LENIN’S DEATH and Early Deification
The cover, with a stark, avant-garde design, states:
THE TOMB OF LENIN IS THE CRADLE OF FREEDOM FOR ALL HUMANITY
The cover is quintessentially avant-garde, presenting its roots both in religious and folk tradition. There is the parallel of lenin’s grave with the tomb of Christ, presenting Lenin as a new Messiah and his tomb signifying the death of old humanity and beginning of a new life.
The frontispiece announces:
This massive presence will stand at the frontier of the new age for centuries. Lenin was and will be, even after his physical death, the leader of the new humanity, herald, prophet and creator of the new world.
Lenin died in a small suburb of Moscow called Gorki. A few kilometres further south, today one finds the busy international airport, Domodedovo. An express train runs from the airport to Paveletsky Station in central Moscow. It passes through a small station called ‘Leninskaya’. Clearly visible from the train is an ornate building with a typical Stalinesque spire. This is in fact the station building, although it resembles a small-scale palace from the outside. It was built because this was where Lenin’s body was brought from the place of death, 4km away, to be put on a train bound for central Moscow. (Prior to Lenin’s death the station was called Gerasimovo and was about 100m away from the present station buildings). The train consisted of a steam engine (U127) and a baggage wagon (no. 1691). Both were preserved and can be seen today at the Moscow Railway Museum, located close to Paveletsky Station.
The funeral train was then met at The Saratov (now Paveletsky) Station by a group of mourners and accompanied in procession to the Hall of Columns. It was so cold that no special embalming was required for the body at that time.
The Last Journey of Illich. (above)
The removal of the body of V. I. Lenin from Saratov Station in Moscow. Carrying the coffin, front – M. I. Kalinin, to his left, N. I. Bukharin and right, Comrade Tomski
Lenin’s body lay in state and was then laid to rest in a temporary mausoleum. The important part of it was to be below ground level in order to preserve an even temperature. It had to be dug quickly but the ground was frozen solid and so fires were lit to thaw it out. They proved ineffective so eventually dynamite was used to blast a suitable hole in the ground.
It was decided to put the body on show in a temporary mausoleum and then, once it started to decompose, to bury it The first structure was designed A. Shchusev, who was just coming to the end of a four-year post teaching architecture at VKhUTEMAS. The mausoleum allowed the viewing of the body and over 100000 people passed through its doors in the first month and a half. The architect and artist Alexander Pasternak, brother of the famous author, Boris, was commissioned to reproduce in watercolour the colours of the various parts of Lenin’s body as a record to aid future possible preservation. It appears that colour photographic film of sufficient quality was not available in Moscow.
A new mausoleum was requierd. The existing one was considered too small for such a large number of visitors. Another reason was that specialists were experiencing considerable success in preserving Lenin’s body. Consequently, a larger mausoleum was designed and opened in August of the same year. The sarcophagus was designed by the architect, Konstantin Melnikov, who received in exchange a piece of land on Arbat street, where he later built his famous house.