Tombs of the Great Leaders
Since ancient times, tombs and mausolea have been built to ensure that exceptional individuals remain in the collective memory. Memorializing those who have changed the course of history, such sites enable real deeds to become the stuff of legend and consolidate a leader’s repute; but these sites of memory also serve the political needs both of the time and of subsequent regimes. How is politics played out, and history commemorated, in these locations? Why do they become pilgrimage sites? How do these structures convey meaning, and can they safeguard a leader’s immortality, particularly in the context of changing political conditions?
Tombs of the Great Leaders traces the development of the political tomb since the Bronze Age to today, focusing on 20th-century memorials housing communist leaders, from Lenin in Moscow to Mao Zedong in Beijing, to Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, and Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang. It also looks at the attempts by fascist rulers Franco and Mussolini to immortalize their memories. It explores the grand monuments erected for the founders of new nation states, including Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Ziaur Rahman in Dhaka, Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and the Sun Yat-sen on Purple Mountain.
Leick shows how these mausoleums and tombs have become sites of pilgrimage, and describes the actual experience of visiting the sites, the responses they elicit and the context in which they are viewed today. This book is a fascinating and revealing study of the self-perpetuation of politicians and leaders, despots and dictators.