ISBN 13: 9781860465154
Publisher: Harvill Pr
Publication Date: 1999
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Between 1924 and the fall of communism in 1991, hundreds of millions of visitors paid their respects to the embalmed body of Lenin and, later, that of Stalin. Professor Ilya Zbarsky - son of Boris Zbarsky who, with professor Vladimir Vorobiov, mummified Lenin two months after his death - reveals the extraordinary adventure of his family and of those who worked in the mausoleum laboratory, the sole purpose of which was to maintain the body of the Soviet founder in perpetuity. This they achieved by plunging him into a secret solution based on glycerine and potassium acetate. Their story, unthinkable save in a totalitarian regime, is also that of the burgeoning Soviet Union and of the privileged few who, disregarding Stalin and his growing anti-Semitic paranoia, believed that working in the shadows of the mausoleum would protect them forever. Abandoned by the State since 1991, the laboratory survives today through the patronage of the nouveaux riches and the Russian mafia dynasties. Archival and contemporary photographs reinforce the symbolic dimension of this page of history. Now, eighty years after the October Revolution, Boris Yeltsin has requested a referendum to decide the future of Lenin's embalmed remains.
"Ilya Zbarsky's poignant, laconic memoir is partly an account of how his opportunist father Boris came to head the laboratory responsible for keeping Lenin's body in perfect condition. It is also an account of the fate of Soviet science under Stalin and his successors. The stories run in parallel. What comes across strongly in the book, written with the Moscow-based French journalist Sam Hutchinson, is the sheer, offensive stupidity of the Soviet authorities, and the pettiness of their motives."
James Meek, London Review of Books, 03/18/1999
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