Vladimir Lenin, who started the communist era in Russia, has been embalmed and his body is on display in Red Square.
Embalming is the process of preserving a corpse, usually so that it can be seen at a funeral ceremony. Generally, when embalming doesn’t take place several days after a person’s death, their body begins to decompose. To ensure this doesn’t happen, preservation chemicals will be used so that the deceased’s body can be seen at an open casket funeral.
Washing bodies is part of the embalming process.
The embalming process has a long history, dating back to the Egyptian mummification process. Although their techniques were quite different from those used today, the effect was the same – to preserve an individual’s body after death. In the case of the ancient Egyptians, they believed that the spirit would return to the body after death, so it must remain in good condition. To preserve the corpses, they covered the bodies with a drying chemical called natron and wrapped them in linen sheets.
An embalmer is responsible for dressing the deceased for the wake and funeral services.
Today, embalming is done by injecting chemicals directly into the bloodstream to preserve the corpse’s appearance. The most commonly used chemicals for embalming are formaldehyde and ethanol. A combination of these two chemicals is enough to preserve the body for a short period of time; to keep it in good condition for a longer period, you would use a solution composed almost entirely of formaldehyde.
A closed casket funeral may not require embalming.
Modern embalming emerged during the American Civil War, in which many soldiers died in battles far from their families. Families wanted an open casket funeral for their loved one, and so preservation techniques were approved so that the body would be as close to normal as possible for the funeral.
There are several steps involved in modern embalming. First, the embalming fluid is injected directly into the blood vessels of the deceased and pushed through the body with a mechanical pump. Then the internal organs are emptied of their contents and filled with embalming fluid. The chemicals are then injected under the skin whenever needed, followed by a final superficial embalming on the injured areas of the body.
Embalming is often linked to beliefs about the afterlife.
One of the most famous embalmed bodies today is Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin, whose embalmed corpse is on display at the Red Square Mausoleum in Moscow. The Mausoleum’s curators say the corpse is very well preserved and is expected to last at least another hundred years.