Time marches on: Lenin who?
The first time I ever saw a photo of Lenin's embalmed corpse on display in its mausoleum in Moscow, the sight gave me the creeps. There was something dreadful about making a body into an icon--a sort of zombie-esque quality to the whole enterprise. The Soviets may have abolished (or sought mightily to abolish) religion, but they seemed to have replaced it with ghoulish hero-worship.
Little did I know the lengths to which the Soviets actually went to keep the remains intact all these long years. And it's not just the Soviets who were big on these body-as-holy-relic displays; it turns out it's a Communist thing. Uncle Ho is on view in Hanoi, having been secretly super-embalmed by a special Soviet team sent to the North Vietnamese jungle especially for that purpose in 1970 (the Wikipedia article mentions that this seems to have gone against Ho's express wishes, which were to be cremated; it also mentions that other bodies on similar display are Mao Zedong and Kim Il-Sung).
Stalin used to lie under glass in Red Square alongside his illustrious predecessor; I recall seeing photos in my youth of the two of them, looking like bizarro twin Snow Whites waiting for princes who never came. But when Stalin was discredited during the Khrushchev era, he was removed from Lenin's side and buried under the Kremlin wall.
Now a similar fate might await Lenin. The NY Times reports that talk of his burial has been revived, and Putin is in favor of it, although the idea has its detractors.
But to me the most interesting part of the article was the following quote at the end:
No matter what Mr. Putin decides, there already are indications that time may ultimately do what no politician has yet achieved. The youngest Russian adults barely recall the Communist times, and some show little interest in looking back. "Lenin," mused Natasha Zakharova, 23, as she walked off Red Square on Tuesday, admitting that she was not quite sure whose body she had just seen. "Was he a Communist?"
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.