After several weeks of travelling the ‘Stans with groups of various sizes, on our last full day in Tajikistan I decided to take the afternoon off from touring and went for a walk to explore the city that, surprise, surprise, led me to a very large Russian cemetery at the eastern edge of the city. If you look at a city map of Dushanbe, you’ll see a large green space that looks a bit like the Vulcan hand greeting. I thought there would be an obvious gate to enter the grounds, but I in fact missed it, taking a left at the fork when I should have gone right. As I walked up this narrow alley with the cemetery to my right, it became clear that I was headed in the wrong direction. I went back down the hill and found the entrance buried behind some car repair shops just a few metres from the place where I decided to go left. Although the main road through the cemetery seems to be an access route for locals to get to the other side, I did have a couple of men question me (in Russian?) when I got to the gate. But when it was clear that I was there to see the Russian cemetery, they seemed pleased with that answer and let me through.
Like the cemeteries that I have been to in Ukraine, this cemetery was full of fences. It seems that virtually every grave or family plot is fenced in. That, with all the vegetation and the narrow paths, made it a bit difficult to navigate. From my research, it appears that there is no central authority that looks after the cemetery; each grave is looked after by surviving family members. However, since there are not many Russians left in Dushanbe (about 7% of the population) it means that the majority of the graves are left untended.
The most common marker was the Russian Orthodox cross, usually metal, but occasionally wood:
Many of the newer monuments had portraits of the deceased on them:
There weren’t many statues here at all, which was not surprising, considering that even today, Dushanbe and Tajikistan can still be considered backwater outposts, far from richer, more metropolitan areas.
Although I had planned to explore the cemetery as much as possible, including trying to find the Jewish cemetery, the reality of the heat, the overgrowth and the late season meant that there were a lot of wasps and hornets around, mostly on the ground, and I am not ashamed to admit that I have a bit of a fear of being stung my either (even though I’m not allergic). So I mostly stuck to the main roads as I wandered around and eventually made my way back to my hotel.
That said, I have to say I came across one of my more interesting finds in a cemetery – one of the plots was open (hole in the ground) and there was a long skull next to it. A horse’s skull perhaps? If so, what was it doing here?
Monuments: Not many, most are standard markers, with few statues, busts, or reliefs.
Grounds: The cemetery is located on a hillside. It’s easy enough to walk up on the main road, but the paths have steps and stairs to get around.
Visitors: None. The only people I came across were locals getting from point A to B.
Notes: Lots of overgrowth, not much variety in terms of monuments.
Site: Russian Cemetery (Русское Кладбище)
Location: At the junction of Druzhby Narodov and Ahmad Donish Streets. The former runs along the eastern edge of the city, the latter straight from the airport. The Cathedral is just to the right of the entrance.
Hours: Unknown. But I would guess from 09:00-17:00, or daylight hours.
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