Like a fine wine, Lenin's body just keeps getting better with age

Russian scientists are developing experimental embalming methods that preserve the look, weight, flexibility and suppleness of the Soviet founder's body, which turns 145-years-old today. 

Working out of the Center for Scientific Research and Teaching Methods in Biochemical Technologies in Moscow, a core team of five to six anatomists, biochemists and surgeons, known as the "Mausoleum group," is tasked with the upkeep of Lenin's remains. They also help maintain the preserved bodies of three other communist figureheads: North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and North Korean father–son duo Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, reports Jeremy Hsu of Scientific American

"They have to substitute occasional parts of skin and flesh with plastics and other materials, so in terms of the original biological matter the body is less and less of what it used to be," said Alexei Yurchak, professor of social anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. This makes the "quasibiologial" science "dramatically different" from traditional forms of embalming, like mummification, where the focus is on "preserving the orignal matter," he added. The process relies on routine microinjections, biennial reembalming sessions and a thin rubber membrane that Lenin dons under his suit during public display.

When Lenin died in 1924, most Soviet officials were opposed to the idea of preserving his body beyond a temporary period of national mourning. But Moscow's notoriously cold winter kept it in top condition for almost two months, forcing them to reconsider.