Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Over Lenin's Dead Body

I woke up this morning, my last one in Russia, thinking of the things I wanted to do before heading off to Ukraine and leaving Russia for good.  I had sort of planned a relaxing afternoon over a highly-recommended bowl of borscht at the local restaurant up the street.  But instead I settled on going to see a dead body. 

The body belongs to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  You know, the Russian Marxist revolutionary who led the October Revolution of 1917?  That Lenin.  It seems that, since his death in 1924, his real-dead body has been preserved in a mausoleum within the Kremlin, and is open for public viewing.

I knew Lenin’s body was on display here in Moscow, but I hadn’t planned to go look at it. For one thing, the Lenin Mausoleum is open only three days a week for three hours a day, and I’d heard the lines are always horrendous.  I also feared that peering at a body that’s been dead for nearly a century would be creepy, and possibly tough to erase from memory.  But recently I read an article that said the Lenin Mausoleum may soon be closing to the public for good, and that last-chance mentality got the best of me.

So this morning, I set off with Alan from Australia and his Japanese girlfriend, Lisa, to go have a peek.  I can now report that I was right on all three counts: the line was long, crushing, and chaotic; peering over Lenin’s dead body in a dark, eery room totally creeped me out; and for the past few hours I’ve been having trouble putting the image of Lenin’s face out of my mind, particularly the part near his left ear that looked like a bit of decay beneath mounds of pancake makeup. 

But it’s checked off the to-do list, and that’s really the most important thing.  And now it's time to make the slog through the metro with my backpack during rush hour in order to get to the Kyivsky train station on time.  I've still got a few rubles in my pocket, and I'm hoping to find a last-minute bowl of borsht before the 13-plus-hour ride to Kiev.