How to find Russian cemeteries? Many cemeteries in Russia were destroyed over time – some during the Soviet times, some during World War II.
During one of my visits to Moscow I have visited the cemetery where my paternal grandparents are buried. The cemetery is huge and it took a while to get to the spot. On the way I was looking at and reading writings on gravestones. I also saw two men with papers. Who are they? I asked my mum. These people search for abandoned graves so for a certain fee they can buy them and bury their relatives, was an answer. And this is a normal practice across whole Russia. Population grows and there is a need to bury.
One client knows from memoirs that his ancestors were buried in the local village such and such. My research revealed that there was a heavy fighting in this village when Germans came near Moscow in 1941. Everything was destroyed – most of the village, the church and obviously the cemetery.
For another client I have found a record of a death in a synodik of a church in Moscow. Moscow archives do not have the records for this church. So synodik list is her official record of death. She asked me whether we can locate the grave. My research revealed that in 1930s the cemetery was destroyed. Today the cemetery is located underneath the “Third Ring” -a huge highway in Moscow – where the vehicles carry the drivers who are not even aware that they are going -in the literal sense of the word – “on the bones”.
During Soviet times many cemeteries forbade the burial. The temples and monastic buildings were partially destroyed or partially adapted for the worldly needs. Many crosses and tombstones were demolished, cemeteries “leveled “, reburial of the remains was strictly prohibited.
Very gray picture, you will say. Yes, in most cases locating the grave of your ancestors will be impossible. However, today many cemeteries compile a photo database of burials and through one of this websites I have located a family gravestone for one of my clients. On that stone there was another surname she knew nothing about. Apparently there is only one family with such surname who live today in Moscow. One overseas phone call to Moscow and the family was reunited.
If you need to locate a specific cemetery, please contact me for further research.