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Tombs of the Great Leaders

A Contemporary Guide

 A visit to Ankara, Turkey, would include a trip to Anitkabir, the burial site of Turkey’s founder and first president, Ataturk. The massive stone building houses numerous sculptures and a large ceremonial plaza and is surrounded by an elaborate park. Ataturk is far from the only former leader to be remembered by such decorative means. Since the beginning of human history, societies have built tombs and mausoleums to house the remains of people who changed the course of history. These grave sites exist not only as sites of memory for different cultures, but also serve the political needs of subsequent regimes. Tracing the development of the political burial places since the Bronze Age tumuli, Tombs of the Great Leaders explores what attracts pilgrimages to these sites, how politics play out in these locations, how they convey meaning and safeguard a person’s immortality, and how history is commemorated through these structures.
Looking in depth at tombs built in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Gwendolyn Leick surveys the history of these modern leaders, their deaths, and the creation of the mausoleums. She traverses the globe, investigating the memorial sites of Communist leaders such as Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Kim Il-Sung; Fascist rulers Franco and Mussolini; and founding fathers of new nations, including Ziaur Rahman in Dhaka, Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing. Leick describes the experience of visiting the sites, the responses they elicit, and the context in which they are viewed today. Combining history, architecture, and travel writing, Tombs of the Great Leaders is a revealing study of the self-perpetuation of politicians, despots, and dictators alike.

336 pages | 10 color plates, 105 halftones | 6 3/4 x 8 2/3 | © 2013

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

History: General History

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“Leick offers a fascinating window into the history, design, and use of the resting places and mausoleums of some twenty 20th-century world leaders. . . . Well written and presented, this excellent volume combines both long-view background and on-the-ground description. The photographs, especially those in color, are quite striking. This will be a very valuable resource for libraries collecting resources on architecture and design, material culture, and 20th-century history. . . . Highly recommended.”

J. C. Wanser | Choice

Table of Contents


1. Enduring Signification: Mounds, Monuments, and Mausolea

            Stone Age Burials

            Bronze Age Elite Tombs

            Hellenistic Eclecticism and the Invention of the Mausoleum

            Roman Imperial Tombs

            Royal Burials of Christian Monarchs in the Middle Ages

            The Impact of the French Revolution

            Napoleon’s Tomb

            Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield, Illinois

2. Safeguarding the Immortality of Revolutionary Leaders: Mausolea in Communist Countries

            Lenin’s Tomb

            The Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh

            Mao Zedong Memorial Hall

            Kumsusan Memorial Hall, ‘The Scared Temple of the Juche

            Destroyed Communist Mausolea

3. Fantasy and Reality: The Burial Places of Fascist Leaders

            Mussolini’s Crypt in Predappio

            Franco and the Righteous Fallen in Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos

4. New Nations, New Monuments: Mausolea for Fathers of the Nation

            Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum (Lingmu) on Purple Mountain

            Anıtkabir: The Memorial Tomb of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

            Mazar-e-Quaid-e-Azam, ‘The Mausoleum of the Great Leader’, Muhammad Ali Jinnah,    in Karachi

            The Mausoleum of Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman in Dhaka

5. Not the Final Resting Place: Temporary Mausolea

            Chiang Kai-shek at Chihu, Taiwan

            Yasser Arafat at Ramallah

6. Appropriate Traditions

            Sukarno and Suharto in Java

            The Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran

7. Political Mausolea in Africa

            North African Mausolea

            Sub-Saharan Mausolea

            Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra

            The Mausoleum of M’zee Laurent-Désiré Kabila in Kinshasa

            The Mausoleum of Hastings Kamuzu Banda in Lilongwe, Malawi

            The Tomb of Dr John Garang de Mabior, Juba, South Sudan

            Reinventing the Political Tomb in Africa


Chronological List of Tombs and Mausolea



Illustration Acknowledgements


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