headshot of Alexei Yurchak

Research Expertise and Interest

social and political theory, communism and post-communism, language philosophy, the image, the body, avant-garde artistic experiments, science studies, ideology, Soviet and post-Soviet culture and society

Research Description

My book on the unexpected Soviet collapse, "Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: the Last Soviet Generation" (2006) has won several international awards. The book traces how the gradual transformation of the Soviet society in the 1960s-80s created conditions for its unexpected implosion in 1991. I am currently completing a book on the political and scientific history and present of the preserved body of Lenin.  

In addition to being a professor in the Department of Anthropology I am also affiliated as a faculty member in Slavic Department and in Program in Critical Theory, both at UC Berkeley.


In the News

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
March 6, 2019
Associate anthropology professor Alexei Yurchak is writing a book about the embalming of former communist leaders, and in this article he informs a discussion of the secretive team of Russian technicians who keep those displayed bodies looking lively. "The original embalming and the regular re-embalmings have always been conducted by the scientists of the Moscow lab," he says. "Over the years they trained local scientists in some techniques, but not all, maintaining the core of the know-how secret." Among his anecdotes: When North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, the country was under regular bombardment by U.S. warplanes, and the Soviet Union airlifted the necessary chemicals and equipment to a cave outside of Hanoi for his embalmment. The first embalming takes several months, and thereafter the bodies need regular maintenance. "Every one-and-a-half to two years, these bodies are re-embalmed by the Moscow scientists," he says. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the so-called "Lenin Lab" sought new funding by offering its services to foreign clients, and North Korea was a key customer. This story appeared in dozens of sources around the world.
April 22, 2015
Jeremy Hsu

Russian scientists have developed experimental embalming methods to maintain the look, feel and flexibility of the Soviet Union's founder’s body, which is 145 years old today. Anthropology professor Alexei Yurchak has written a book describing the history of the science that arose around Lenin's body, and the political role that the body and science have played in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras.

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