After being closed since 2012 to conduct repairs on its foundation, the Lenin Mausoleum has now reopened. So, if you are into morbid tourism, Lenin has now rejoined the likes of other embalmed leaders open to public viewing, a list that includes China’s Mao Zedong, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, and both of North Korea’s last two Kims.
So why do countries do creepy things like leader embalming and public display? The BBC has an article on this (in which they also describe the process that they use to preserve bodies for long-term display), but the simple answer is that it allows a state to preserve a personality cult past the traditional expiration date (yes, I couldn’t resist the horrible pun).
In a lot of ways, this behavior heralds back to the mummified saints of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, where a lack of decomposition signified the purity of the individual (and can be used to count as one of the “miracles” required for sainthood). Appropriately, this embalming behavior seems most common to countries with a strong Catholic or Orthodox culture, or ones that borrowed the practice from one of these countries…like Vietnam and China.
Of course, there is always the Simpsons version of why the Russians embalmed Lenin…
…in case of emergency (or opportunity), return to Soviet Union.