Friday, August 5, 2011


I have mentioned in several previous posts that I have what may be for some a strange fascination and love for cemeteries.  Up until now, the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is probably the most bizarre cemetery I've been to.  The Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow may be even a bit more strange.  What makes it so unique are the mostly realistic depictions of the departed.  Forget about forgetting what a loved one looks like.  Life-sized statues and friezes on most of the graves will haunt those who were left behind every time they visit.

Opened in 1898, the Novodevichy Cemetery has more than 27,000 graves of mostly wealthy and notable Russians, including politicians, authors, musicians, scientists, and actors. I wish I had some kind of a guidebook that would tell me who lies beneath these intriguing markers.  Some of them I do know from notes I took during our tour and from research I've done at home.  I'll start with those:

Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), famous Russian novelist
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), one of the world's greatest playwrights
Nikita Khruschev (1894-1971), much feared Soviet Premier during the Cold War
Khruschev close up.  He looks rather jolly, doesn't he?

Andrei Gromyko (1909-1989), Soviet Premier in the 1980s known fondly in America as "Mr. Nyet"

Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), Premier who presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union

Our guide telling us about the grave of Raisa Gorbachev (1932-1999), the dynamic wife of the still living Mikhail Gorbachev.  (Looks like there is room for him there next to her.)
The wall behind Raisa's grave, chock full of Russian politicians.
One of our favorites, the tomb of Aleksandr Bakulev (1890-1967), the founder of cardiovascular surgery in the USSR.
Leonid Sobinov (1872-1934), operatic tenor

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), renowned 20th Century composer. (An amazingly humble marker for such a remarkable man.)
Mstivlav Rostropovich (1927-2007), one of the greatest cellists of all time. I love how the cross looks like the strings of a cello.
Galina Ulanova (1910-1998), considered to be one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th Century
Boris Brunov (1922-1997), a famous Russian actor
Yuri Nikolin (1921-1997), a much beloved Russian actor and circus clown who is being eternally watched over by his faithful dog. (Who wouldn't want a grave marker like this one?)

Of course, there were thousands of monuments that we loved but could not identify.  Here are a few.  
Another clown.  The Russians do love a good circus.
From the world of music:

I know that is his signature, but what does it say?
From the world of art:

From the military:

 Note the missiles on this one:                              And the medals on this guy's jacket:
  See the parachute on the base?  I love the fresh flowers in his hand.

I'm not sure if these guys are military or government, but they are all together and look very important.

He and I would have been friends. I am sure of it.
An architect? A sculptor? A physicist? An engineer?
A finally, a few great profiles:

Did you notice the ratio of men to women? I don't think there were many famous women during the USSR years.  As this cemetery is still very much in use and growing each year, maybe there will be more women buried in the newer sections.

Someone once said that the only real equaility is in the cemetery.  He or she should have visited Novodevichy Cemetery.

Which one is your favorite?


  1. My favorites are Yeltsin's flag and the tenor's bird.

  2. I wonder if Khruschev and Yeltsin would feel slighted for being there instead of in the Kremlin wall. I guess Gorbachev has consigned himself to the lesser cemetery (assuming he will be with next to his wife) - after all, the Russians don't seem to like him because he oversaw the dismantling of the Soviet Union and reduction in Russian power and standard of living (at least for awhile).

  3. I too loved Yeltsin's flag, although at first I was confused about what it was. I loved the way you organized the photos in your post. Thanks!

  4. Yeltsin's marker looks like the Russian flag, but the brown stripe should be red. I think that is intentional to also make it look like earth, snow, and sky--the great expanse of Russia.

  5. Fascinating! I love cemeteries, too. A bit odd, aren't we?

  6. I love Gogol's Dead Souls. One of those grad school books you had to read, which I ended up really liking. Fun to see his grave.

  7. love the cubes resting on globes.