Lenin’s body was taken to the Red Square and displayed shortly after his death in 1924. It is remarkably unchanged because of the preservation methods used on the corpse. Lenin had black spots on his skin, and these various imperfections were treated with a mixture of acetic acid and vodka. Under the Soviet Union, the government paid the staff responsible for continual preservation efforts. After Stalin’s death in 1953, his embalmed body was put next to Lenin’s, and it remained there for eight years until it was removed in an effort to de-Stalinize the country. Lenin’s body is still in the Red Square today and open to the public.
Red Square, Moscow, Russia, +7 495 623 55 27
When Kim Jong-Il died in 2011, North Korean officials summoned Russian scientists to help with the embalming. You could say the whole Lenin corpse display thing made Russia a bit of a trendsetter in this regard. His body now rests in a glass sarcophagus where it serves as a major tourist attraction. The glass is filtered so that it keeps North Korea’s beloved dictator’s complexion rosy. A bright red blanket is draped over him, and the sarcophagus is surrounded with matching crimson flowers. Kim Jong-Il’s father, Kim Il-Sung, was also embalmed and placed on display nearby.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was one of Vietnam’s most respected leaders. He led the Viet Minh Independence Movement and served as the country’s prime minister. Minh died of heart failure in 1969, and an enormous mausoleum was constructed in his home city of Hanoi. Inside, his body remains on display just as many of the world’s other communist leaders. After his death, the capital was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City, and today, the Vietnamese government works hard to maintain his puritanical image as the father of Vietnamese independence. For example, any publications about Ho Chi Minh’s relationships with women are banned in the country.
Mao Zedong was the leader of the Communist Party of China, and he served as its chairman for nearly 30 years. He is certainly a controversial figure that is often compared to Stalin. While Mao hugely contributed to the creation of a unified, modernized China, the lengths to which he was willing to go in order to achieve his goals are undoubtedly brutal. His body remained on display for one week after his death. It was then encased in a crystal coffin and moved permanently to his mausoleum, which was built on Tiananmen Square. It is guarded by heavily armed military personnel but remains a popular tourist destination to this day.
Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Beijing, China, +86 10 6513 2277
Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s controversial socialist president died in 2013. In the fashion of his socialist and communist predecessors, Chávez was supposed to be embalmed so that his devotees could view his body on a permanent basis. Unfortunately, there were complications involving the process, and the body was not prepared quickly enough. For a body to be successfully preserved, the embalming process must begin within the first few hours after a person dies. Further, the warm Venezuelan climate made preserving the corpse even more difficult. Still, it is possible to visit Chávez’s tomb at the Military Academy in Caracas.
Mummy Juanita has many nicknames including ‘the Inca Ice Maiden’ and ‘the Ice Princess.’ It is evident from the signs of severe head trauma in her skull and the location of her body on the summit of Mt. Ampato in the Peruvian Andes that she was a child sacrifice. Experts believe she was around 12 years old at her death, which occurred more than 500 years ago. The freezing temperatures naturally mummified her, and she was extraordinarily well preserved, giving anthropologists and scientists a rare insight into Incan life. Today, you can visit her body at Catholic University’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Peru.
Throughout history, dead rulers have been preserved with fantastic grandiosity, and considering his legendary persona in life, it’s no surprise that Napoleon Bonaparte’s burial would follow suit. After much speculation surrounding his death, scientists have confirmed that Napoleon died of a malignant stomach tumor. Two days after he died, a cast was taken of Napoleon’s head, and he was placed in a tin coffin with three outer shells made of wood, lead, and mahogany. Some years later, the coffins were placed in a porphyry sarcophagus and then put on display in Les Invalides in a marble hall that is open to the public.
Les Invalides, 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France, +33 810 11 33 99