Alexander Gorbunov, the Kremlin’s supervisor, takes us downstairs, under the right guest stand. A man in whites proceeds to us: Monday and Friday “our chief” is “visited” by medicobiologic lab’s employees. Colonel Gorbunov also wears a civil suit: “Welcome! AiF is my favorite newspaper.”
High ranking order
This was a fate: Sasha Gorbunov was sent to serve into the Kremlin’s regiment, started as a GI, became a sergeant. As a captain Gorbunov took away the soldiers from the 1st guard in 1993. As a major Gorbunov participated in the background of “Eternal flame” guard in 1997. Now he’s a colonel and the Kremlin’s supervisor.
- 15 years ago I was the Kremlin’s troop commander. On the 6th of October, at something about 15.20, I was called by my superiors. The order was high ranked.
- It was from Yeltsin, wasn’t it?
- Ours are not to reason why. But I remember my feelings. This was a fantastic experience. You see the changing of guard at the Red Square represented all our country, its power and history. The concerted and calibrated moves made to the music of the clock – they excited general admiration. By the way, this guard was 24 hours. 10 watchmen, 2 escorts entered on duty. Every watchman had to stay there for 5 hours per day.
When I received the order to take off the guard, I called to parade the troop (the Kremlin’s troop quarters are situated in the ex-Armory building near the President’s palace – editorial). And as for myself – I went to the Tomb.
Sergeant Zamotkin (escort’s head) and I went from the Spasskaya tower along the wall into the Tomb’s back door. I opened the main door from inside and said: “Private Dedkov, private Poletaev, you need to make a step forward, turn and go inside.” The clock began to chime; the sergeant and I opened the doors. The guards made a step towards each other, turned… The weather was great that day, it was warm. There were a lot of people near the Tomb; everyone was waiting for the guard’s changing. And there was no change anymore…
Then I told the soldiers about the order. The boys did not understand. Next day my friends, contacts, army people started calling me. The war veterans were really shocked. Everyone was shocked.
- Because of Lenin?
- It was hard to explain to my father for example why Lenin became so bad. We know a lot more about our past now. But I think we should view the subject of Vladimir Ilyich’s life as a dialectic question. I mean we should not one thing and forget about the others. He’s a part of our history.
A place for the new guard – I’m sure the state cannot live without this kind of practice – is chosen right. The Grave of the Unknown Soldier, Eternal Flame. There cannot be any ideological disagreements.
Tickets to the Tomb
-Shouldn’t we treat the Tomb as a museum, not as a Soviet ideology symbol? Shouldn’t they sell tickets for 10 rubles at least?
- And what should we say to the veterans? There 289 graves near the Kremlin’s wall, 12 more with small busts, 115 funeral urns in the wall – there are politicians, military, astronauts. Their relatives visit the graves. By the way, astronauts arrive to pay the tribute to their friends before every flight. No, we do not need any tickets. The square is a Holy place for all our country.
- But there is a skate ring for the New Year Eve, they make concerts here. Do you think it’s appropriate?
- Well, the Victory parade is more important for us of course. This holiday is celebrated in honor of the November 7, 1941 parade when the troops went through the square right up the war line. But naturally the Red Square is a tourist place, the capital’s business card, a place to celebrate.
- Does the Tomb have its own address?
- No. But I guess if you send a letter to “Moscow, Red Square, Lenin’s tomb”, that’d be ok. Why do you need it by the way? Do you really want to send a letter? Usually no one sends any letters here…
- No, I need it to name the article.
Where else may I see the changing of guard?
UK, London. Buckingham Palace
Monte-Carlo, Monaco. The Prince’s palace
Greece. The President’s palace, The Grave of the Unknown Soldier
Sweden. The Royal palace
Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. City center
Turkey. The President’s palace
Vatican. The Pope’s residence
Denmark. The Royal Palace
Should we lay to rest?
The academician Abrikosov made such a great preliminary embalming of the body that it worked more than a few days. They started the new process only in the end of March 1924. Lenin’s wife, sisters and brother were against but the communist party convinced them it was necessary to keep the body of the revolution chief for the offspring. Krupskaya visited the Tomb in the end of May, 1924, for the first time. And she did not enter it every year.
The Tomb is a ball
On the 4th of January, 1925, the Political Bureau offered a bid for the best Tomb’s project. 4 years later the architectural engineer Tshusev got first prize. Other projects were: Tomb as a ship October with Lenin’s statue at the command bridge; round Tomb as the Earth; Tomb as a polygon, pyramid, pentacle…
Is Lenin to die?
Sometimes Lenin’s body was attacked. In 1934 a man named Nikitin tried to shoot the mummy. He was stopped by the guards and public. The shooter committed suicide. In 1959 one of the visitors threw a hammer into the tomb-chest. The broken glass damaged Lenin’s face and hands. In 1960 some Minbaev jumped over the barrier and broke the glass. In 1961 a woman spat on the tomb-chest and then she broke the glass with a stone. In 1967 a man Krysanov blew a bomb near the Tomb’s entrance. The terrorist and several people died. In 1973 a terrorist blew a handmade bomb in the Tomb. He and a couple from Astrakhan’ died; several pupils and the guards were injured. The body was not damaged.
For Lenin, on demand
Letters for Lenin kept being sent after 10 and 20 years after his death. Mostly people wrote about problems with local authorities. Usually these letters were left near the tomb-chest. All letters for Lenin were handed to the Kremlin commandant's office. The facts were checked, and sometimes this investigations lead to criminal charges.