The Russian Gangster Cemetery

In my never-ending hunt for grave stories and unusual memorials, I mainly lurk around UK burial spaces. Finding hidden meaning in subtle, decorative Victorian symbolism is a familiar and comfortable state, with modern, unusual, graves being few and far between in most cemeteries. Even modern sculptural graves, which may seem grand, are all constructed to modern constraints on size and safety.

However, when trawling internet archives for contemporary memorial trends, I stopped in my tracks when the enormous, figural graves of Russia’s Yekaterinburg came into view. The Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery appears to be somewhat exclusive, housing the remains of local celebrities and war heroes, but has a small, enclosed area, primarily used for the burial of, according to EnglishRussia.com, ‘representatives of the criminal world.’ Most individuals died during the infamous gangland wars that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Facilitated by economic and political turmoil, organised crime was soon at an all time high, with murders and hostage taking being commonplace.

Yekaterinburg was at the centre of these gang wars, led by a group called Uralmash (named after a nearby factory) who took over several large local businesses, using their profits through racketeering to reinvest. During this time, the Uralmash not only fought other gangs, but had constant internal conflicts, taking the body count ever higher.

Surrounded by pine trees, the section is filled with enormous granite headstones, decorated with huge portraits of the deceased in particularly affluent outfits. The majority, if not all, of the interments occurred in the 1990s to the early 2000s, made doubly evident by the fashions depicted on their graves. By the turn of the millennium, most criminal groups had legitimised their businesses and continue to thrive in the city today, owning huge businesses, including hotels and shopping centres.

The headstones, particularly en masse, are incredibly impactful. Some are standing in front of cars, holding Mercedes keys, wearing trenchcoats and enormous gold chains. Many have their nicknames listed alongside their own, but also rather sinister skill sets, such as ‘an expert in knife-throwing’ and ‘possessed deadly fist-fighting skills.’[1]Considering that pictures paint a thousand words, I’ll let the silent Russians speak for themselves.


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Further Reading/Sources [Image Sources]:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2015/feb/13/mob-deep-russian-mafia-gravestones-in-pictures

https://englishrussia.com/2019/04/22/weird-grave-stones-of-the-russian-bandit-cemetery/

[1]https://www.amusingplanet.com/2017/02/the-russian-gangster-cemetery-in.html

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