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No Room for the Dead in Moscow

7. October 2009 by Christy 0 Comments

Moscow families hoping to bury loved ones in a city cemetery face a nearly impossible task. According to a recent report in the Moscow Journal, only one of the city’s 71 cemeteries is open to new burials. This shortage of burial space leaves many grieving families with little options.

By law, the Russian government must provide a free burial plot to its citizens. In response to the shortage of space, Moscow officials have started issuing burial plots far outside city limits, a practice that upsets many families. In some cases, family members are forced drive two or three hours just to visit a loved one’s grave.

Although the Russian Orthodox Church frowns upon cremation, several families have chosen to cremate deceased family members rather than fight for burial space in an increasingly shrinking market. Because the demand for burial sites in Moscow is so high, corruption is rampant in the funeral industry with many undertakers taking advantage of desperate families. According to a 2006 documentary, one elderly widower was shocked to discover a new grave and a stranger’s tombstone at his wife’s burial plot. 

Unless Moscow officials come up with a new plan, the numbers of families electing to cremate will continue to grow. As one grieving son told the Moscow Journal, “new plots are either far way, expensive, or both.”