Smolenskoe Cemetery

Smolenskoe Cemetery, located on Vasilevsky Island, is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in St. Petersburg. It consists of three sections: the Orthodox, Lutheran and Armenian Cemeteries. It is perhaps most popular as the burial ground of St. Ksenia of St. Petersburg and also of Alexander Pushkin's nanny, Arina Rodionovna. The Lutheran and Armenian Cemeteries, meanwhile, boast many beautifully designed tombstones.

Tombstones of the Nobel family at Smolenskoye Lutheran Cemetery in St Petersburg, Russia
Tombstones of the Nobel family at Smolenskoye Lutheran Cemetery

This cemetery on the Smolenka River was established by the decree of the Senate in 1756, although by that time there were already graves in the area. In 1786-1790 the architect Aleksey Ivanov built a stone church on the site of an older wooden structure, consecrated in the name of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The river and cemetery got their names from this church. Since the 18th century, because of the proximity of the university and other research institutions, not only the ordinary residents of Vasilevskiy Island but also leading figures of Russian science and art were buried here. Plots for institutions such as the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Aleksandrinsky and Mariinsky Theaters, the Mining Institute, St. Petersburg University, and various military colleges were established here. Smolenskoe Cemetery was one of the biggest cemeteries in pre-revolutionary Russia - at the beginning of the 20th century, the number of graves reached 800,000.

Chapel of Ksenia of St Petersburg at Smolenskoye Orthodox Cemetery in St Petersburg, Russia
Chapel of Ksenia of St Petersburg at Smolenskoye Orthodox Cemetery

It is believed that Pushkin's dearly loved nanny Arina Yakovleva, an inspiration for many of his outstanding poems, is buried in the cemetery. Although her grave has never been found, a plaque hanging next to the gate testifies to this. Of greatest interest to religious visitors of the cemetery is the grave of St. Ksenia of Petersburg, who lived in the second half of the 18th century. People believed that this possibly insane beggar woman had the gift of prophecy and healing. To this day, the chapel on her grave is full of visitors year-round, coming to pay their respects.

Site of the original tomb of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Site of the original tomb of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko

The nearby Smolenskoe Lutheran Cemetery was established in 1748 and is the oldest of the non-Orthodox cemeteries in Petersburg. It is here that eminent mathematician Leonhard Euler and architect Thomas de Thomon were originally buried. Their remains were later transferred to the necropolis of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Many Lutheran tombstones are of great artistic value, but unfortunately the cemetery is in poor condition with many ruined tombs, broken fences, and damaged sculptures. However, you can visit the preserved tombs of Ludwig Nobel, the "father" of Odessa Admiral Jose de Ribas, founder of the St. Petersburg Circus Gaetano Ciniselli, and the inventor of electroplating Moritz von Jacobi, among many other worthies.

Soviet-era tombs at Smolenskoye Cemetery in Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Soviet-era tombs at Smolenskoye Cemetery

Around 1797, near Smolensk Lutheran Cemetery the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection of Christ was built. A small cemetery eventually arose around it. Members of St. Petersburg's Armenian diaspora have found their final resting place there since then, all through the Soviet period, and up to the present day. The small cemetery remains in excellent condition, almost all the graves are monumental tombs with rich sculptures.

Address:3, Kamskaya Ulitsa
Metro stations:Primorskaya
Directions:To get to the Lutheran and Armenian Cemeteries, exit Primorskaya Metro Station and walk left along Ulitsa Odoevskogo to the intersection with Prospekt Kima. Turn right and follow the road around 300m to reach the cemetery gates. To get to the Orthodox Cemetery, keep walking and turn right across the Smolenka River on 17-ya Liniya. Take the first right after the bridge onto Ulitsa Kamskaya and walk to the end of the street.
Website (cemetery):
Website (separate Lutheran cemetery):
What's nearby? Smolenka River, Maly Prospekt (Vasilevsky Island)