“Literary bridges” – the most troubled cemetery
The pioneer of “bridges” was the writer Radishchev. Disgraced by the Empress and subjected to the most severe repressions, he was buried on the outskirts of the capital, in a cemetery, once created for the poor.
One thing was not taken into account – thus Alexander Nikolayevich was not reduced to the level of a squalid cemetery, but the cemetery rose to the level of the author of his Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, almost the most popular book among the Russian intellectuals. This happened in 1802.
Gradually more and more people came to the tomb of Radishchev. Brought flowers. Making speeches. But to bury, however, preferred in more prestigious places: the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, at Novodevichy in Moscow. And only in 1848 did they bury another liberal celebrity – Vissarion Belinsky – in the cemetery.
In 1861 next to Belinsky’s grave appears another grave – that of Nikolai Dobrolyubov. At this funeral Chernyshevsky held a speech: “What a man we have lost, for he was a talent. And at what young age he ended his activity, for he was only twenty-six years old, at a time when others are just beginning to learn… Dobrolyubov died from being too honest.”
For this speech Chernyshevsky was condemned by another of those present, P. Ballod: “To speak so harshly where, of course, there was more than one spy, seemed to me wild. He cried and talked and was out of his mind.”
The cemetery was made a kind of continuation of the nihilistic salons. The word “nihilism” itself only appeared the following year, however, when Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons was published, where he called Evgeny Bazarov a nihilist.
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There were no words, but nihilism existed to the full. The next high-profile event in this cemetery was in 1866 – the graves of Belinsky and Dobrolyubov were surrounded by a common award. A few years later, when Dmitri Ivanovich Pisarev died, his place was reserved for him on the same Volkovsky, in company with his colleagues, literary critics.
It is not very clear whom there were more of at those funerals – liberals from the capital or agents of the Third Branch. Here, for example, is a report from one of them:
“The local nihilistic synclite marched behind the coffin; we might say that the coffin even changed its face and looked more like a pyramid studded with flowers.”
Another agent added: “The grave was prepared just opposite the place where Belinsky and Dobroliubov were buried, a few paces from the grave of a well-known Nihilist, Nozhin, who died during the investigation of the assassination on April 4.
As the coffin was being lowered into the grave, all the garlands and flowers were torn from it, which were dispersed in the hands of those present. The coffin was lowered into the grave without a priest, and flowers were poured into it; the first wreath was proposed to be thrown to the father of the deceased.
The burial was already finished and the grave was decorated with flowers, but the public did not leave – as if waiting for something: the first time Pavlenkov drew attention to this and from a nearby high grave gave a short speech in which he expressed that all grave speeches are unnecessary and that the best homage to the memory of the deceased is that at the grave gathered people of all different beliefs, which shows the honest and beneficial activity of the deceased.
But despite Mr. Pavlenkov’s wishes, there were no speeches. Literary critic Grigory Evlampievich Blagosvetlov, for example, said: “Here lies the most remarkable of modern Russian writers; it was a man with a hard heart, developed under the influence of the state reforms of the last time, not retreating to anything and never falling in spirit.
Being in a fortress, he was in a damp and stuffy casemate, surrounded by soldiers, under the sound of arms, continued to engage in literature, and it should be noted that it was his best work.
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The same Blagosvetlov was also present at the funeral of Dobrolyubov, mentioned in the report.
A huge event was the funeral of Ivan Turgenev. Ivan Sergeyevich died in 1883. Lenin’s sister Anna Ilyinichna Ulyanova wrote of them: “The entire funeral procession was compressed by a close ring of Cossacks. All bore the mark of gloom and depression. After all, the ashes of the “unreliable” writer, disapproved by the government, were being lowered into the ground.
The autocracy showed it very clearly on his corpse. I remember the bewildered, uneasy impression of us two young men. Not many people were allowed into the cemetery, and we were not among them. Afterwards those who did were told how badly the mood was, how crowded the cemetery was with policemen, before whom the few speakers had to speak.
Anna Ilyinichna only turned nineteen a few days ago, but in the company of Turgenev’s friends she felt like a fish in water.
The lawyer Anatoly Koni recalled: “The reception of the coffin in St. Petersburg and its journey to the Volkovo cemetery was an unusual spectacle in its beauty, majestic character, and complete and unanimous obedience to order.
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A continuous chain of 176 deputations from literature, newspapers and magazines, scientists, educational and training institutions, zemstvos, Siberians, Poles and Bulgarians occupied the space of several versts, attracting sympathetic and often touching attention of a huge crowd, blocking the sidewalks, carried by deputations elegant and magnificent wreaths and banners with significant inscriptions.
Thus, there was a wreath “To the Author of “Mumu” from the Society for the Patronage of Animals
A wreath with a repetition of the words said by the sick Turgenev to the artist Bogolyubov: “Live and love people as I loved them,” from the Association of Traveling Exhibitions; a wreath with the inscription “Love is stronger than death” from Women’s Pedagogical Courses.
A wreath with the inscription “To the unforgettable teacher of truth and moral beauty” from St. Petersburg Law Society was especially notable… The deputation from Drama Courses of Stage Art Lovers brought a huge lyre of fresh flowers with torn silver strings.
Everyone expressed their grief as best they could.
At the cemetery along the Rasstannaya road
Then there were Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, Mikhail Evgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin, Nikolai Sergeyevich Leskov, Gleb Ivanovich Uspensky. More and more people forgot why this cemetery was called that, what the bridges had to do with it.
In fact, when it was still specializing in the obscure and moneyless, the soil in the cemetery was a marshy swamp, very typical of Petrovsky capital. To be able to somehow move around the cemetery, between the graves laid bridges.
Gradually these bridges were called – it was necessary to orientate ourselves and local gravediggers somehow. A part of those bridges, which used to be Nadtrubniy (by the sewage pipes passing under them), just became Literatorskie.
The territory became civilized long ago, the bridges are a thing of the past, but the name stays. Just like Nikitsky Gate and Kuznetsky Bridge in Moscow.
The political significance of this cemetery was, of course, unshakable. An article by the publicist Grigory Zakharovich Eliseev is characteristic: “You say that ‘we have nothing left to inherit from the past,’ that we have no great public work to work on in the present, that we have no hopes and ideals for the future, that we have in our possession one Volkovo cemetery, Only the graves of our great departed – Belinsky, Dobrolyubov, Pisarev, Turgenev, Kavelin and others like them, although in other cemeteries they found eternal rest, but in spirit and thought they undoubtedly belong to the same bright galaxy of Volkov Cemetery.
With them, with these dead should live our thoughts in constant unity, to their graves we must go to refresh our souls, suffering and languishing in the gloom of now the memories of the disappeared ideals and hopes, and there to seek resolution and clarification of our future destinies.
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Of course, over time, not only writers were buried here. The cemetery keeps the remains of the scientists Dmitry Mendeleyev, Vladimir Bekhterev and Ivan Pavlov, the sculptor Vasily Kozlov (the author of the famous monument to Lenin in front of the Smolny), the composer Isaac Schwartz, many revolutionaries Vera Zasulich, George Plekhanov, and at the same time Lenin’s mother Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova and his sisters (including Anna Ilinichna).
In the midst of this pantheon, ordinary residents of St. Petersburg, who also buried their deceased relatives here, seemed somehow exotic.
One of the ordinary residents of the capital recalled: “We also went to Volkovo cemetery to the graves, where our grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather, and other relatives were buried behind bars. We went to Volkovo in a four-place carriage, which could be hired for such a trip for a ruble or a ruble and a quarter.
At the graves were also arranged with a samovar and food. Someone would take off his boot from his foot and blow the samovar with his shin, which we kids enjoyed very much. This trip was sometimes joined by several of our kin families. Liturgies were served for the dead. Men did not do without libations.
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People used to go to the cemetery by the so called parting road. According to legend, the parting with the dead gave it its name. There was also an inn “Rasstanie”, where it was customary to hold a wake.
But the significance of the cemetery as a symbol of the freedom struggle was gradually losing its poignancy, but it was clearly becoming commonplace. An example – a quiet, even dull tone of a newspaper article in 1910: “On 23 January, the 23rd anniversary of the death of the poet Nadson, a circle of writers, in the old church Volkov cemetery was served a requiem, after which all the admirers of the poet in the church before the clergy, sent to the tomb of the deceased in “Literary Bridge”, where they served a short litany.
At the litia, in addition to literary figures, was attended by the public, mostly young students. On the tomb of the poet laid new wreaths.
Where are the passionate speeches, burning eyes? Where are the secret service agents? All in the past. Now the main revolutionary forces are not in the cemeteries, but in the factory outskirts. It is there, far from the eyes of the police, that the greatest upheaval in the history of the country is being prepared.
Museum expands exposition
In 1935, when Anna Ilyinichna Ulyanov, already mentioned twice, died, the cemetery became a department of the State Museum of City Sculpture (the main part of it was located in another cemetery of St. Petersburg, in Lazarevsky).
In connection with this “exposition” was expanded: Ivan Goncharov, Alexander Blok, Nikolai Pomialovsky were reburied on “Literators’ footbridges. Their graves for various reasons were prepared for destruction, so the museum status came in handy.
Many were buried here during the Great Patriotic War, during the blockade.
The cemetery began – as any famous cemetery – to be covered with rumors and anecdotes.
In particular, during perestroika someone started a rumor that Lenin’s ashes were secretly taken out of the mausoleum and buried next to his mother and sisters, in “Literators’ footbridges. Someone even placed a monument to this cause near the graves of the Ulyanovs.
Radishchev’s grave, with which, in fact, everything began, has long been lost. The plaque in his memory is now established in a fence of Voskresensky cemetery church.
Alas, this is not uncommon.
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Literatorskie Mostki is part of Volkovo cemetery and museum necropolis at the same time. The cemetery is located just 15 minutes from downtown St. Petersburg. As one of the oldest necropolises of the northern capital, Literatorskie Mostki is also attractive to tourists.
In the complex are buried not only writers, but other figures of science and art. The museum complex can be reached directly from the cemetery and the Volkovskaya Metro Station.
In 1935 the necropolis was attached to the Museum of Sculpture as a department (branch). The main part of its exposition is located in another cemetery.
Who is buried on the Literatorskie Mostki?
The very first person buried in this place was A.N. Radishchev. The author of A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow fell into disgrace, was subjected to reprisals and then buried in the Volkov Cemetery, originally built for beggars. However, this did not lower him to the position of a pauper, but raised the place to his level. His burial place also became the last resting place for other famous personalities of science and art. Later another famous literary figure, Vissarion Belinsky, was buried there. In 1861 the grave of Dobrolyubov appeared in the cemetery. Chernyshevsky spoke at his funeral.
Gradually the cult graves were enclosed with a metal fence. And when Dmitri Ivanovich Pisarev died a few years later, the place for his burial was also chosen at Mostki, in the “company” of his literary colleagues. Turgenev’s funeral there was an unbelievable event. There was a gloomy atmosphere at the time, because the writer was disapproved of by the authorities. Later other famous people were buried here: M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, N. S. Leskov, G. I. Uspensky. Gradually the place became more and more literary, and everyone forgot why it is associated with a bridge.
The fact is that at the beginning of the construction of the cemetery the soil was the usual boggy mud in St. Petersburg. It was extremely difficult to walk on it, so they laid bridges, which gave the name of the complex necropolis.
They began to bury here not only figures of literary creation, but also scientists: Dmitry Mendeleev, Vladimir Bekhterev and others. Also buried here were figures of the revolution, such as Vera Zasulich, as well as the mother and sisters of Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin). Some artists, dancers and sculptors found their last resting place.
Due to the museum status of the place, other writers, such as Alexander Blok and Ivan Goncharov, were reburied there as well. Their graves could have been destroyed, and the relocation came in handy.
Almost every cemetery has a small religious building, and Volkovsky is no exception. The Church of the Resurrection is open to the public. There is a plaque to Radishchev in its fence, as his grave has not survived and is impossible to visit.
The temple was consecrated in September 1785. Stone building with bell tower appeared on this place after the first wooden church, which was built 8 years earlier, in 1777, burned down. The structure, erected according to the project of the architect Starov, was then repaired in 1813. During the Soviet years the church was closed. Officially, the building, which is an architectural monument of federal importance, has not yet been returned to the Diocese, although the question has been discussed for many years.
However, services are going on in the church. Liturgies are held on Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends, as well as on all major Orthodox holidays. They begin at 10:00, it is possible to confess from 9:30. You can check the actual schedule of services on the website of the church or on its official page “VKontakte”. Services are conducted in Church Slavonic.
Working hours of the necropolis
The necropolis has specific hours and days of operation, when those who wish can visit this place, watch a tour, and listen to the history of the graves there.
The museum is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday – day off. You can also call the museum at +7 (911) 921-00-71 and sign up separately if needed. Admission is free.
Excursions to the Literary Bridges
There are two options for tours of Literatorskie Mostki. The first are conducted directly by the Necropolis Museum – pre-registration is required. The second is conducted by independent guides – you can find them on the Internet, or just meet them on the streets of St. Petersburg. Often a tour of the Literator’s Bridges is part of another comprehensive tour. Admission to the museum will be free in any case.
As a rule, excursions tell about the history of the place and the people buried there, about their life journey and contribution to culture, science or public life in Russia.
How to get to Literatorskie Mostki
The nearest metro station is “Volkovskaya. From the station go along Volkovskaya St. and Volkovskaya Embankment for about 700 m to the cemetery. Necropolis part is distinguished by the building of the museum.
You can also get there from other metro stations. From Obvodny Canal station you can take bus #74 and streetcars #25, 16, and 49. They all start running at 6:00, but remember that the museum itself opens only at 11:00. Travel time from the station to the museum by ground transport – from 10 to 15 minutes. Get off at the Old Believers’ Bridge stop.