Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Paying My Respects


Spent the day acting as a groupie for dead Russians. Red Square was largely sealed off after last night but I still managed to get into Lenin's tomb. It's surprisingly simple, just down some stairs and into a room, walk round the body and in 30 seconds back out into the sunshine. He looked very peaceful, but then he has been dead for 80 years. More surprisingly he's got a black and white spotted tie on proving that fashion wasn't one of the Bolsheviks' strong points.

After leaving the tomb you have to follow the path past various other Soviet luminaries who have their ashes scattered in the Kremlin walls. The most important get busts, among them four of the other five dead General Secretaries. Brezhnev looks stern, Andropov quite cheerful, Chernenko uncharacteristically healthy and Stalin just appears bored.

The only Soviet leader not buried there is Khruschev (ousted as leader and forced to die in obscurity) so I went down to the main cemetery in town where all other illustrious Russians are buried. His tomb was pretty vulgar. More interesting was Gogol, whose statue stands above his grave looking pretty foppish. He wouldn't have looked quite so chipper had he known he was going to be accidentally buried alive, but then that serves him right for sleeping in coffins.

Finished off with a look round the Second World War museum, which features a lot of exhibits referring not to Soviet soldiers but to "patriotic men defending the Motherland" while the Germans are invariably called "vile Fascist dogs". A lot of fascinating stuff in there not least a series of dioramas of key battles. My feet are sore after a long day's walking, so I'm looking forward to a good sit down tonight.


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