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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lenin's Keepers Making Grisly Business Profitable




Like many Russians, the men who take care of Vladimir Lenin's corpse are short on cash.


But rather than discontinue their maintenance of the pickled former leader of the Russian proletariat now that the government no longer supports them, some of the team of embalmers have begun moonlighting -- patching up and preserving the corpses of wealthy Russians killed in accidents and gangland hits.


Specialists at the Scientific Center of Biological Structures are using their unique skills to work for private clients who pay them handsomely to restore the appearance of victims of brutal contract killings, explosions or car crashes, one veteran embalmer was quoted as saying by Interfax.


"It is often a terrible lack of money that drives them to this," said Yury Romakov, the deputy head of the laboratory that has looked after Lenin's corpse for decades. Romakov has looked after the Bolshevik leader's body since 1952.


He said although the center in no way sponsors the after-hours work, many of his younger colleagues have taken orders from clients all over the country to restore bodies for funeral ceremonies. Some are even specially treated for long-term preservation in private mausoleums.


Formerly a top-secret operation, the center no longer receives government funding to maintain Lenin's body.


Instead it now functions within the All-Russia Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Herbs, performing research into genetics and the preservation of vegetable and animal cells.


Money made from conventional research enables a team of 12 to continue tending the body of Lenin on a voluntary basis. Twice a week members of the team visit the mausoleum on Red Square to apply special reactants to the corpse. Every 18 months to two years a major overhaul is also performed.


One State Duma deputy decried the moonlighting and suggested that it was the result of the government's decision to no longer fund the Lenin preservation.


"This is dreadful," said Nina Kulbaka, a Communist Party Duma deputy. "This may be mainly a political problem but it is a moral one too, and one the government knows would cause great agitation if widely publicized."


The Russian government still pays for security and electricity supply to the mausoleum, but private donations pay for running costs like the upkeep of the building and operation of the equipment that monitors the state of the body.


The fate of Lenin's body has been fiercely debated since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Communists remain staunchly opposed to its removal from the Red Square mausoleum.


Liberals, on the other hand, would like to see the cadaver removed and buried beside his mother in St. Petersburg as Lenin himself requested before his death.


Keeping the body in its current location is a matter of heritage rather than politics, said Alexei Abramov, president of the Lenin Mausoleum Charitable Fund, the organization that has paid for the maintenance of the site since 1993.


"In our protection of Lenin's mausoleum, we and our friends are not defending communist ideology but rather opposing the defilement of one of the nation's historical monuments," Abramov said.


Donations come from members of political parties, veterans and pensioners associations and individual benefactors in Russia and the former Soviet Union, as well as other countries like Greece, Abramov said.