Monday, March 27, 2023

Paris Graves of People from the Caucasus Being Maintained By Their Descendants and Supporters

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 22 – Reports earlier this year that the Russian government had stopped making payments to cemetery officials in Paris and that some of the graves of the most prominent Russian emigres from a century ago at Saint Genevieve des Bois were at risk alarmed supporters of the numerous emigres from the Caucasus who are also buried there.

            The Russian Imperial House announced not that it would provide funds to correct the situation but rather would work with French and Russian officials in the hopes that something could be done (

            But that effort appeared to be about ethnic Russian tombs rather than the tombs of all those who fled when the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917. Now, a survey of the situation by the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency reports that the family and friends of Georgian, Armenian, and other Caucasian emigres have nothing to worry about (

            That is because the families and supporters of these non-Russian emigres have taken responsibility all along for paying the needed maintenance fees and so there is no problem for them even though there are still concerns that the Russian graves may face problems if not immediately than in the future.

            This story is worth reporting not only because of the human concerns it highlights but also because it throws into high relief the different approaches of the nations involved. The Russians even in emigration looked to the state to solve the problem, while the non-Russians looked in the first instance to themselves.

            That difference is on display in many cases, but nowhere is it clearer than in this one where the state-centric nature of Russian identity has so clearly overwhelmed any sense of collective national identity – even when it involves something as intimately human as taking care of the graves of revered ancestors. 

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