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Will Lenin Rest in Peace? Mausoleum Reuse Competition Announced in Russia

After the death of first Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in 1924, his body was embalmed and put on display in a temporary mausoleum in Red Square, which was later turned into a permanent fixture. After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, debates began on whether Lenin should be removed from the mausoleum and buried.

The Union of Architects of Russia non-governmental organisation has announced an all-Russian competition for the best concept for the reuse of Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square, according to the union’s website.

The competition is being held within the framework of the two-day Zodchestvo festival, due to kick off in the Russian capital on 11 November. Participants are tasked with developing a sketch of the project for the Mausoleum’s reuse as a museum dedicated to its design and construction.

The union pointed out that the contest’s goal is to create a sort of “suggestion box” on reusing the Mausoleum, “an unconditional masterpiece of 20th century architecture, and thereby outline approaches to solving the problem”.

The organisation claimed that the body of the leader of the 1917 Great October Socialist Revolution “being put in the Mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow, in the very heart of the country, which has realised the historic mistakes of the past, is out of line with modern ideas about fixing the 'eternal memory' and is a violation of the Russian Orthodox tradition, as well as of the will of Lenin himself”.

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The union also cited “most historians” as saying that the decision to mummify Lenin’s body was made by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, whose cult of personality was dismantled immediately after his death in 1953.

Lenin’s body was embalmed shortly after his death in 1924; it was put on display in a temporary mausoleum in Red Square, which was then turned into a permanent fixture. The USSR’s disintegration in 1991 was followed by debates on whether the body should be removed from the mausoleum and buried.

During a press conference in 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against undertaking such a step.

"In my view we should not touch this, at least while we have  many people who connect their own lives with this […] connect this with achievements of the past, of the Soviet years”, Putin underscored, while at the same time calling Lenin a revolutionary rather than a state figure.
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