Staunton, April 15 – After two years of work, the Russian construction ministry has prepared draft legislation that will allow for the establishment of private cemeteries, restoring a pre-1917 practice and overturning Soviet and past post-Soviet practice, according to a report in today’s “Kommersant” (kommersant.ru/doc/2963720).
Deputy Minister Andrey Chibis suggests that this step is intended to remove one of the gray areas of funeral practice – unlicensed people who pray on the relatives of those who have recently died. But it is clear that this change has the potential to affect communities of all kinds in Russia and to make them feel more separate rather than part of a single population.
That is because it is virtually certain that under the new rules, if adopted, Russians will no longer be buried at state-owned cemeteries near their residences or homelands but rather will be interred in cemeteries directed at specific class, religious and ethnic communities. Given the importance of remembering ancestors, this will reinforce those divisions.
Even in Soviet times and more so in the years since 1991, members of various religious and ethnic communities sought to be buried in sections of state cemeteries, a practice Russian officials generally but not always tolerated. But now that separation of graves is likely to intensify and thus strengthen divisions the Russian state says it would like to overcome.