Historic cemeteries

The Armenian Cemetery, founded in 1805, was the idea of Minas Lazarevich, Moscow's Armenian community elder. Lazarevich came from a respectable Armenian family of Muscovites, which had built four churches and the Institute of Oriental Languages in the Russian capital. The dark, shady lanes of the Armenian Cemetery, lined with solidly built in the late 19th or early 20th century crypts and gravestones, lead to a rotund church, which is the family vault of all the Lazarevs (when the family became naturalized in Russia, their name was changed from Lazarevich to Lazarev). New burials are rare at the Armenian Cemetery. The place is usually very quiet and looks deserted.
One of Moscow's better known cemeteries, Vagankovo had originally emerged as a burial ground for plague victims at the end of the 17th century. Plague deaths were rare at ordinary times and church and monastery graveyards had been sufficient before the 1771 plague epidemic. With people dying on a massive scale, Count Grigory Orlov, who spearheaded the anti-plague effort, decided to move the mass graves outside the city, to Vagankovo Village and elsewhere. The plague was eventually forgotten, and Vagankovo became a regular cemetery within city limits.

The city continued to expand. In the 19th century land became quite expensive, and ordinary people could no longer afford to be buried at Vagankovo. Only Muscovites of consequence could, the likes of baker Ivan Filippov, whose bread was acclaimed as the best in Moscow. They began burying eminent artists, athletes and scientists at Vagankovo in the 20th century. The poets Sergei Yesenin and Vladimir Vysotsky were buried here, as were artist Vasily Surikov, physiologist Kliment Timiryazev, footballers Eduard Streltsov and Lev Yashin, and many other celebrities. Many tombstones here are genuine works of art by famous sculptors and artists. These days the Vagankovo Cemetery is a beautiful necropolis, overgrown with oaks and poplars
Nikolay Galkin/ТАSS
Founded by the walls of the Novodevichy Convent at the end of the 19th century, the Novodevichy Cemetery is Moscow's second most important necropolis after the Kremlin Wall. It is the last abode of victorious war generals, great scientists, actors and other iconic figures. The graves of the writers Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Bulgakov, poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Denis Davydov, Grand Dukes Sergei Trubetskoy and Matvey Muravyov-Apostol, opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, film director Sergei Eisenstein, and artist Isaac Levitan are at the Novodevichy Cemetery. The place hardly ever gets new burials.
This old cemetery owes its existence to the plague epidemic of the late 18th century. The local Old Believer community built a poorhouse, a hospice and a few chapels in the vicinity of the graveyard at around the same time. The Old Believers buried their dead in common graves here, and soon a whole Old Believer village sprang up around the cemetery. This custom changed at the end of the 19th century, when Rogozhskoye Cemetery became the resting place of Moscow merchants and factory owners, the likes of the brothers Pavel and Vasily Ryabushinsky, Savva Morozov, and Matvey Kuznetsov, who owned porcelain factories. The graves of local citizens executed during Stalin's time were added in the mid-20th century. Rogozhskoye Cemetery is a desolate place with sombre archbishopric tombs, lavishly decorated sarcophagi of the rich people of old, and the Old Believers' Cathedral of the Protection, designed by Matvey Kazakov.
Валерий Шарифулин/ТАСС
This necropolis of the nobility lies within the walls of the Donskoy Monastery (Monastery of Our Lady of the Don), occupying nearly half of the monks' land. The cemetery was never remodelled or renovated during Soviet time. It looks exactly the way it had looked before 1917: the tombs with stately noble names, lavish burial vaults overgrown with ivy... In the mid-20th century, they moved human remains here from those graves which had fallen due for demolition together with other cemeteries, churches and monasteries. Eighteen graves are listed as cultural landmarks of national significance.