In the beginnging of the year i wandered through Tegel a bit and visited a piece of russias soil, the russian orthodox cemetery. The whole area has an interesting history and it is the only church of the russian orthodox community in Berlin Tegel.1

The initiative for the cemetery goes back to the “Bruderschaft des heiligen Fürsten Wladimir”, which are still active. They bought the property for 30000 marks in 1892 while the Russian community was growing in Berlin. In addition to the cemetery and chapel, the brotherhood erected several buildings, including greenhouses, a typesetter and a library2. At the center of the graveyard is the St. Constantine and Helena Church, built in 1894, as a replica of the Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral. The chapel used to have precious icons however there were lost through robbery. I don’t saw the chapel yet, but i read that it have a beautiful iconostase. Maybe i can see it someday.

The three crossarm of different lengths and shapes of the orthodox cross symbolize Christ's crucifixion: The short upper arm of the cross represents the titulus board (i.e. where the inscription INRI was seen). The middle arm represent the place where the arms of Christ were attached. And the slanted arm is the suppedaneum (the board under the feet at the crucifixion)

What makes the cemetery special is that Tsar Alexander III sent 4,000 tons of earth from 50 regions of Russia in four trains, so that the deceased could rest in their native soil. With the construction of the cemetery, strictly orthodox burials were possible now, like a celebration with an open coffin.

After its inauguration, the cemetery initially became the final resting place for members of the Russian aristocracy, high-ranking officers, artists and intellectuals. Some graves show old russian noble families, like Kropotkin, Golizyn or Daschkow.3 There is also the grave of Michail Ossipowitsch Eisenstein (1867-1921), father of the well-known Soviet film director Sergei Michailowitsch Eisenstein (1898-1948), whose most famous work is the film “Panzerkreuzer Potemkin”.

The entry gate has some interesting history as well. In that gate hang nine bells which the Wehrmacht stole from the Soviet Union during World War II. The battles around Berlin in 1945 severely damaged the site. After the war, the cemetery still saw decay. It was in the French sector and it fell into disrepair because there weren’t that many citizens of Russian origin in West Berlin anymore, and the Cold War had raised sentiments too4. Since reunification, many graves could be restored due to private initiative and donations.

It is sad to see, that probably many cemetaries like these will see a rise in burials these days.

The white St. Andrew's crosses are characteristic for this cemetery. The graves, which are almost exclusively burials, are laid out in an east-west direction according to Orthodox tradition

  1. and ↩︎

  2. The former buildings of the brotherhood don’t exist anymore. ↩︎

  3. There was one website of the cemetery that had a list of all the people that were buried there. Now there is nothing. Thanks to the list is still there: ↩︎

  4. I can imagine they face the same sentiments again. ↩︎