Hugo Chavez is to have the somewhat dubious honour of joining the "controversial embalmed corpses of leaders" club, it was announced on Friday.

Some of the world's fiercest dictators and ideological leaders have had their waxen remains placed in glass coffins for the faithful to shuffle past.

But to keep leaders like China's Mao and Russia's Lenin fresh from decay involves an intense and costly process.

Putting public figures on display has a long tradition, says Dr John Troyer, deputy director at the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.

"There was a tradition of putting Catholic saints' bodies on display for pilgrims to visit, although they were never intended to be displayed permanently.

"In modern times, that has been the preserve of these iconoclastic leaders. But the body will always slowly decay, no matter how carefully preserved, over many decades on display. It happened, for example, with the body of Lenin, his ear fell off and had to be glued back on," he told HuffPost UK.

The mortician who embalmed Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos has already offered up his services in Venezuela, according to AFP. Frank Malabed said he was "always expecting a call. I will process anyone, anywhere."

He described his particular brand of embalming: “You need to inject fluid into the arteries after draining blood from the veins. You use a hypodermic needle for that. Then you replenish it regularly. It has to be checked regularly to arrest any sign of decomposition.

“In the case of president Marcos, it was difficult work. He was a vegetable. The body was full of oedema (fluid),” he said.

Dr Troyer told HuffPost UK that methods of embalming have stayed quite consistent since the mid 19th century. "It's usually formaldehyde injected into the body, nowadays via an electrical pump. Sometimes a red dye is used to give the body a more natural skin tone."

The world's most expert embalmers are the Russians. Ilya Zbarsky, a member of Lenin's embalming maintenance team, told the BBC in an interview in 1999: "Twice a week, we would soak the face and the hands with a special solution. We could also improve some minor defects. Once a year the mausoleum was closed and the body was immersed in a bath with this solution."

Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh's body was flown to Moscow intermittently for the Russians to work their magic.

China's Mao reportedly demanded before his death that he should be cremated, not embalmed, but his instructions were promptly ignored after his death. In a book, 'The Private Life Of Chairman Mao', the embalmers revealed that they had "no idea" how they would manage to preserve the body for so long.

Mao was injected with formaldehyde, but Zhisui Li described: "The results were shocking. Mao's face was bloated, as round as a ball, and his neck was now the width of his head. His skin was shiny and the formaldehyde oozed from his pores like perspiration. His ears were swollen, too, sticking out at right angles. The corpse was grotesque. The guards and attendants were aghast."

The men had to massage the dead body to get the swelling down, and pieces of Mao's cheek and ears reportedly fell off, having to be covered with make-up. A wax copy of the body was made, in case the embalmed body was unusable.

Still, the embalming has been more successful than that of Klement Gottwald, the communist president of Czechoslovakia. He was embalmed in 1953 but soon decomposed so badly his legs had to be replaced by artificial limbs. By 1962, his abdomen, torso and arms had decayed irreparably and he was cremated.

And do ordinary, but wealthy, people ever opt for embalming? "There's a tradition of some, shall we say eccentric, individual who have put their bodies on display. One example is Jeremy Bentham, the British philosopher and founder of University College London, whose skeleton and head are preserved in his 'Auto-Icon' cabinet.

"But embalming itself is not something really done by normal people, there'd always have to be upkeep done by relatives."

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  • Hugo Chavez

    Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's acting presidentMaduro said Hugo Chavez's remains will be put on permanent display at the Museum of the Revolution, close to the presidential palace where Chavez ruled for 14 years.

  • Vladimir Lenin

    The embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, is on display in his tomb on Moscow's Red Square.

  • Mao Tse-tung

    The body Chairman Mao Zedong in China. Mao had requested cremation but ended up in a mausoleum in Beijing’s Tianamen Square.

  • Kim Jong Il

    Kim Jong Il, the former diminuitive leader of North Korea, lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace. Kim the younger is dressed in his in his trademark khaki jumpsuit.

  • Ho Chi Minh

    The embalmed body of late Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho, as Vietnamese affectionately call their late founding president Ho Chi Minh, can be viewed inside an enormous granite mausoleum. For many Vietnamese, the trip to Hanoi to see the famous revolutionary who liberated them from French colonial rule is considered a must-do. The mausoleum offers regular changing of the guard ceremonies, but is only open during certain hours and days.

  • Klement Gottwald

    Klement Gottwald, the first communist president of Czechoslovakia, was embalmed in 1953. His body was placed in a mausoleum in Prague and but soon decomposed so badly his legs had to be replaced by artificial limbs. By 1962, his abdomen, chest and arms followed suit and he was cremated.

  • Joseph Stalin

    Joseph Stalin's body was embalmed but just eight years after his death, he was buried outside the Kremlin walls on the orders of Nikita Khrushchev during the "de-Stalinification" of the city.

  • Ferdinand Marcos

    Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos pays her respects to a glass enclosure holding the preserved body of thelate Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos. The late president's widow Imelda Marcos ordered the body of her late husband preserved and put on exhibit in a mausoleum since 1993 at the family home here in the northern Philippines until the government gives him a state funeral. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, three years after a bloodless popular revolt ended his 20-year rule.

  • Princess Diana

    The body of Princess Diana was controversially embalmed, although never on public display. The embalming, which was essential because of the Paris heat, took place at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, ten hours after Diana was declared dead, and took two hours. It was illegal, as the hospital did not have the permission of her family.

  • Embalmed Evita

    The embalmed body of Argentinian politician Eva Peron was on display in Argentina but three years after her death 60 years ago, her embalmed corpse disappeared, removed by the Argentinian military in the wake of a coup that deposed her husband, President Juan Peron. In 1957, with the covert assistance of the Vatican, the remains of Eva Peron were taken to Italy and buried in a Milan cemetery under a false name. In 1971 she was disinterred, driven across Europe, and delivered to Juan Peron in Madrid. In 1973, Juan Peron and Isabel returned to Argentina. Juan Peron was elected president with his wife as vice-president. When he died suddenly the following year, Isabel took over as president and she oversaw the repatriation of Evita's body from Madrid to Argentina.