Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow

Novodevichy Convent

The Novodevichy Convent’s white and red brick walls and buildings are very distinctive and give it the appearance of a fortress. Founded in the sixteenth century, today it is perhaps best known for its cemetery which is the resting place of many of Russia’s great and good. It is quite a maze to find your way around. 

Here’s a selection of some of the graves you can find there:

Gogol – strangely the column and its bust were only erected by the Soviet government in September 1951:


The Soviet circus clown, Nikulin:


Chekhov’s grave:


and next to it the grave of his wife, Olga Knipper, who outlived him by 55 years:

Olga Knipper

Shostakovich’s grave, with his signature DSCH motif in musical notation on the headstone:


Stalin’s wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, with its protective glass covering, allegedly added when vandals had removed the nose:

Stalin's wife

Khrushchev’s tomb, with its striking design. Interesting that he wasn’t buried near the Kremlin, like most Soviet leaders:


and finally the grave of Raisa Maksimovna, Gorbachov’s wife:

Raisa Maksimovna Gorbachova

I found the Soviet statuary intriguing: how do you deal with death in an officially atheist country? In their closing lines, the obituaries of Soviet notables often tended to use the formula ‘The memory of ———– will for ever be preserved in our hearts.’ The only eternity offered here is that of living memory and (in some cases) the renown or infamy of history. Often the sculptors chose to depict the deceased emerging from a piece of rough-hewn rock, like some force of nature. Now, to a modern sensibility, they appear overblown and clumsy.