On our first afternoon in St Petersburg, we decided to check out the Tikhvin and Lazarus Cemeteries [Тихвинское and Лазаревское кладбище], which are situated beside the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. I wanted to visit the monastery due to its historical significance, however John wasn’t keen. We’d been to a lot of monasteries and he finds them generally quite boring, and it comes back to that horrible compromising thing. He was interested in the cemeteries though.
Entry to the two cemeteries cost 140 roubles each, which we thought was fairly steep. We went first to Tikhvin Cemetery, which is on the right side as you’re walking towards the monastery. Established in 1823, Tikhvin Cemetery is home to the tombs and graves of many famous Russian personages, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsly – probably the two best known to foreigners.
The cemetery is beautiful. It’s clear that you had to be ‘someone’ to be buried before the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Most of the graves have gorgeous old statues, some perhaps representing the deceased while others were more typically religious. Lush green trees shade you from the sun and allow soft, dappled light to rest on the statues. Walkways lead you around, and signposts direct you to the graves of famous Russians.
I particularly liked Tchaikovsky’s tombstone – it was both depressing and uplifting at the same time.
Across the path into the other walled cemetery, Lazarus, it’s a very different story. Whereas Tikhvin had plenty of space and grassy areas, Lazarus was packed with graves and had far less opulent tombstones. While trees still blocked out part of the sun, it was more like a memorial to concrete than a park. Still, the narrow winding paths led us between gravestones, and there were a few rather interesting ones.
One was quite sad: a tomb shaped like a tugboat, clearly the grave of a young child.
Another featured a reclining man, and others showed ancient Roman influences with sloped sarcophagi carved with vines. Some showed grief-stricken women laying over the grave of her husband; I noted that there were none showing grieving husbands, and when this comment got a few chuckles it was clear there were a few other English-speaking tourists there.
I do find cemeteries fascinating, and like others I’ve visited such as the Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, the politics of the times were clearly evident in design. I personally found the older tombstones more beautiful than the simple black granite of later eras.
We just looked through the gates of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. It seems to be surrounded by pigeons!