At 145, Vladimir Lenin Is Looking Great
Though his body, at this point, isn't entirely his
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 26, 2015 6:29 AM CDT
In this April 16, 1997 file photo, the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, is on display in his tomb on Moscow's Red Square.   (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, File)

(Newser) – A tip for looking your best at age 145: Try replacing bits of your skin with plastic. That's what the experts in charge of preserving Vladimir Lenin's body have done, Scientific American reports. The Soviet Union founder, who died in 1924, would have turned 145 this week, and his mausoleum closed while the preservation team made improvements to his embalmed body. Their primary goal is maintaining the body's look and feel rather than its original material, Scientific American notes: "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," says an expert.

That sets the work apart from processes like mummification, he notes, "where the focus was on preserving the original matter while the form of the body changes." Now, in addition to the skin replacements, Lenin has false eyelashes, and instead of skin fat, researchers have molded a combination of chemicals to keep his skin looking the same. The body is re-embalmed using a bath of chemicals in alternate years. Lenin has kept scientists busy: During the period between the 1950s and 1980s, as many as 200 experts had jobs maintaining the body, Scientific American notes. Meanwhile, the image of Lenin remains a potent symbol, as two statues of the leader in eastern Ukraine were knocked down last week in protest of Russia, AFP reports. (Last year, a similar incident led to an auction of Lenin's nose.)