The Discreet Charm of Lenin

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Abstract

This article takes two postcards of Lenin as their point of departure to ask about articulations of Soviet history as image and kitsch. I am especially interested in the ways in which the dead body or mummy of Lenin comes to symbolize an imagined social coherence that accrues specific political significance after the demise of the Soviet Union. In looking at Lenin's mummy as a site of memory and key to understanding contemporary Russian political desires, the article offers one analytical interpretation of the continuing preservation of Russia's revolutionary and also Stalinist past. By arguing that the Lenin mummy simultaneously functions as camp and kitsch, and as an embodied time of eternity, I also seek to understand how “grandiose” understandings of Soviet history work in this present.

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