Новодевичье Кладбище/ Novodevichy Cemetery
Лужнецкий пр., метро Спортивная
Novodevichy Cemetery is one of my favorite places in Moscow, and what luck that it is absolutely free to visit! I have personally been there three times during my two stays in the city. Located next to Novodevichy Monastery, the this cemetery is the final resting place of many famous figures from Russian and Soviet history and culture. Generals, writers, artists, ballet dancers, political figures, composers, opera singers, and more were honored with the distinction of being buried next to a monastery, an honor which certainly not every Russian receives. Even if you are one of those people who thinks visiting cemeteries is a morbid affair, I highly encourage you to overcome this feeling and visit anyway. Aside from its notable “residents,” the cemetery is beautifully landscaped, peaceful and quiet–a welcome change from everyday Moscow life. The graves themselves are more than mere engraved stones; they are works of art. Many of them are quite elaborate, featuring designs and sculptures that reflect the life of the person buried there.
Western visitors will surely know Nikita Kruschshev and Boris Yeltsin, former leaders of the Soviet Union and Russia respectively, who are both buried here. (I have even met Russians who are not aware that Krushchev is at Novodevichy, not in the Kremlin wall with the other Soviet leaders.) Raisa Gorbacheva, wife of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is also buried here. You will also find some of the most famous Russian writers: Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov,Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Mikhail Bulgakov. The names of great composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev will probably also sound familiar to most people.
As you can probably imagine, the cemetery is quite large and dense. There is a map at the entrance to the cemetery where you can locate graves that most interest you. You can also buy a map at the kiosk inside the gate to carry around with you. It doesn’t cost more than a few dollars, and if you notice many names that you recognize, a map is worth the investment.
Once you are finished wandering through the cemetery, I highly recommend visiting the park behind the monastery. It is another beautiful, historic place that is absolutely free. Lev Tolstoy liked to ice skate on the pond, and the ice skating scene from his novel Anna Karenina was set here. On the far side of the pond, there is a statue given to the Soviet people by former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush. It is a replica of the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue found in the Boston Public Garden. There is also an incredible view of the monastery from this side of the pond.
Like I have noted, these places are an absolute “must-see,” since they are absolutely free to enter and admire. The monastery is also a cool place to visit, especially for those interested in Russian religion or the histories of Boris Godunov and Peter the Great. However, since it is not free and it is basically a whole different attraction, I will not include any more about it in this entry.
For groups and faculty-led travel, Novodevichy Cemetery is a perfect choice. It is a fast way to acquaint your students/ tour group with many famous Russian figures and various aspects of Russian culture and life.
Jessica is halfway through a Masters Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in Russian Language and Literature and history minor. During the summer of 2012, she is studying Russian as a Second Language at Moscow State University with SRAS. She has previously studied with ACTR’s Russian Language and Area Studies program in St. Petersburg and UNC’s Summer Study Abroad history program in Greece. After finishing her degree, she plans to search for a job as a Russian translator or journalist/writer. She has been a vegetarian for four years, but has never found this to be a severely limiting factor in traveling abroad or exploring different cuisines.