40 Years in Beer, Part Twenty: Beer, zakuski, vodka and ice cream
Changing of the guard at Lenin’s Mausoleum. Previously: 40 Years in Beer, Part Nineteen: Moscow skyline in twilight, 1989. Founding Soviet patriarch Vladimir Ilyich Lenin died in early 1924, and while he apparently wished to be buried over in the family plot, the needs of the living Bolsheviks far outweighed those of the dead. His successors, shortly to be preoccupied with the reptilian power struggle that ended with Stalin’s fateful emergence, deemed Lenin’s corpse a potentially valuable marketing tool, an icon worthy of preservation by means of a miraculous ad hoc method of hitherto unknown embalming as soon to be put on display in a modernistic mausoleum by the Kremlin wall, facing Red Square. Generations of Soviet citizens subsequently made a quasi-religious pilgrimage to view Lenin, and since the collapse of the USSR in 1992 this rite of passage has continued to be an option for new-age Russians, if not to its previous level of enforced devotion and decorum. Visiting westerners irreverently referred to Lenin’s mausoleum as the Red Square Wax Museum, prompting our roving band of “students” to join the lengthy queue one day in July, 1989, enduring the humorless instructions of the mausoleum’s many uniformed handlers (no cameras, no gum, no tank tops...Read more