Assistens Cemetery

Historic graveyard and park area in Copenhagen

The world famous Russian writer and litterate Fyodor Dostoevsky looks peacefully out on the historic cemetery in Copenhagen from the old red brick walls of the Chapel: This is the historic Assistens Cemetery at the Nørrebro district in Copenhagen. Today one of the most populated areas in the capital of Denmark, it was once part of the city fortifications and a rural area outside the city walls. The Cemetery was founded in 176o and has been called the Cemetery of the Danish Golden Age, since both Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Aabye Kierkegaard are interred here – some of the greatest thinkers of their days – and ours. The Cemetery has two parts of “Russia”, since the Imperial Legation and the Russian Church in Denmark needed a graveyard observing orthodox rituals: Old and New Russian Cemetery. The Dostoyesvky monument was given as a present in 2019 for outstanding theater performances based on Dotoyevskys work and staged in the Chapel since 2013 © Photography

The Old Russian Cemetery is situated in the part D of the historic cemetery, and is a square plot of earth surrounded by a fence in a forest-like setting. This part of the cemetery was originally part of the Catholic congregation, the first orthodox burial dates from 1841. It was not until 1883 though, that the Russian Emperor Alexander III, requested that this area could be used for orthodox burials in connection with the newly projected building of a grand Russian church in Copenhagen. So, the new orthodox church rented the plot from 1880 for a period of 50 years, and made final purchase of the area by signed deed in 1905. The deed was signed by the Russian “minister” to Denmark, the head of the Imperial Russian Legation, A. Sawolsky. There are 56 burial plots in the area and a total of 92 burials. From 1917, the more practical issues of maintenance of the area was assigned to the Russian Church in Copenhagen, and i 1920, the congregation filed a lawsuit against Russia, winning the lawsuit in the Supreme Court, that the church and its belongings would not be part of the new Soviet state.

Plan sketching of Old Russian Cemetery: 7, Sergej and Nicolai Nicolajevich von Gerrdorff, Barons; 9/10, Michael Lazarev and Vera Tunzelmann von Adlerphlug, former general in the Imperial Army and his wife attached Lady-in-waiting to Maria Feodorovna on her visits to Copenhagen before 1914; 14/15, Aleksander and Dimitry Papparigoppoulou, officers in the Russian Imperial Navy; 22, Anna Mengden von Altenwoga, widow of Georgij Mengden, Court Marshal to Grandduke Sergej Aleksandrovich and the Lady-in-waiting Zinaida Mengdens elder brother; 27, Julia Popofsky. 29, Maria, Sergej and Alexandra Ladyshensky, immediate family of Imperial Lord Chamberlain Prince Ladyshensky; 31b, Nicolaj Aleksandrovich Viazemsky, Prince and Admiral of the Russian Imperial Navy, commander of the Imperial Yachts´the Tsarevna and the Polarstar; 37, Schtelkunov family grave, relations of the Priest Ivan Schtelkunov; 48, Aleksej Cipurdejev, First Lieutenant in the Imperial Russian Army, later singer in the Kuban Cossack choir and priest at the Russian church in Denmark; 49, Anna Stanislavovna, wife of the Imperial Chancellor Secretary at the Imperial Legation in Copenhagen.

The New Russian Cemetery dates from 1912/1913, and was assigned to the Imperial Legation by request from the last Russian Emperor, Nicolas II. The deed was signed by the “minister”, the head of the Russian Imperial Legation, baron C. Buxhoeveden (actually the father of Sophie Buxhoeveden, Empress Alexandras Lady-in-Waiting). Although the area had been used for burials since 1863, the first orthodox burial dates from 1915. The area is fenced and has a decorated main entrance gate. The burialground has a total of 50 graveplots and a total of 89 burials. In 2010, the surrounding fence was replaced and the entrance gates restored, and the overall maintenance was reassigned to the Russian church in Copenhagen.

Plan sketching of New Russian Cemetery: 1, General and Baron Wassilij Simakoff; 2, Baron Peter Alekseiev; 5,Countess Antonina Firgang, daughter of the Prince Dolgoruky; 12, Ivan Nikolajevitch Kharine, one of the empires richest men and by marriage uncle to Grandduchess Olga; 13, Life-Cossack Yaschik and his wife Nina; 17/18, Priest Leonid Koltchev and his wife Olga; 20, Eugenia Yakovlena Moschaeva, the nurse of Grandduchess Olgas children; 27, Countess Antonia Florenskij; 34, Kirill Poliakov; 36, Familygrave of the noble Wachtin-family, the countess Maria was the personal friend of Maria Feodorovna; 47, Familygrave of prince Peter Myschetskij; 51, Cecilia Grunwald, chambermaid of Maria Feodorovna; 52, Zinaida Countess Mengden and von Altenwoga, Lady-in-Waiting of Maria Feodorovna; 55, Sergej Pototzkij, General and Count and his wife Sofia P. née Korff personal friend of Maria Feodorovna; 57, Alexander von Tranzé, Commander General of the Imperial Fleet and his wife Maria
Prince Aleksej having breakfast at the Imperial Army Headquarters in Mogilev © Ballerup Museum. The Assistens Russian graveyards where originally intended as cemeteries for civil servants, military staff and diplomats form the Legation, as well as for merchants, seamen and clergy from the Rusian church in Copenhagen. Many of the Russian refugees following the Dowager Empress into exile had participated in the First World War and later participated in the civil war following the Revolution.

Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky visited the Assistens Cemetery in 1865

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11.11.1821 – 09.01.1881) is a Russian novelist and short-story writer whose psychological penetration enters into the darkest recesses of the human heart. Dostoyevsky is regarded as one of the finest novelists who ever lived. Literary modernism, existentialism, and various schools of psychology, theology, and literary criticism have been profoundly shaped by his ideas. In his time he was also renowned for his activity as a journalist. Dostoyevsky is best known for his novella Notes from the Underground and for four long novels, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed (also and more accurately known as The Demons and The Devils), and The Brothers Karamazov. Each of these works is famous for its psychological profundity. For several reasons, Dostoyevsky spent much of the 1860s in western Europe: he wanted to see the society that he both admired for its culture and deplored for its materialism, he was hoping to resume an affair with the minor author Appolinariya Suslova, he was escaping his creditors in Russia, and he was disastrously attracted to gambling. In 1865 he found himself in Copenhagen, visiting his old friend, the Baron Wrangel at the Imperial Russian Legation. Dostoyevsky had come to know Wrangel in Semipalatinsk in connection with his ten years of banishment.  In Copenhagen he took the time to visit the historic cemetery and the grave of the Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard.