Baku, Azerbaidjan — Roads and houses are being built on the 100+ year old Christian cemetery in Baku, the capital of the Azerbaijan Republic. Hundreds of graves are being destroyed. Little warning was given by the city.
[Posted: September 9, 2007, Updated Sept 10] Last week, Azerbaidjan Molokans were shocked as construction began through their cemetery. Graves were dug up and caskets moved with headstones to the side of the new roadway. Most family members, scattered throughout Russia after perestoika, are now required to come and claim them, or leave them to be either moved by the city or left in the ground and covered by new roads and houses.
On September 4, 2007 Katya Karagadayeva was the first to report the tragic news to Molokan.org:
"My mother, Antonina Fedorovna Kudelina, is from a Molokan family. She grew up in the 'Molokanka' district of Baku. Her parents (my grandparents), grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried in that cemetery. Today I spoke with my cousin, Roman Kudelin, who flew urgently from Moscow to Baku to save our family's graves. He was able to move three of five coffins. The rest are left there and will be destroyed. They could not move some of the headstones because they were 'too heavy'. From what I was told, everything is done by hand, without the use of tractors, or back-hoes. If Roman didn't get there on time, we wouldn't have been able to save anything. Please, let me know if you have any more questions. I really appreciate you taking this interest in this matter. I realize that a cemetery in a central part of a large city is an inconvenience, I just hate the disrespectful way Baku administration chose to go about getting rid of it. Is there "
On Sept 10 Katya updated her report: ... He saw graves as new as a month old that got destroyed. ... People are asking me where they can write to protest, if there's a petition they can sign. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Katya's relatives who conducted a funeral 2 weeks ago reported no harm to the Molokan section at that time. Last week, the new construction caught them off guard. She begs Molokans around the world to help move our graves to new locations. The city is helping somewhat by preparing new graves in several cemeteries 6 miles away.
On September 7, the Consulate General of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles did not have any knowledge about destruction at the Molokan cemetery. One staff member, an attorney named Elshan, said he was scheduled to visit Baku on September 14 for a week. He will personally visit the cemetery and try to help. In the meantime he suggested that Molokans visit the Baku mayor with protests.
Also on September 7, Matrona Schetinkin, wife of the Senior Presbyter of the Community of Spiritual Christian Molokans (CSCM), Timofei Vasiliech, said she had not heard any reports about the Baku Cemetery. Her family and congregation are from the Azerbaidjan hills, and many have relatives in the city. The next day Matrona talked with a Molokan woman who just returned from Baku. Matrona cried as she reported that Molokan graves and headstones were dug up and moved out of the way of the road construction. She said Molokans in Baku knew about the first road, but the second was a surprise. Rumors are the city will build over the entire cemetery.
On Sunday September 9, announcements were made at a few Molokan churches, in Kochubeevskoe, Moscow, Los Angeles and Kerman; also the Cemetery Committe which represents 10 congregations near Los Angeles was notified. Baku Molokans have not yet reported an action plan or request for funds to help move hundreds of caskets and monuments.
Construction of one road ("Road 1", right map) along the westside of the cemetery was started in 2003. It was publically announced in February 2003 against much protest. At that time only a 30 meter (less than 100 feet) along the west edge was to be taken for a road. The Administration of BakuPages.ru volunteered to help coordinate relocation of graves.
The Molokans founded this cemetery over 100 years ago, before 1890. When an Armenian neighborhood appeared, they added their own section. During World War II a veteran section was added for Russian soldiers.
The cemetery was in the country and did not expand rectangular, but was limited as the city grew around it. Two major roads were blocked by the cemetery and are now being built.
In the past 100 years it became a "Christian" cemetery because it was expanded to add an Armenian section for the large Armenian community nearby, then a Soviet Soldier (Russian veteran) section. Armenians call it the "Armenian cemetery". Since Azerbaidjan is a Muslim country, their "nee-nashi" are buried separately from Muslims. In and around Baku there are about 90 cemeteries, several are Jewish. This "Christian" Montin cemetery is large, covering 80 hectares — 198 acres, or 0.31 square miles. It is about one mile long and half a mile wide. Molokans use 40 to 50 acres, more than 8 times the area of the Los Angeles cemetery on Slauson Ave.
Azerbaijan feels right demolishing Christian cemeteries
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Under the pretext of building a highway Baku demolishes a Christian cemetery (the Nariman cemetery), where Armenians, Jews and Russians were buried.
Chief engineer of Civil Service Trust Firuz Askerov said “the hearsay that bulldozers have razed to the ground the graves at the Nariman cemetery is false.” “They work to lay a way through the site of displaced graves,” he said.
According to him, “134 graves have been replaced from the Nariman cemetery to the Govsany cemetery.” Askerov said “besides Azeri graves there were also graves of Russians, Georgians, Tatarts, Molokans, etc.” (However, he failed to mention about Armenians). He emphasized that “only those graves which lie on the territory covered by the contraction plan will be replaced,” APA reports.
Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports that although local authorities assure of reinterment, photos in Internet show a complete dump. The photographers say the bulldozers just raze the graves to the ground depriving the relatives to rebury the remains.
The city administration says exhumation and reinterment is performed in accord with ethnic and religious traditions in the presence of relatives of the deceased. Meanwhile, the Jewish News Agency reports that “observance of Jewish traditions is restricted to the fact that grave-diggers throw the ashes into sacks and then give them to the relatives.”