Lenin Mausoleum

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lenin Mausoleum


the memorial tomb along the Kremlin Wall in Red Square in Moscow in which lies the casket containing the embalmed body of Vladimir Il’ich Lenin. During celebrations, such as demonstrations, meetings, and military parades, the mausoleum serves as a government reviewing stand.

In the days of universal mourning that followed the passing of V. I. Lenin on Jan. 21, 1924, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Soviet government received more than 1,000 telegrams and letters asking that Lenin’s body not be interred but rather preserved forever. On the morning of January 22, Professor A. I. Abrikosov embalmed the body to preserve it until the funeral. On the night of January 23, the architect A. V. Shchusev was assigned to design and build in three days a crypt that could be visited by all those wishing to bid farewell to the leader.

At a mourning session on Jan. 26, 1924, the Second Congress of Soviets of the USSR ratified a decision of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR to build a mausoleum by the Kremlin Wall, amid the mass graves of the heroes of the Great October Socialist Revolution. By January 27 a temporary wooden mausoleum was erected. Based primarily on a design by Shchusev, it consisted of a cube topped by a pyramid decorated with un-painted planks; wings for entering and leaving the mausoleum were built on the right and left sides of the cube. The mourning room was set 3 m below ground level; its interior was finished according to a design by the artist I. I. Nivinskii, who used a symbolic combination of red and black. At 4:00 P.M. on Jan. 27, 1924, the coffin containing Lenin’s body was placed in the mausoleum. In the next month and a half the mausoleum was visited by more than 100,000 people.

A second variation of the mausoleum (design by Shchusev, casket designed by K. S. Mel’nikov) was designed as both a tomb and a reviewing stand and again adopted the stepped building shape. Its dimensions were enlarged, and the three-part construction was replaced by a single unit with two side reviewing stands with stairways leading up to them. On Aug. 1, 1924, the mausoleum was opened for visitation.

In 1929 it was determined that Lenin’s body could be preserved for a long time, and a decision was made to replace the wooden mausoleum with a stone one made of marble, porphyry, granite, labradorite, and norite. It was designed by Shchusev in collaboration with the architects I. A. Frantsuz and G. K. lakovlev. The outside area of the mausoleum was increased from 1,300 cu m to 5,800 cu m, and the inside area from 200 cu m to 2,400 cu m. The overall composition was preserved, but the monolithic quality of the building was intensified. The mausoleum was made 3 m higher and took on a more solemn appearance. The combination of dark red granite and black labradorite imparted precision and austerity to the architectural forms of the mausoleum. The granite bas-relief of the emblem of the USSR in the interior was done in 1930 by the sculptor I. D. Shadr. The inscription “LENIN” is written on a 60-ton block of labradorite, which was obtained from the Golovinskii quarry in Zhitomir Oblast. Construction of the stone mausoleum was completed in October 1930.

In 1931 the designation of grave sites along the Kremlin Wall was completed, and stands designed by the architect I. A. Frantsuz for 10,000 people were installed on both sides of the mausoleum. The mausoleum became the compositional center of the architectural ensemble of Red Square. In 1945 the central reviewing stand was built by Shchusev, and in 1973 a new casket was made by the sculptor N. V. Tomskii.

On Jan. 26, 1924, the commander of the Moscow garrison ordered the institution of an honor guard at the mausoleum. The Soviet people call it Post No. 1.

Between 1924 and 1972 the mausoleum was visited by more than 73 million people.


Zbarskii, B. I. Mavzolei Lenina, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1946.
Abramov, A. Mavzolei Lenina, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1972.
Khan-Magomedov, S. O. Mavzolei Lenina. Moscow, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Upon Vladimir Lenin's death in 1924, the revolutionary Leonid Krasin established the Immortalization Commission of the book's title to plan Lenin's mausoleum. The memorial, which was erected in Moscow's Red Square, was not just a public symbol of the dead leader's continuing influence, but a laboratory for the conservation and eventual resurrection of his body and mind (though physical deterioration and invasive study of Lenin's brain soon foreclosed that option).