Sarasota News Leader

03/15/2013

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Sarasota News Leader March 15, 2013 OPINION Page 66 NO REST FOR THE WICKED By David Staats Contributing Writer COMMENTARY Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the anti-U.S./United Kingdom socialist despot, died from an unspecified cancer on March 5. His final words were "I don't want to die. Please don't let me die." In view of the fact that his heir apparent, Interim President Nicolas Maduro, plans to exhibit Chavez's embalmed corpse "for eternity" in a museum, the late president's dying plea takes on special meaning. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924), leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the Soviet Union, ranks first on the list of mummified socialist corpses. The success of his transformation from national leader to national relic is due exclusively to the remarkable talents of his team of embalmers and those of their successor morticians. The history of the team's accomplishments is ably recorded in the book Lenin's Embalmers by Professor Ilya B. Zbarsky (1913-2007), a member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences who headed the Department of Developmental Biology (1956-1989), which was responsible for Lenin's postmortem care. Chavez is being readied to join a select group of socialist corpses preserved for the ages as national relics. They include Russia's Vladimir I. Lenin, China's Mao Zedong, Vietnam's Ho Professor Boris Zbarsky, Ilya's father, had emChi Minh and North Korea's Kims, père et fils. balmed the body in 1924. Popular only in the U.S. and Canada, embalm- After Hitler invaded the USSR in May 1941, ing is a highly invasive process that replac- Stalin ordered that Lenin's corpse be secretly taken by special train guarded by NKVD (sees blood with formaldehyde, as well as othcret police) troops to Tyumen in Siberia, some er toxic embalming fluids. Sometimes dye is 1,000 miles to the east, for safekeeping. Bemixed with the embalming fluids to produce fore the body left Moscow for Tyumen, howthe superficial, short-lasting effect of rosy skin ever, Lenin's brain was removed from his skull color. and preserved in paraffin. The brain remained Embalming is only intended to preserve a body in wartime Moscow. It is there today. Boris temporarily until burial, allowing mourners to and Ilya Zbarsky accompanied the body and view the dearly departed in a state of "restful tended to it over the next four years. With the repose" so they can leave with a "beautiful war's end, Lenin and the Zbarskys returned to memory picture," as per the industry litera- Moscow. ture. Embalming is not intended to prevent a Preserving Lenin's corpse is labor-intensive. body's eventual decomposition. For that there It is also expensive: about $500,000 per year. is mummification. Twice a week the mummy's face and hands are

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