Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery

As we were pressed for time, we did not go into any of the Novodevichy Monastyr (Convent) buildings. One of the buildings, a part of the secular History museum, houses a collection of Russian crafts and illuminated books.

Novodevichy Kladbishche (Cemetery) is a cemetery with an attitude. Police patrol this cemetery. Police with Kalashnikovs--not weenie Berettas as New York cops carry. The gleaming wood stocks and shiny black barrels are testament to the loving care and respect these weapons receive from their proud bearers. Nor are their guns slung haphazardly about their shoulders. These cops carry them diagonally across their chests as badges of their authority. When I realized this, a thrill of excitement ran up my spine. I could just imagine the headlines in the next day's New York Times, "New Yorker and 5 Russians Killed in Furious Gun Battle with Terrorists over Strategic Moscow Cemetery. Victims Buried Where They Fell". With such a formidably armed guard you can feel comforted that erstwhile muggers or terrorists will think twice before daring to interrupt your leisurely stroll. Remember that time you had your wallet stolen? Just think what would have happened to that mugger if one of these guys had been handy. New Yorkers should be so fortunate.

Once you get used to the police presence, this place is as nondescript and pleasant as a rural cemetery in New England. In its park-like ambience, it has some pretty chapels (all closed for renovation when I went) and, yes, the occasional tombstone adorned with--a custom unique to Russian Orthodox believers, I think—the inevitable mug shot of its present occupant. Hidden in the back is Nikita Khrushchev’s grave. If you don’t know who he was, you were born on the wrong side of the Cold War era time-line. Nikita Khrushchev was Prime Minister of the Soviet Union from 1958 to 1964, when the Soviet Union seemed ascendant and was the mortal enemy of the U.S. I remember him as a combination of ogre and buffoon, a character type that only Russia and Russian literature seems to produce, who alternately threatened to rain ICBMs down on us or comically banged the desk with his shoe at the UN. During the same visit to the US, he petulantly created an international incident when he was refused permission to visit Disneyland. In a famous exchange with Vice-President Nixon, he became famous for the threat "We will bury you." This was scary stuff to a kid. Instead he was buried, not next to the Kremlin wall, the ne plus ultra final resting-place for Soviet-era stiffs, but in this obscure spot near the wall of this cemetery. Khrushchev’s grave is not the reason for the heightened security in Novodevichy. He presently occupies a place of prominence in the Russian mind roughly equal to the one occupied by Warren G. Harding in the American, and although many famous Russians are also buried here—Chekov, Gogol, Scriabin, Prokofiev, etc.--it’s hard to imagine any cemetery anywhere meriting such security. I was never given a reason.

Sorry no pictures, I misloaded the film.