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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Embalmed Lenin Ready for Party

His brain is sliced between 30,000 microscope slides and doctors long ago disposed of his organs, but the leader of Russia's Great October Revolution will nonetheless be present at the 80th anniversary party.


Elevated on a pedestal inside his mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square, the embalmed Vladimir Lenin will still attract the faithful marking the Nov. 7 anniversary of the Revolution.


"For all people it's a day of great happiness and for me as well," said Lenin's closest living relative, niece Olga Ulyanova, 75. "I will be participating in the celebratory events marking the Great October Revolution. On Red Square there will be a laying of flowers at the mausoleum, and I hope to participate in this if the weather is good."


As some stay true to the old traditions, others connected with Lenin's tomb have turned westward since communism's 1991 collapse to promote their past association.


Alexei Shchusev, grandson of the mausoleum's architect, said he was seeking a U.S. gallery or museum to display his collection of drawings and documents on the tomb's history. At the same time, he is lobbying to keep the embalmed Lenin and the mausoleum -- once the Politburo's viewing platform for Nov. 7 military parades -- integral parts of Red Square. "It's forbidden to take out the Pharaohs from their Egyptian sarcophagus," he said. "Well, they have taken them out, but to put them in museums, not to burn or destroy them."


Lenin's embalmer from 1934 to 1952, Ilya Zbarsky, 84, was spending the anniversary week promoting his recently published French-language memoirs in Paris and Madrid. Zbarsky broke the embalmers' code of silence several years ago, revealing that the body is kept moist through immersion in a tub of chemicals for up to two months every year or year and a half. The latest bath, a technique Zbarsky's father helped develop after Lenin's death in 1924, took place earlier this year.


Despite his link with Lenin, Zbarsky is not popular with many die-hard communists, not because he spilled the beans on the embalming technique, but because he advocates burying the 127-year-old body.


Today a team of 12 scientists continues the embalming tradition, visiting the body twice weekly for quick touch-ups, said Yury Denisov-Nikolsky, deputy director of the Research Institute on Biological Structures. "The body's in good condition. There haven't been any changes," he said.


Funding for maintaining Lenin as he was at his death in 1924 falls to the V.I. Lenin Mausoleum charitable foundation, which has raised about 100 million rubles ($17,000) so far this year, fund president Alexei Abramov said. "Money has been coming in from all regions of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Azerbaijan," he said. "So far we have been able to meet the needs of the mausoleum scientists."


The Kremlin still pays for the single officer and two guards on duty inside the mausoleum as well as the contingent of about 30 that man the tomb during public visiting hours, Abramov said. For the military guards who keep watch over the red granite tomb at the Kremlin walls, the 80th anniversary of the Revolution is just another working week. This means that, with the tomb open every day but Monday and Friday, Lenin worshippers will not be able to visit on the Friday, Nov. 7, anniversary.


President Boris Yeltsin said in March and again in June this year that Lenin should be buried. He also has said voters should hold a referendum on the subject. The opposition-dominated parliament then passed an emotional resolution urging authorities to keep their hands off the genius of the Revolution and let him stay in the tomb. Yeltsin has been silent on the subject since.


Lenin's 1.34-kilogram brain has been spread among 30,000 microscope slides, once studied for clues to genius, now stored and ignored in a Moscow laboratory. "This is already history now," said Nikolai Bogolepov, director of the Institute of the Brain. "The institute is now working on other problems."


Do the brain tissues contain signs of revolutionary genius? "It's a very complex question," Bogolepov said. "Many gifted people worked on this question, also in other countries including in Germany and the United States, and each of these gifted people has their own outlook."