Lenin’s Mausoleum – an absolute must for every Moscow traveler
Lenin’s Mausoleum is at the top of the list of attractions in the Russian capital. Located in one of the most famous squares in the world, it is an absolute must for every Moscow tourist. The good news first: admission is free, but there are a few things you have to consider before visiting, as you will find out in our article.
The communist revolutionary’s portrait is world-famous – almost a hundred years after his death Lenin is still a household name to every Russian. He led the October Revolution, which transformed the monarchist Russian Empire into the communist world power, the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet empire is long gone, the Lenin myth still lives on. Not least because of the Mausoleum in the center of the metropolis Moscow, which still attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
In the first days after Lenin’s death in January 1924, countless mourners, some contemporary reports even speak of over a million visitors in the first two weeks after his death, waited for hours in the sever Moscow winter to see Lenin’s body. So the leadership of the Soviet Union at that time decided to embalm the body and keep it permanently accessible to the population.
The Mausoleum, which still exists today and is made of granite and marble, was finally opened in 1930 after two temporary buildings made of wood. Since then, Lenin’s embalmed corpse has been resting in the tomb specially created for him. The Mausoleum has not only become a place of pilgrimage for followers of communist ideology, but is also an incredibly exciting place for anyone interested in history.
There couldn’t be a more prominent place for the Mausoleum in all of Russia – precisely on the most famous square of the gigantic empire, which is also one of the most photographed places in the world. Located near the Kremlin on Red Square, no visitor to Moscow can pass the impressive structure.
A visit has to be well planned, it is important to arrive as early as possible
But also stopping by Lenin’s body is usually not possible. Because the Mausoleum is still an extremely popular and free attraction. In summer and even in the severe cold Russian winter months, long queues regularly form along the Kremlin wall to see the father of Soviet communism.
In addition, the opening times are not exactly visitor-friendly: the Mausoleum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – with two exceptions: Mondays and Fridays, as well as on high Russian public holidays, the Mausoleum is closed.
Due to the waiting times of over an hour, it is advisable to arrive around twenty to thirty minutes before the opening of the Mausoleum on official visiting days – possibly even earlier in summer. If you have bags or cameras with you, they must be left in the Kremlin’s cloakroom in the Kutafya Tower (Kutafya bashnya – near the Alexandrovsky Sad metro station).
Face to face with Lenin? Do you want to see the world famous communist revolutionary for yourself? Then you need a Russian visa – you can find out how to get it here!
Absolutely no photography and filming, it is imperative to get in line before 12 noon
Unfortunately, it is forbidden to film or take photos inside the Mausoleum. If in doubt, it is better to come without a camera and bags. Once these have been handed in, all visitors have to go through a security check with a metal detector, which reminds of that in an airport.
The actual queue then begins at the Kremlin wall, roughly next to the State Historical Museum. To get there from the Kutafya Tower, you have to walk along Manezhnaya Ploshchad (Manezhnaya Square) and turn right onto Red Square, unless the queue reaches around the corner towards the Alexander Garden. You should be in the queue no later than 12 noon, otherwise you might be turned away at the entrance shortly before closing at 1 a.m. and have wasted your time.
Once in the Mausoleum, you take the steps down into the dark and cool room in which the father of communism has been laid out for almost a century – Lenin was once temporarily evacuated during a brief period in World War II, when German troops approached Moscow.
Respectful behavior is a must: calm, no headgear, hands out of pockets
Under the constant observation of the armed guards, who urge you to obey the rules of the game – this includes keeping silence, removing your headgear, taking your hands out of your pockets and showing yourself respectfully – you are led around the glass-framed sarcophagus .
Once at the bottom you have to get used to the dark lighting conditions, which is quite an adaptation, especially in summer. In return, the interior is constantly and constantly cool, which is quite pleasant in the warm Moscow months.
When visiting the Mausoleum, you only have a few minutes to catch a glimpse of Lenin. The guards placed throughout the building strictly ensure that the queue of visitors moves slowly but steadily in a semicircle around the sarcophagus. Even if you pause for a few seconds, you will be asked to continue.
The body of the former Soviet founder who died in 1924 and can be seen from a few meters away behind bulletproof glass looks well preserved – you can recognize the familiar face immediately. Even if after more than 90 years the body of Lenin inevitably reminds a little of a statue from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Lenin himself seems surprisingly small for a man of his repute. During his lifetime, however, his height of 1.65 meters was considered completely normal.
The Russian government still spends around 17 million rubles a year, or around $ 225,000, to preserve Lenin’s body. On some days the Mausoleum is closed exceptionally when the taxidermists have to embalm Lenin’s body again.
Could Lenin be buried soon?
The question how long the visit to the Mausoleum in its current form will be possible is left open. Efforts have long been made to bury Lenin’s body. Before his untimely death, during his serious illness with several heart attacks, Lenin himself had emphasized that he wanted to be buried next to his mother Marija Ulyanovna in St. Petersburg’s Volkovskoje cemetery.
His wife Nadezhda Krupskaya had also expressed this wish for her deceased husband while she was alive. Even Stalin wanted to avoid a personality cult around the father of the Soviet Union, but by then it was already too late. Lenin was simply too popular among the Soviet population to have the Mausoleum torn down. Instead, Stalin himself was laid out at Lenin’s side from 1953 to 1961, until he was buried under the Kremlin wall in process of the de-Stalinization under Nikita Kruschtschow.
Efforts by the first post-Soviet Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who emphasized that Red Square was not a cemetery and wanted to bury Lenin, were quickly rejected by his successor Putin. According to surveys, however, a majority of Russians are now in favor of finally giving Lenin the last rest. Perhaps this will also happen after the 100th anniversary of death in 2024.