„ABY BYLA ZACHOVÁNA TVÁŘ SOUDRUHA GOTTWALDA“: POSTUP A PRŮBĚH BALZAMACE TĚLA KLEMENTA GOTTWALDA

Pages 3–31
Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia | 2014/68/1-2

"That the Appearance of Comrade Gottwald Be Preserved”: The Method and Process of Embalming Klement Gottwald’s Body. This study aims to establish the history and nature of the preservation work done by Soviet and Czechoslovak physicians on the corpse of Communist leader Klement Gottwald from the day of autopsy on 15 March 1953 to the cremation of the body on 12 June 1962. It draws on a wealth of hitherto unpublished or overlooked primary sources from Czech archives which allow that the topic of embalming a Communist leader’s body for display in a mausoleum be scrutinized for the first time in a scholarly, methodologically sound fashion as well as minute detail. This paper thoroughly describes and explains the methods applied to Gottwald’s body while presenting a chronologically arranged narrative of major events in everyday control and care for the body until its incineration, connected with the second wave of de-Stalinization in Czechoslovakia. The study thereby makes a significant contribution to the research on the (posthumous) cult of leaders in Stalinist regimes, particularly on the science and technology involved in the physical deification of the leader as the “eternal” symbol of the regime’s enduring legitimacy and stability. In so doing, the article also disproves the popular rumours about the alleged decomposition of Gottwald’s body.

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