Visiting Lenin’s tomb: Just in time for Halloween!

lenin's tombBy Jane Stillwater

After watching a video about Vladimir Lenin’s takeover of Russia in 1917, I just had to go see this famous tomb for myself.  “Lenin promised the workers that he would create a democratic government by the people,” the video’s narrator stated, “but Lenin lied.”  Lenin lied through his teeth to all of those sweet, gullible Russian peasants back in 1917 — just like the powers-that-be in Washington have been lying through their teeth to all of us sweet, gullible Americans during the last 40-odd years; lying about everything all the way from Johnson and Nixon’s Vietnam, Reagan’s economic deregulation program, Iran-Contra affair and “war” on Grenada, Clinton’s Kosovo and NAFTA, Bush’s Afghanistan folly and war on Iraq and the infamous Bush-Obama joint Wall Street bailout — up to and including the healthcare insurance company scams that are now being taunted by Congress and which currently kill 225 Americans a day.  But I digress.

In 1917, Lenin’s true secret mission was to establish a dictatorship in Russia — with himself at the helm.  And most of the people in the newly-formed USSR fell for his passionately-delivered “State of the Union” speech, thus allowing Lenin to write his own Patriot Act and to rule Russia with iron-handed signing statements until his death in 1924, after which time Stalin preserved Lenin’s body and promoted him to proletariat sainthood.  And millions of Soviet citizens began trooping through Red Square to see his body, which became a legendary pilgrimage spot for good Comrades.  So.  This here tomb of Lenin’s is powerful historical stuff — and definitely a Must-See for us tourists.

But how can I get all the way to Red Square from where I’m staying now, out at the North River Terminal, out in the middle of nowhere?  “Just take the subway,” someone said.  Who me?

Moscow’s subway system is enormous, the trains run really fast and all the station names are in Russian.  You gotta be kidding.  But then I asked a Russian friend of mine to write down the names of the stations I needed to get on and off at, and then just kept asking every Russian I saw how to get there.  “You just count down nine stops from where you are now.  And then look for the McDonalds.”  I can do that.

So I arrived early in Red Square on Monday morning and started to stand in line for Lenin’s tomb.  “Never go to a foreign country without gel,” my daughter Ashley always warns me.  Or without a book to read while you stand in line either.  So I read “The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930s,” shivered in the morning cold and chatted with the man standing behind me — who looked Korean-American.  “You from San Francisco?” I asked.

“No, Siberia.”spooky lenin

“Oh.  Then this weather must not be cold for you.”

“That’s a stereotype.  Siberia is actually quite warm.”  Yeah right.  “No, really.  It’s actually rather sunny.”  Then the line started moving and we were actually entering Lenin’s tomb.  And it was SPOOKY.  Its dark and mysterious atmosphere was like one of those weird haunted houses that you go to on Halloween.

First you go down a series of black marble steps, poorly lit, dangerous.  And at each turn in the series of steps, silent Red Army guards stand rigidly at attention.  And then you round the last corner and there is the dark, silent, spooky bunker-like tomb.  And there is the actual body of Lenin himself — the man who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of over 40 million Russians — lying in his casket, looking ghostly, with only his face and hands exposed and lit, and looking, er, short.  The only thing missing to make this scene complete is some piped-in organ music by Bach.

Lenin himself looked like he was made out of wax.

I then out-and-out stared at the moribund body Comrade Lenin for as long as I could — until a silent guard finally motioned me to move on.

Now I know where Count Dracula hangs out in the daytime.

Russians are all talking about closing down Lenin’s tomb now.  No, don’t do it!  Even for all of its Halloween atmosphere and general over-all spookiness, this place is a very important part of Russian history.  Almost every schoolchild in the former Soviet Union has been here.  This tomb has become legendary over the last seventy years.  And not only that, but this place is a SERIOUS tourist attraction.  And it is also a warning to coming generations of Russians — and also to coming generations of Americans as well — that what you see is not always what you get.  And that our leaders find it too temptingly easy to lie to us.  I also think that when all of our current and past American political leaders — the ones who have happily sold out our country to the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us — finally die off, we should make a Halloween wax-museum monument for them too.

A little side note:  They say that Russians never smile.  “That’s not true,” said one Russian I met in Moscow.  “We smile all the time — when we have a reason.  If we know you well, then we smile at you frequently.  We just don’t smile arbitrarily at strangers, that’s all.”

Russians who work with Americans have to be TAUGHT to smile all the time.  According to Barbara Ehrenreich, there’s a reason that Americans smile all the time.  “Smiles, at least in human society, are gestures of submission and are routinely demanded of [women, employees, service providers, congressional representatives, etc.] as a token of subordinate status.  The happy slave smiles; the well-trained lady smiles; now even the male white-collar striver has to keep his lips pulled back in an expression of eager compliance.  Only the top guys get to snarl and snap their way through the day.”

Has America become a country of Stepin Fetchits?  Duh, yeah.  Why in the freak do you think they keep feeding us anti-depressants?  So that we can fake our subservient smiles better, of course.

11 Comments on “Visiting Lenin’s tomb: Just in time for Halloween!”

  1. Russians are a difficult people to understand unless you step back three paces and weigh in their entire political history. I think the only time period more difficult to assemble than World War II is the turn of the twentieth century. It symbolizes the end of the era for kings and czars and a shifting of power to more industrialized government. Lenin played the dynamics of conquest and rule, but his imprint as the proletariat leader is really a bit small. Stalin was the one who radically changed the face of their Communist government to total dictatorship, with secret service police, informers and spies terrorizing the people into submission. Kruschev slowly opened toward more democratic policies in his many negotiations at the table with the US and NATO countries. As Russia became more democratic in its resolution, it also became more Capitalistic. The ruble was unable to stand against the then, very strong dollar, and it fell.

    Russia villifies its past so it can move on. The czars failed them. Communism failed them. Capitalism failed them. Because they are a resilient people, they’ll find something new; something that works for them, at least for awhile.

  2. The smiles, I did not know this before, that they had to learn to smile like Americans. I don’t know much beyond surface historical facts about Russian culture, it is an enigma to me. I have no Russian in my family line, I always made that my excuse for not feeling comfortable in Russian literature, it didn’t sing to me, I felt off balance. But maybe that’s because I don’t know enough. Thanks for this, it piqued my interest.

  3. Grainne, you need to read Dostoyevski’s book of short stories, “Poor People”, then Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, if you wish Russian literature to sing to you. While i was in Mexico, i was able to subscribe to a Russian woman’s magazine. It was the best woman’s magazine i had ever read. Not one page was devoted to movie stars, models, make up, newest get skinny diet and fashion, although each week they featured a pattern in the middle for sewing your own clothes, with a how-to for making adjustments and putting it together. The magazine was mainly devoted to women in the sciences; biology, physics, astronomy or environmental studies, women in medicine, with self-hope for natural health, and women in music and arts. The last page was always devoted to hand crafts and exhibited the stunning displays of one of Russia’s numerous and highly skilled crafts women. It was a magazine that exalted woman’s intelligence instead of insulting it.

    There is much we could learn about Russia. I’m glad Jane has taken her time to share with us. We have more of her Russian adventure coming up!

  4. Russia is on my list of Places To Go Before I Die; I’ve studied it; my father lived there as a military attache; it’s one of the most significant countries on the planet – and one of the most misunderstood.

    Jane, thanks for the post! Count on my coming back to read more!

  5. I meant to say self help in my previous comment, not self-hope. Astra, i agree. Russia is a very misunderstood country. I blame it on the Cold War. Instead of the super-powers creating bridges of communication and mutual understanding, each society became a closed one, filled with fears and superstition about the other side; the enemy. A balance could have been drawn between free enterprise and socialistic endeavors. Instead, a line was drawn and it became a contest. This is not the democratic process but a win-lose mentality. The sad part is, when you set yourself up as a conquistador, you are setting yourself up for eventual conquest. You still lose.

  6. If you are a writer, Russia is a real treasure-trove of stories. And if you are a historian, you could go blind reading up on all its interesting history. And The New Yorker apparently just did a two-part story on Siberia that I need to track down. One could spend a lifetime finding things out about Russia. But Google research is just about as far as I am going to go. Right now I just want to sit back and enjoy the experience.

    I hope that you get to go to Russia too.

  7. That’s good-lookinggood editorial,I really likethe tips you have given.Will be referring a lot of friends on the subject ofthis.Looking forward to reading more from you.So keep blogging.|valuableinformation and excellentpost you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up!

  8. “Now I know where Count Dracula hangs out in the daytime.”

    I just came back from Moscow and I can tell you: that’s the best definition I had from Lenin’s Mausoleun! Haha

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