millions
of copies of his works. But the embalming idea strikes me as reminiscent of
the very ‘priest-mongering’ that Illich himself denounced in his philosophical
Zbarsky I & Hutchinson S; p.10-11; ibid;
We await proof from the archival data that it was Stalin
that was responsible for the decision to embalm Lenin.
Until then, it must be assumed that the benefits would
accrue to the revisionists. We contend that there is no current evidence to
convincingly show that Stalin was in favour of embalming Lenin.
Nor does Stalin’s aversions to cults of personality agree
with Trotsky and Bukharin’s versions.
During the Second World
However, once the mausoleum decision was taken to build
it, it was maintained by the state. Thereafter undoubtedly, Stalin and Beria
took care to ensure its safety. For instance, the capture of the body by the
German Fascist army of Hitler, would have been a major propaganda victory
that the USSR could ill afford. Corresponding care was taken to guard against
“Stalin was given regular reports by the NKVD on the condition
of the mummy and the measures being taken to preserve it, such as its wartime
evacuation to Tyumen in Western Siberia, from 1941 until the spring of 1945,
Professor Boris Ilyich Zbarsky was responsible to the security services for
maintaining Lenin's body in viewable condition, and in 1934 he and Vorobiev
were decorated and each given the use of an automobile, an exceptional privilege
at the time. In November 1939 Zbarsky was installed in a new laboratory on
the personal initiative of Beria, and in 1944 he was created an Academician
‑ not that his work or his position saved him from arrest during the postwar
terror. By the early 1970s this laboratory employed twenty‑seven scientists
and thirty‑three technicians, including three Academicians, one Corresponding
Member of the Academy of Sciences, three Doctors of Science and twelve Ph.Ds.”
The propaganda value of the embalmed body, was certainly
understood by the revisionists after the death of Stalin. The corpse became
essential to the mythology that indeed socialism in the USSR was still alive.
After all, what could be more socialist than to revere the corpse of Lenin?
Care was lavished upon the body by the revisionists:
Volkoganov, Ibid., pp. 444-45.
“The embalming specialists watched carefully for any marks on the mummy's
skin, 'peeling of the nose', 'darkening' or 'deformation of the dermis'.
In February 1940, for instance, Beria had reported to the Politburo that an
inspection had revealed 'deviations' on the face, 'a parting of the [autopsy]
scar on the head, darkening on the nose'."… In March 1940 the Politburo approved
Beria's plan for a new sarcophagus. Zbarsky was expected to submit plans
and models 'of an artistic kind' by 15 April, for completion by 20 October.
Special tasks were delegated to the Commissar for Power Stations and Electrical
Industry, M.G. Pervukhin, and Commissar for Armaments B.L. Varmikov.”
Volkoganov, Ibid., p.445.
“In 1972, salaries at the laboratory were increased by twenty‑five
per cent.' More care and attention was lavished on it than on the country's
wretched public health service. . . . An improved sarcophagus was made in
the 1970s. Ninety‑six people received medals and dozens more high awards for
its creation. The mausoleum was frequently under repair. In 1974, for instance,
refurbishment cost 5‑5 million roubles, and four hundred people received
medals and awards. “
Following the Gorbachev Open Capitalist
seizure of the USSR State
There have been repeated attempts by the openly capitalist
leaders of the state to remove the body from the mausoleum and dismantle the
building. The dying wish of Lenin was apparently to be buried in a grave next
to his mother, in Leningrad (now again named St Petersburg).
However opposition from the Russian working class who
now see the mausoleum as one of the final surviving relics of the former socialist
state have resisted. In fact the capitalists are now to ‘re-furbish’ the
“After 60 years wearing a suit most people wouldn't be seen dead
in, Vladimir Lenin is getting a fashion makeover.
The same article goes on to note that the skills of the
embalmers are more commonly used nowadays to embalm murdered Russian mafia
bosses – at £7,500 a time.
(with) … a new outfit that may even include a colourful new tie. .
. His remains were originally clad in a Red Army military jacket, but he was
changed into civvies - the familiar dark, sombre suit - just before the Second
World War. A dozen scientists will carry out the re-dressing between November
10 and December 29. . . But supporters have demanded that he should
stay in the mausoleum where tourists used to queue for hours to pay their
respects. "In Soviet times, he was the closest we had to a god," said Ilya
Zbarsky, who worked on the preservation team. "Twice a week, we'd soak his
face and hands in a special solution and improve minor defects." http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/content_objectid=13502595_method=full_siteid=50143_headline=“LENIN
TO GET NEW OUTFIT By Will Stewart”
Honoring past socialist heroes(ines) is natural.
Erection of personality cults is a dangerous weapon that
is used by hidden revisionists to disguise attacks on socialism.
We are reminded of the words of Enver Hoxha,
when in an interview he depicted the revisionists’ use of the Cult of Personality:
“Q: Why, in your opinion, did Stalin not prepare for his succession?
Continued on page eleven.
A: Stalin did think about this. At the 19th Congress he enlarged
the central Committee and the Political Bureau in order to consolidate the
leadership of the Party after his death. But he was surrounded - a little
like de Gaulle - by camouflaged enemies who constantly presented him with
false reports. He told them: "After my death you will sell out the Soviet
Union", but he did not succeed in combating them in time.
Stalin was a great man. I knew him at close quarters: I had five meetings
with him. He was a wise and level-headed man. He fought the enemies of the
Soviet Union and of communism.
Before and after the Second World War Stalin consolidated the position of
the Soviet Union politically, economically and militarily. He had noted that
his country was being undermined - and undermined gravely. Khrushchev and
Mikoyan told me with their own mouths that they had organised a plot against
Stalin, that they had had the intention of murdering him in a coup but feared
the people. That is the kind of criminals and assassins they were. Even after
Stalin's death they continued to Cry: "Long live Stalin!" and to say: "Stalin
was a great man". But, at a certain moment, after having consolidated their
positions, they came out against him in their notorious attack. They accused
Stalin of all the crimes and faults which they had committed themselves. That
we never accepted, and we declared so openly at the meeting of 81 Communist
Parties in Moscow in 1960. That is why they accuse us of being Stalinists.
But we are Marxist-Leninist Stalinists and we put into effect all that is
good for socialism in Albania.“
Enver Hoxha: An Interview with Enver Hoxha (An interview given in
Tirana in December,1984 by Enver Hoxha, First Secretary of the Central Committee
Of the Party Of Labour Of Albania, to Professor Paul Milliez, President of
the Franco-Albanian Friendship Association.
From “Albanian Life”; ISSUE 32 No.2 1985 Memorial Issue of Enver Hoxha's