“The body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will rest in a glass case on public display. Forever.”
That was the statement made by deputy Nicolas Maduro.
Why? Permanent displays of statuary, or artifacts have been, and should be reserved for “Gods and saints”. And I doubt that even these symbols designed to create emotions of ‘adoration’ are necessary, but apparently the majority disagree with me.
Chavez is only the latest to receive “god-like stature”. The best known is Russia’s Vladimir Lenin, whose body still lies in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square, nearly 90 years after his death.
For Nina Tumarkin, author of “Lenin Lives! The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia,” the decision to embalm Lenin in 1924 – the first modern leader to have his corpse preserved in this way – was a reflection of a tumultuous period in early Soviet history.
“Many people feared that the regime could not survive his death, so after the announcement was made, Moscow became something of an armed camp,” said Tumarkin, a professor of Russian history at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.
When Lenin died, leaders were unsure if Russian citizens would attend the lying in-state period. Over 750,000 braved the brutal January winter to walk past his casket. The extraordinary turnout moved leaders to extend the 40 day period mandated by the Russian Orthodox Church, when a Mass is celebrated every day for the deceased. His embalmed remains were placed in a glass sarcophagus and located in a wooded tomb, and later to the stone edifice in which they now remain.
Other leaders who were embalmed and put in a place to be viewed indefinitely include Stalin, China’s Mao Zedong, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, and North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung.
In the United States, the body of Abraham Lincoln was also embalmed following his assassination in 1865, enabling his body to be taken on its winding, three-week train journey back to Springfield, Illinois, with open-casket memorial services along the way. But today he is in a tomb, not on display.
So many thousands came to view Chavez’ body while it lay in-state at a military academy, that the period was extended 7 days. Giving details of his funeral, Maduro said Chavez would be embalmed “just like Lenin (and) Mao Zedong” and laid to rest at a military museum where generations of Venezuelans will be able to visit a man who for many was larger-than-life.
You know I have a problem with this, or I wouldn’t be writing about it. There are reasons why all of these men should not be placed in a position of reverence, and they are similar. Let’s just look at one of them who has no reason to be admired by generations to come.
Joseph Stalin had been part of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the party’s Central Committee in 1922. He subsequently managed to consolidate power following the 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin. He held this nominal post until abolishing it in 1952, concurrently serving as the Premier of the Soviet Union after establishing the position in 1941.
Stalin’s concept of “socialism in one country” replaced Lenin’s “New Economic Policy. He shifted the country’s focus to industrialization and collectivism. The move quickly transported the USSR to an industrial power. However, the economic changes resulted in millions being placed in Soviet correctional labour camps, and the deportation of others to rural areas. Disruption in agricultural production caused the Soviet famine of 1932–1933.
Later, in a period that lasted from 1936–39, Stalin instituted a campaign against alleged enemies of his regime called the Great Purge, in which hundreds of thousands were executed. Major figures in the Communist Party, such as the old Bolsheviks, Leon Trotsky, and several Red Army leaders were killed after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the government and Stalin.
After WWII, Stalin began to consolidate the Eastern Bloc, and increase division between the East and West. He aligned with China and Korea, and created what would later be called the “cold war”.
If you asked the Russians who suffered under his leadership, he might have been burned in effigy instead of lying in a place of honor. The poor suffered, while the leaders prospered.
If the history of all these glorified men was scrutinized, they were no more than leaders who accomplished good things, but also acted in ways that were harmful to the working class.
Columnist-The Guardian Express