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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Unknown mummy upstages Lenin
The body was mummified using a lost formula
The mummified body has lain in Siberia for 70 years
A unique method of embalming a human body, which rivalled that used to preserve Lenin, was developed by an unknown laboratory assistant in Siberia 70 years ago - and then lost.

A body mummified using the special method is on display at the Medical Academy in the city of Omsk. It looks in almost the same condition as when it was first prepared in 1933.

Russian Centre TV said that while it took a whole team of scientists to develop the revolutionary technique that preserved Lenin's body after his death in 1924, Andrey Romadanovsky, a self-taught laboratory assistant, came upon his own method alone and unaided.

The identity of the Siberian mummy is not known, but it could be that of one of the institute's staff who volunteered his body for scientific experiments, the TV said.

The body looks very similar to modern embalmed cadavers
The brown marks are probably dehydration patches
Unlike Lenin's body, which has lain in the mausoleum in Red Square where the air pressure and temperature are kept constant, the unknown mummy in Omsk lies in a simple glass sarcophagus which protects it only from dust.

"And yet the body looks almost the same as in 1933 when it was embalmed. Even all the inner organs are intact", the TV said.

It is known that Romadanovsky used a combination of formalin, alcohol and glycerin to create his embalming fluid. But the TV said the secret was in the combination and no one had been able to reproduce it.

Lenin's body has needed constant attention to keep it in good condition. His face and hands would be soaked twice a week with a special solution. And once a year, the mausoleum would be closed and his whole body immersed in the solution.

The work is still undertaken by the special research institute set up to discover how to preserve the founder of the Soviet state "for all eternity".

Lenin's body inside the mausoleum on Red Square
Lenin's embalmed body became a secular shrine to Communism
All the staff in the museum in Omsk have done to protect their mummy is sprinkle some moth powder around it.

Lenin's body lay in the mausoleum as a symbol of inspiration for generations of communists. Thousands of people from around the Soviet Union would queue for hours each day to view the body.

Today, the permanent guard of honour has been removed and the number of visitors has fallen dramatically.

There have been many calls in recent years for his body to be removed from the mausoleum and buried.

Unlike the team of specialists which embalmed Lenin, Romadanovsky received no payment for his discovery and he died in obscurity in Omsk - along with his formula.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

29 Mar 01 | Media reports
24 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
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