Hugo Chavez and 6 Other Rulers Who Have Had Their Bodies Preserved


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez passed away last week at the age of 58. Chavez's state funeral was attended by a host of world leaders, dignitaries, athletes, and left-wing celebrities. Attendees included Cuba's Raul Castro and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and actor Sean Penn.

Chavez was president of the country from 1999 until his death. In 2011, Chavez had an operation to remove an abscessed cancerous tumor. He had a second operation in 2012 and then traveled to Cuba for additional treatment in 2013. Chavez was elected to his fourth term in 2013 but his inauguration was postponed in order for him to recuperate from complications stemming from his cancer treatment. Chavez's ideology of Bolivarianism and "socialism of the 21st century placed him at odds with America and most of the Western world. An election will be held on April 14 to choose his successor.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as acting leader on Friday. One of the first decisions he made was to announce that Chavez’ embalmed body will be eternally displayed in a glass tomb at a military museum near the presidential palace. The move is designed to keep the legacy of the fallen leader alive.

The decision to immortalize Chavez is rare but not unusual, especially for leftist leaders. Here is a list of six government rulers that have been turned into museum pieces.

1. Vladimir Lenin

The first premier and founder of the Soviet Union and the creator the political ideology Leninism died in 1924 from a stroke at the age of 53. His body lay in state for three days and was visited and viewed by a million mourners from across the Soviet Union. Lenin’s body lies in state in a mausoleum in Moscow's Red Square. Lenin’s Tomb/Mausoleum was built shortly after his death and his body has been on public display ever since. Recording devices of all types are strictly forbidden.

2. Ferdinand Marcos

Marcos was President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986.The longtime ally and friend of the United States fled the country in 1986 after a revolution that was partially sparked by allegations that he assassinated his political rival. It is estimated that Marcos embezzled over $5 billion from the country. Almost three quarters of a billion dollars held in Swiss bank accounts associated with Marcos have been returned to the country. Marcos died in 1989 of lung, kidney, and liver complications. His body was preserved in a refrigerated, glass-topped coffin inside an air-conditioned crypt for four years before being returned to the Philippines where it is now on public display in the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum.

3. Kim Il-sung

Sung was the founder and leader of North Korea from its origin in 1948 until his death in 1994. He was an autocratic leader and developed the Juche variant of socialism/communism. An official mourning period of ten days included a ban on all forms of amusement and dancing. His state funeral included a three minute mourning period observed by the entire country. Kim Il Sung’s preserved and embalmed body lies under a glass coffin in a public mausoleum at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. Photography, videotaping, smoking and talking are not permitted anywhere inside the palace and foreign visitors must be on an official government tour. Kumsusan Palace of the Sun is the largest mausoleum dedicated to a Communist leader.

4. Kim Jung-il

Jung-il succeeded his father and became supreme leader of North Korea from 1994 until 2011. Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, reported that under Jung-il the North Korean government was one of the most repressive in the world. A national committee of 232 individuals was formed to manage the funeral arrangements. Kim Jong-il's embalmed body lies in state in a glass coffin at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace with his father.

5. Ho Chi Minh

Minh was the revolutionary Communist leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 1945 until 1969. Minh led the fight for independence against French, Japanese and Chinese occupation of Vietnam. Minh died in 1969 on the anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Minh’s embalmed body is on display in Hanoi in a granite mausoleum modeled after Lenin's Tomb. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located in Ba Dinh Square in the city of Hanoi. Ba Dinh Square is where Minh read the Declaration of Independence that established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Mausoleum “rules regarding dress and behavior are strictly enforced by staff and guards. Legs must be covered (no shorts or miniskirts). Visitors must be silent, and walk in two lines. Hands must not be in pockets, nor arms crossed. Smoking, drinking, eating, photography, and videotaping are also not permitted anywhere inside the mausoleum.”

6. Mao Zedong

Zedong was the founder and leader of the People’s Republic of China from 1943 until 1976. Zedong died in 1976 at the age of 82. Although he had decreed that his body be cremated, instead it was embalmed and preserved for display. The Chairmen Mao Memorial Hall was completed in 1977. 700,000 people representing provinces, autonomous regions and nationalities from throughout China helped in the design and construction of the mausoleum. The mausoleum is located in the middle of Tiananmen Square in Beijing on the previous site of the Gate of China. “Strict rules are enforced for visitors which includes no talking, no smoking, no photography or videotaping Mao's casket or any place inside the building.” Men must remove all headgear and you cannot wear shorts or miniskirts.