Taking a page from an earlier generation of socialist leaders, the embalmed body of recently deceased populist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez will be permanently displayed in a glass casket so that “his people will always have him.”
Chávez is joining something of a resurgence in displaying the corpses of authoritarian leaders. The body of Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean dictator who died in December 2011, was put on display last year at Kumsusan Memorial Palace, in Pyongyang, near the mortal remains of his dictator father.
But the practice began back in 1924, when Vladimir Lenin’s corpse was plunked down under glass in Red Square, where it remains to this day. (Joseph Stalin was a temporary roommate: His corpse debuted in 1953, but he was quietly removed and buried eight years later.) Other communist corpses that remain prominently displayed include China’s Mao Zedong in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.
Of course, keeping a corpse’s appearance up to snuff isn’t easy, and as you can imagine, much of the technical expertise came from the original experiment on Lenin. Back in 2004, Knight Ridder offered some grisly details of the work required to keep Lenin looking presentable. Based on that reporting, here’s some advice: