06/21/2019, 14.45
VIETNAM
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Hanoi calls in the ‘Lenin Lab’ scientists to preserve Ho Chi Minh’s body

The special team set up by the government will start work next month. Embalmed for the first time almost 50 years ago, the body requires regular and expensive maintenance. The father of Vietnam’s communist regime wanted to be cremated.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Vietnam has a special team of experts, including four Russian scientists from the ‘Lenin Lab’, to preserve the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, father of Vietnam’s communist regime.

The special council was set up to assess the condition of Ho’s ageing corpse – first embalmed nearly 50 years ago – and will start work next month.

“The council is tasked with proposing plans and scientific measures to preserve and protect the absolute safety of Chairman Ho Chi Minh’s body for the long term,” reads the official decision.

Several countries around the world, including China, North Korea and Vietnam, have embalmed their founding leaders thanks to help from the Soviet Union’s Lenin Lab, famous for preserving the body of Vladimir Lenin shortly after his death in 1924.

The bodies in question require regular and expensive upkeep and occasional re-embalming. Vietnam’s official decision did not mention the state of Ho’s body.

The late Vietnamese leader is kept in a large Soviet-built mausoleum in the capital, Hanoi, on display within a glass coffin in a dark interior. The site attracts thousands of visitors a year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un placed a wreath outside the mausoleum in March after his summit with US President Donald Trump.

When Ho died in September 1969, the then North Vietnamese authorities decided to preserve his body, and turned to the Lenin Lab.

Soviet experts came to the Vietnamese capital as the Vietnam war still raged and embalmed Ho’s body at a top-secret temporary burial place, north of the capital.

For the US seizing the body would have been the best bargaining chip to force Vietnam to release US prisoners of war. For this reason, Ho's body was kept in an underground chamber deep in the jungle.

Later, the authorities decided to move the body to a safer place, about 15 km along the Red River and placed it inside a huge cave with air conditioners, electricity, running water and a full laboratory, where scientists completed the long embalming process.

Only in 1975, after the peace agreements, was the mausoleum inaugurated and Ho Chi Minh’s body safely placed inside the great tomb. Ironically, Ho Chi Minh wanted to be cremated.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, Russia began to charge Vietnam for the unique chemical mixture used to embalm Ho.

In 2003, Vietnam asked Russia to move production of the chemical cocktail to the Southeast Asian country and dispatched scientists to Moscow to learn the secrets of the Lenin Lab.

Vietnamese scientists now master the art of mummification, but Russian scientists are still regularly called upon to carry out annual maintenance of the body.

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