Lenin, Mao, Uncle Ho (Chi Minh), the two Kims, and now Chavez – all embalmed or about to be. Lenin’s embalming was the first time a body had been preserved in a presentable state for any reasonable length of time. Others have been embalmed for a time, only to be buried at certain points – Stalin from 1953 to 1961, Georgi Dimitrov from 1949 to 1990. Surprisingly, there is very little serious study of this phenomenon as a whole. Plenty of facile stuff around: pseudo-religion, communist kitsch, manifestation of backward superstition among Slavs, Asians, Latin Americans … Time for more sustained work (and visits to each site), it seems to me, especially after spending a good deal of time investigating the veneration of Lenin.

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