Cemeteries in Moscow

Kremlin Wall Necropolis

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The Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow emerged in November 1917, when 240 pro-Bolshevik victims of the October Revolution were buried in mass graves on the Red Square. It is centered on both sides of Lenin's Mausoleum, initially built in wood in 1924 and rebuilt in granite in 1929–1930. After the last mass burial made in 1921, funerals on the Red Square were reserved as the last honor for the notable politicians, military leaders, cosmonauts and scientists. In 1925–1927 burials in the ground were replaced with burials of cremated ash in the Kremlin wall itself; burials in the ground resumed with Mikhail Kalinin's funeral in 1946. The practice of burying on the Red Square terminated with the funeral of Konstantin Chernenko in March 1985. Kremlin Wall Necropolis was designated a protected landmark in 1974.

, Stalin, Kalinin, Dzerzhinsky, Brezhnev in front of the Kremlin wall. Tomb of Yury Andropov, which stands between Kalinin's and Dzerzhinsky's, is obstructed by trees. The Mausoleum is immediately to the right. Note the contrast between a mature spruce tree on the left to a line of young trees (explained below).]] The Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow emerged in November 1917, when 240 pro-Bolshevik victims of the October Revolution were buried in mass graves on the Red Square. It is centered on both sides of Lenin's Mausoleum, initially built in wood in 1924 and rebuilt in granite in 1929–1930. After the last mass burial made in 1921, funerals on the Red Square were reserved as the last honor for the notable politicians, military leaders, cosmonauts and scientists. In 1925–1927 burials in the ground were replaced with burials of cremated ash in the Kremlin wall itself; burials in the ground resumed with Mikhail Kalinin's funeral in 1946. The practice of burying on the Red Square terminated with the funeral of Konstantin Chernenko in March 1985. Kremlin Wall Necropolis was designated a protected landmark in 1974.

Timeline of burials on the Red Square

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bar:MG from:1917 till:2000 color:EXP from:1917 till:1921 color:FAINT from:1917 till:1918 color:MID text:"October Revolution" align:right from:1921 till:1921 color:MID text:" Aerowagon crash" align:left

bar:IB from:1919 till:2000 color:EXP from:1919 till:1927 color:FAINT from:1919 till:1919 color:MID text:"Sverdlov" align:right from:1927 till:1927 color:MID text:"Voykov" align:left from:1946 till:1946 color:MID text:"Kalinin" align:right from:1948 till:1948 color:MID text:"Zhdanov" align:left from:1961 till:1961 color:MID text:Stalin align:left from:1985 till:1985 color:MID text:"Chernenko" align:left from:1982 till:1982 color:MID text:"Brezhnev" align:right from:1984 till:1984 color:MID from:1969 till:1969 color:MID from:1973 till:1973 color:MID from:1946 till:1946 color:MID from:1948 till:1948 color:MID

bar:MA from:1924 till:2000 color:EXP from:1924 till:1924 color:MID text:"Wooden mausoleum" align:right from:1929 till:1931 color:MID text:"Permanent mausoleum" align:left from:1953 till:1961 color:FAINT from:1953 till:1953 color:MID text:"Stalin" align:left

bar:WN from:1925 till:2000 color:EXP from:1925 till:1936 color:FAINT from:1977 till:1984 color:FAINT from:1925 till:1925 color:MID text:"Miron Vladimirov" align:right from:1936 till:1936 color:MID text:"Sergey Kamenev" align:left from:1974 till:1974 color:MID text:"Zhukov" align:right from:1984 till:1984 color:MID text:"Ustinov"

bar:WS from:1934 till:2000 color:EXP from:1934 till:1976 color:FAINT from:1934 till:1934 color:MID text:"Sergei Kirov" align:right from:1971 till:1971 color:MID text:"Soyuz 11" align:right from:1976 till:1976 color:MID text:"Ivan Yakubovsky" align:left


The site

spanned with stone bridges.]]

Main article: Red Square

The eastern segment of the Kremlin wall, and Red Square behind it, emerged on its present site in the fifteenth century, during the reign of Ivan III; the wall and the square were separated with a wide defensive moat filled with water diverted from the Neglinnaya River. The moat was lined with a secondary fortress wall, and spanned by three bridges connecting the Kremlin to the posad. From 1707–1708 Peter the Great, expecting a Swedish incursion deep into the Russian mainland, restored the moat around the Kremlin, cleared Red Square and built earthen fortifications around Nikolskaya and Spasskaya towers. From 1776–1787 Matvey Kazakov built the Kremlin Senate that today provides a backdrop for the present-day Necropolis.

Throughout the eighteenth century the unused, neglected fortifications deteriorated and were not properly repaired until the 1801 coronation of Alexander I. In one season the moat with bridges and adjacent buildings was replaced with a clean span of paved square. More reconstruction followed in 1800s. The stretch of Kremlin wall south from Senate tower was badly damaged in 1812 by the explosion at the Kremlin Arsenal set off by the retreating French troops. Nikolskaya tower tower lost its gothic crown which was erected in 1807–1808; Arsenalnaya tower developed deep cracks, leading to Joseph Bove proposing in 1813 the outright demolition of the towers to prevent its imminent collapse. Eventually, the main structures of the towers were deemed sound enough to be left in place, and were topped with new tented roofs designed by Bove. Peter's bastions were razed down (creating space for nearby Alexander Garden and Theatre Square), Kremlin wall facing the Red Square was rebuilt shallower than before, and acquired its present shape in 1820s.

Mass graves of 1917

Dates in this section follow the Old Style (Julian calendar) convention.

In July 1917, hundreds of soldiers of the Russian Northern Front were arrested for mutiny and desertion and locked up in Daugavpils (then Dvinsk) fortress. Later, 869 Dvinsk inmates were transported to Moscow. Here, the jailed soldiers launched a hunger strike; public support to them threatened to develop in city-wide riot. On September 22, 593 inmates were released; the rest were left behind bars until the October Revolution. The released soldiers, collectively called Dvintsy, stayed in the city as a cohesive unit, based in Zamoskvorechye District and openly hostile to the ruling Provisional Government. Immediately after the October Revolution in Saint Petersburg, Dvintsy became the strike force of the Bolsheviks in Moscow. Late at night of October 27–28 a detachment of around two hundred men, marching north to Tverskaya Street, confronted the loyalist forces near the State Historical Museum on the Red Square. 70 of the Dvintsy, including their company commander Sapunov, were killed at the barricades.

On the following day the loyalists, led by colonel Ryabtsev, succeeded in taking over the Kremlin. They gunned down the surrendered Red soldiers at the Kremlin Arsenal wall. More were killed as the Bolsheviks stormed the Kremlin, finally taking control on the night of November 2–3. Street fighting settled down claiming nearly a thousand lives, and on November 4 the new Bolshevik administration decreed to bury their dead on the Red Square next to the Kremlin Wall, where indeed most of them were killed.

Voices reached us across the immense place, and the sound of picks and shovels. We crossed over. Mountains of dirt and rock were piled high near the base of the wall. Climbing these we looked down into two massive pits, ten or fifteen feet deep and fifty yards long, where hundreds of soldiers and workers were digging in the light of huge fires. A young student spoke to us in German. “The Brotherhood Grave,” he explained.
John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World.

A total of 238 dead were buried in the mass graves between Senate and Nikolskaya towers in a public funeral on November 10 (John Reed incorrectly mentions 500); two more victims were buried on November 14 and 17. The youngest, Pavel Andreev, was 14 years old. Of 240 pro-revolution victims of the October-November fighting only 20, including 12 of the Dvintsy, are identified in the official listing of the Moscow Heritage Commission. As of March, 2009, three Moscow streets remain named after these individual victims, as well as Dvintsev Street named after the Dvintsy force.

The loyalists secured a permit to publicly bury their dead on November 13. This funeral started at the old Moscow State University building near Kremlin; thirty-seven dead were interred at the Vsekhsvyatskoye cemetery (now demolished) in then suburban Sokol District.

Graves of 1918-1927

Mass and individual burials in the ground under the Kremlin wall continued until the funeral of Pyotr Voykov in June 1927. In the first years of the Soviet regime, the honor of being buried on the Red Square was extended to ordinary soldiers, victims of the Civil War, and Moscow militia men killed in clashes with gangsters (March–April 1918). In January, 1918, the Red Guards buried the victims of a terrorist bombing in Dorogomilovo. In the same January white terrorists machine-gunned a pro-Bolshevik street rally; the eight victims were also buried under the Kremlin wall.

The largest single burial occurred in 1919. On September 25, a gang of anarchists led by former socialist revolutonary terrorist Donat Cherepanov, set off an explosion in a Communist Party school building in Leontyevsky Lane when Moscow party chief Vladimir Zagorsky was speaking to students. Twelve people, including Zagorsky, were killed and buried in a mass grave on the Red Square. Another unusual accident was a railway crash of July 24, 1921. The aerowagon, an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aero engine and propeller traction, was not yet tested properly. On the day of the crash it successfully delivered a group of Soviet and foreign communists led by Fyodor Sergeyev to the Tula collieries; on the return route to Moscow the aerowagon derailed at high speed, killing everyone on board, including its inventor, Valerian Abakovsky. This was the last mass burial in the ground of the Red Square.

Yakov Sverdlov, who died in 1919 of the Spanish flu, was buried in an individual grave near the Senate tower. Later it became the first of twelve individual graves of top-ranking Soviet leaders (see Individual tombs section). Sverdlov was followed by John Reed, Inessa Armand, Viktor Nogin and other notable Bolsheviks and their foreign allies. Burial at the Kremlin wall, apart from its location next to the seat of government, was also seen as a statement of atheism while burial at a traditional cemetery next to a church was deemed inappropriate for a Bolshevik. For the same reason, cremation, prohibited by Russian Orthodox Church, was preferred to burial in a coffin and favored by Lenin and Trotsky. The new government sponsored construction of crematoriums since 1919, but the first burial of cremated remains in a niche in the wall did not take place until 1925.

The Mausoleum, 1924–1961

Main article: Lenin's Mausoleum

Vladimir Lenin died of a stroke on January 21, 1924. While the body laid in state in the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions, the Politburo discussed ways to preserve it, initially for forty days, despite objections from his widow and siblings. Joseph Stalin gave instruction to install a vault for Lenin's embalmed remains inside the Kremlin wall, and on January 27 Lenin's casket was deposited in a temporary wooden vault built in one day. The first proper Mausoleum was built of wood in March-July 1924 and was officially opened on August 1 (foreign visitors were allowed inside on August 3). The contest to design and build a new, permanent, Mausoleum was declared in April 1926; construction to Alexey Shchusev's design began in July 1929 and was complete in sixteen months. The Mausoleum has since functioned as a government stand during public parades. Lenin's body remains in the Mausoleum to date (September 2009), excluding the period of evacuation to Tyumen in 1941–1945.

Two days after the death of Joseph Stalin the Politburo decreed placing his remains on display in the Mausoleum; it officially reopened in November 1953 with Lenin and Stalin side-by-side. Another plan decreed in March 1953, construction of the Pantheon to where the bodies of Lenin and Stalin would be eventually relocated, did not take off. Eight years later, removal of Stalin's body from the Mausoleum was unanimously sanctioned by the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party. On October 31, 1961, the Mausoleum was quickly covered with plywood. The Red Square itself was routinely closed in preparation to November 7 parade. Stalin's remains were quickly re-interred in a deep grave, lined with concrete blocks, behind the Mausoleum; the ceremony was attended only by the state commission led by Nikolay Shvernik. Harold Skilling, who attended the Mausoleum in November of the same year, noted that "everyone was so curious to see the new grave of Stalin... Unlike others, his [grave] was not yet graced by a bust and was marked only by a tablet with the name I.V.Stalin and dates of birth and year". Existing tomb of Stalin carved by Nikolai Tomsky was installed in June 1970.

The glass sarcophagus of Lenin's tomb was twice vandalized by visitors, in 1959 and 1969, leading to installation of a bulletproof glass shell. It was bombed twice, in 1963, when the terrorist was the sole victim, and in 1973, when an explosion killed the terrorist and two bystanders.

Burial in the Kremlin Wall, 1925–1984

The first person to be cremated and buried in an urn in the Kremlin wall, 45-year-old former People's Commissar of Finance Miron Vladimirov, died in Italy in March 1925. The procedure of burying ashes in an urn was still unfamiliar at the time, and Vladimirov's urn was carried to his grave in an ordinary coffin. Between 1925 and the opening of the Donskoye cemetery crematorium in October 1927, burials in the wall and burials in the ground coexisted together; the former was preferred for foreign dignitaries of the Comintern (Jenő Landler, Bill Haywood, Arthur MacManus, Charles Ruthenberg) while the latter was granted only to top Party executives (Mikhail Frunze, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Nariman Narimanov and Pyotr Voykov).

Initially, the bodies of the deceased were laid in state in Kremlin halls, but with tightening of security in late 1920s the official farewell station was relocated to the Pillar Hall on Okhotny Ryad (where Lenin laid in state in 1924) and remained there until the end of the Soviet state. Burials initially took place to the north from the Senate tower, switching to the south side in 1934 and returning back to north side in 1977 (with a few exceptions). Burials in the wall were strictly individual; spouses and children of those buried in the wall had to be buried elsewhere. There were only two instances of group burials: the three-man crew of Osoaviakhim-1 high-altitude balloon in 1934 and the three-man crew of the Soyuz 11 spacecraft in 1971. In total, the wall accommodates the graves of 107 men and 8 women. No remains buried in the wall were ever removed from it, including the deceased who were posthumously accused of "fascist conspiracy" (Sergei Kamenev) or political repressions (Andrey Vyshinsky).

Under Nikita Khrushchov and Leonid Brezhnev, the honor of burial in the Kremlin wall was awarded posthumously by the Politburo. When members of the Politburo were not available immediately, Mikhail Suslov had the first call. Brezhnev overruled Suslov's decision at least once, voting to bury Semyon Budenny in an individual grave. There were also at least two known cases when groups of professionals pressed the government to extend special honors to their deceased colleagues:

  • In June 1962, following the death of Army General Andrey Khrulyov, a group of marshals pressed the Politburo to bury Khrulyov in the Kremlin wall. Normally, generals of his rank were not entitled to this honor; Khrushchov was known to dislike Khrulyov and suggested burying him at the Novodevichy Cemetery. The military prevailed, and Khrulyov was buried on the Red Square.
  • In January 1970 the official decision to bury Pavel Belyayev at the Novodevichy Cemetery, already made public through newspapers, was confronted by fellow cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova, Alexey Leonov and Vladimir Shatalov who insisted that Belyaev deserves a place in the Kremlin wall like Yuri Gagarin. According to Nikolai Kamanin's diaries, the cosmonauts, Shatalov in particular, pressed the issue despite knowing that the decision was made by Brezhnev and Kosygin and that the funeral commission would not dare to challenge it. Belyaev was buried as planned at the Novodevichy. According to an alternative version of events, the choice of Novodevichy was decided by his widow's will before the official decision was published.

The last person to be buried in the Kremlin wall, in December 1984, was Minister of Defence Dmitry Ustinov.

Individual tombs, 1948–1985

in 1946 (as in Kalinin's tomb, right).]] The row of individual tombs behind the Mausoleum began to acquire its present shape after the end of World War II. Sergei Merkurov created the first five tombs, for the recently deceased Mikhail Kalinin and Andrey Zhdanov, as well as for Yakov Sverdlov, Mikhail Frunze and Felix Dzerzhinsky who perished decades earlier. Grey granite stands that separate Red Square from the wall were built in the same period. In 1947 Merkurov proposed rebuilding the Mausoleum into a sort of "Pergamon Altar" that would become a foreground to a statue of Stalin placed atop Senatskaya tower. Dmitry Chechulin, Vera Mukhina and others spoke against the proposal and it was soon dropped.

There are, in total, twelve individual tombs; all, including the four burials of 1980s, are shaped similar to the canonical Merkurov's model. All twelve died of natural causes (excluding conspiracy theories). Konstantin Chernenko, who died in March 1985, became the last person to be buried on the Red Square.

The Kremlin wall and the stands erected in 1940s were traditionally separated with a line of blue spruce (Picea pungens), a tree not occurring naturally in Russia. In August–September 2007 the ageing trees, with few exceptions, were cut down and replaced with young trees. Federal Protective Service spokesman explained that the previous generation of spruce, planted in 1970s, was suffering from dryness of urban landscape; 28 old but sound trees were handpicked for replanting inside the Kremlin. New trees were selected from the nurseries of Altai Mountains, Russian Far East and "some foreign countries". FPS spokesman also mentioned that in Khrushchev's period there were plans to plant a fruit garden around the Mausoleum, but the proposal was rejected in fear of fruit flies.

Apocryphal burials

According to an account by dissident Mikhail Makarenko (born Gomgorsky, also known as Gershkovich), who served eleven years in the Gulag camps, on April 22, 1978 Makarenko secretly buried the remains of one of White Sea-Baltic Canal victims into a ditch left by construction workers near the Kremlin wall, close to Arsenalnaya tower. His testimony has not been corroborated by any other sources.

Debate and preservation

Public discussion on closing the Mausoleum emerged shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, with opinions ranging from simply burying Lenin in Saint Petersburg to taking the mummy on a commercial world tour. After the climax of the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis president Boris Yeltsin removed the honor guard from the Mausoleum (former Station no.1, see Kremlin Regiment) and voiced his long-term opinion that Lenin should be buried in the ground. The decision was supported by the Public Committee of Democratic Organisations. By 1995 Yeltsin "moved to the nationalist center" and, like the previous state leaders, used the Mausoleum as a government stand, however in 1997 he reiterated the claim to bury Lenin. Proposals to remove the Necropolis from the Red Square at all met far more public opposition and did not take off either.

Contemporary public opinion on preserving the remains of Lenin in their present embalmed state is split, leaning towards burying him. According to most recent (end of 2008) poll by VCIOM, 66% of the respondents voted for a funeral on a traditional cemetery, including 28% of those who believe that the funeral should be postponed until the communist generation passes away. 25% of the respondents voted to preserve the body in the Mausoleum. In October 2005, 51% of respondents voted for a funeral and 40% for preservation.



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21 November 2017
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Kremlevskiy proyezd, Moscow, Russia, 101000

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