I am a sucker for Late Nineteenth Century "Gothic Revival" terra-cotta buildings like Saint Pancras Station in London or the Potter Building in downtown Manhattan. Their aesthetics please me, yes; but, what really excites me, is the idea of using mass production methods to crank-out tasteful, well-designed and beautifully made component parts which could be assembled to create a handsome whole. As long as one starts with a beautifully-crafted prototype (and insists upon quality manufacturing), mass production can be a wonderful way of bringing good taste to the public in an affordable manner.
So it's not surprising that I spent more than a few minutes inspecting, photographing and appreciating this building in Revolution Square, which now houses the "Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812." It was built in the 1890's as Moscow's Duma or City Hall. From 1936 to 1993, it was the Central Lenin Museum. For almost two decades, it was closed to the public and served as storage for the State History Museum (just around the corner, in Red Square). Finally, in 2012 (the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812), it opened as a museum to educate the public about the period leading-up to the war, the Napoleonic War itself, and to exhibit art and objects relating to the war.
This decorative roundel, affixed over the main door to the building, honors the strength and contribution of the working man—and is, likely, a remnant of the building's period as a Soviet memorial to its leader.
Quite unlike my favorite terra-cotta buildings is this structure—but stylish in its own way—is Soviet Leader Vladimir Lenin's Mausoleum in Red Square. When Lenin died in 1924, a wooden viewing structure was quickly built (within six days) to allow visitors to properly pay their last respects to the leader. When the viewing lines continued to be long, and the embalmers' work proved to be long-lasting, it was decided to build a more permanent and suitable mausoleum to publicly display Lenin's remains.
This ziggurat pyramid form structure, built in 1929, is inspired by classic (and timeless) tombs of the past. It is constructed of marble, porphyry, labradorite and granite. Lenin's exposed (and preserved) body lies in a glass case within.
For years, thousands of faithful followers visited the site. From 1953 to 1961, he was joined by the preserved body of Joseph Stalin—who was eventually removed in a nation-wide process of "de-Stalinization." People still visit and view Lenin's body to this day.
On several occasions, it's been suggested that Lenin be buried in a proper earthen grave. Vladimir Putin opposes this move, suggesting that to do so would be a rebuttal of the Soviet principles to which so many Russians subscribed for 70 years. So the Russian government continues to fund the upkeep of the mausoleum—including the periodic regimens of top Russian embalmers.
More from Moscow tomorrow.
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