Cover image for Lenin's embalmers
Lenin's embalmers
Zbarskiĭ, I. B.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
A l'ombre du mausolée. English.
Publication Information:
London : Harvill, 1998.
Physical Description:
215 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 20 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QP511.8.Z23 A3 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Professor Ilya Zbarski mummified Lenin two months after his death to maintain the Soviet founder's body in perpetuity. Between 1924 and the fall of communism in 1991, hundreds of millions of visitors paid their respects to the embalmed bodies of Lenin and later, Stalin. This text reveals the story of Zbarski, his family and of those who worked in the mausoleum laboratory."

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mention of Lenin and corpses might indicate intrigue and topics of dark fascination. However, this vanilla account of Soviet life doesn't quite plumb the depths. Zbarsky was a member of the nomenklatura, and his privilege stemmed from a job in the world's most famous mausoleum. It was the author's father, Boris Zbarsky, who was in charge of the mausoleum; Ilya had a supporting role as a chemist, ensuring that Lenin did not spoil. While Zbarsky's account might resemble that of any Moscow pensioner, his employment did offer ringside seats for the Stalinist show trials in the 1930s. Although he skims over what could have been interesting personal detail (a competitive relationship between the young scientist and his playboy careerist father; the antipathy between the young man and his stepmother), Zbarsky shines when it comes to corpse preservation: he recounts the evacuation of Lenin's body to Siberia during WWII and includes a chapter focusing on the process used to preserve the leader of the World Proletariat. Zbarsky's personal relationship with the corpse ended in the 1950s, when he was dismissed from his post. The institute responsible for Lenin's upkeep later embalmed the leaders of several other Socialist countries (including Klement Gottwald, head of the Czech Communist Party, and Ho Chi Minh), and today the mausoleum laboratory provides mortuary services to all paying customers, including the Russian mafia. Offering little new information on the mysteries behind Lenin's tomb, the book will prove most interesting to those curious about Communist worship of their leaders' remains. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This nearly perfect little book is a work of lucid compression that tells the entire history of the former Soviet state from its hushed center--the Red Square mausoleum where Zbarsky and his father, Boris, maintained Lenin's mummified corpse from 1924 through the 1950s, when Stalin's paranoid purges finally reached them. A unique first-person history from the era of Bolshevist gangs to today's fad of mummified Russian mobsters. n (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.