It seems like there no other reminder of the Soviet era is more distinctive than the monumental building of the MausoleumRussian: Mavzoley or Мавзолей in Red Square. The embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, the main organiser and leader of the 1917 October Revolutiona revolution in Russia led by the Bolsheviks with Vladimir Lenin as a leader that was instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917, rests here, at the very heart of the capital.
The Mausoleum of Lenin is not just a tomb: for the Soviet regime, it became a monument on a nationwide scale, a representation of public gratitude, and an illustrative symbol of the fact that Lenin’s cause remained alive. The Soviet leaders made political statements and inspected parades from its surrounds. Every member of the Communist party considered it their duty to visit Red Square Mausoleum to pay tribute to their leader. In 1953, Stalin’s corpse was placed there too, though only for a short period of time though: it was removed and buried in 1961 as part of de-Stalinisation. Thus, the mausoleum was named the ‘Lenin and Stalin MausoleumRussian: Mavzoley V.I.Lenina i I.V.Stalina or Мавзолей В.И.Ленина и И.В.Сталина’ between 1953 and 1961.
The attitude to the Mausoleum is ambiguous today. The majority of Russian society is indignant about the fact that the unburied body lies right on the country’s main square. Lenin’s ideas and actions are considered disputable and are vigorously condemned by many people. However, it is hard to change the situation: burying the leader of the world proletariat might cause a serious divide in the country. The building of Moscow Mausoleum is justly recognised as a monument of architecture and one of the best creations by Alexey Shchusev, a key personality in the history of Soviet architecture.
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Lenin body mausoleum: history of construction
The project of the first Mausoleum was designed by Shchusev in 1924, after Lenin’s death. It was developed within a very short period of time, and a wooden cubic building with a pyramid on top (as a visual reference to burial constructions of Ancient Egypt) stood in Red Square as soon as three days after the leader’s death. On both sides of it, there were pavilions used for the entrance and exit of visitors who came to pay tribute to Vladimir Lenin. The site of the Mausoleum was not chosen randomly: a necropolis of Red GuardsCore units of the Red Army during the Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War and communist figures (Inessa Armand, Yakov Sverdlov, Vadim Podbelsky, and others) had already formed there during the first years of Soviet rule.
A country-wide competition for the best design of the permanent mausoleum was announced soon after that. The archives still hold many drawings made by different people, some of whom were just amateur artists of humble origins. The projects included some very unusual versions: a giant castle with towers, a glass pyramid topped by a globe, a huge cave… There even exists a proposed building shaped like an armoured car. Most of those dreamlike drawings were unfeasible in real construction practice, which is why it was then decided to accept only projects developed by professionals.
Shchusev’s project was acknowledged as the best, so it was used to erect the new wooden building of the Mausoleum. Shchusev dealt brilliantly with his task and the Mausoleum became a real monument, a building of a symbolic function. The architect himself would say afterwards that he created ‘a composition of a terraced monument and a tribune at the same time’ to visually illustrate the slogan ‘Lenin is dead but his cause is alive’. The rigorous, ultimately simple geometrical forms of the construction echoes the majestic ziggurats of Mesopotamia. Yet they did not look formal or antiquated: Shchusev managed to bring some jovial asymmetry into the composition.
Lenin’s body stayed in that wooden mausoleum for five years, but then the mausoleum started to decay, which was caused by the inappropriate ground coat: there used to be a moat in that place. That is why the construction of a stone building, almost mirroring the design of the wooden one, started in 1929. This ferroconcrete building with brick walls was coated with porphyry, granite, and Labrador spar. The red colour of the stone, the colour of revolution and the Soviet flag blends well with the colour of the Kremlin. The black colour symbolises mourning, which creates a grave mood and reflects grief. The only decoration of the Mausoleum is a huge black one-piece slab with a laconic inlaid inscription ‘LENIN’. According to the architect, the weight of the stab is about 60 tons.
It took a lot of effort to create the Mausoleum as apart from actually constructing the building, it was necessary to design the memorial hall and a tomb chest with the right angle of the glass to cover the slope (to avoid flecks). Soviet scientists also had to develop new methods of embalming and corpse storing. Finally, it was necessary to ensure the security of the building, as there had been several attempts to damage Vladimir Ilyich’s body: people shot at it, tried to pour ink on it, and even to blow up at the building with Lenin’s Tomb.
As time passed, Soviet power diminished and became a thing of the past. No more parades were held from the Mausoleum tribune, and the guard of honour was removed from its entrance. However, the Lenin Mausoleum still stands in Red Square of Moscow having become a natural part of its environment.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com