Alexander Nevsky monastery - the Trinity church

Alexander Nevsky monastery – the Trinity church that contains Nevsky’s tomb (sorry, no photos allowed)

In another post, I claim that Russia before the Bolsheviks was much more European than we give it credit for. Its continued isolation in the 21st century, much of it self-inflicted, impoverishes us all.

Nothing spells out Russia’s culture more starkly than the long litany of its famous dead. In St Petersburg you find buried most of the big names of the 19th century. Their graves are in the Tikhvin cemetery next to the Alexander Nevsky monastery (that has its own, separate graveyard).

Maybe the biggest name of them all is Dostoevsky. It’s the grave easiest to find and the one you almost have to queue to take a picture without tourists hanging about. I sat waiting on the bench opposite for 20 minutes, but then I am a big Dosto geek, having been to his museum (twice) and visited the scenes of Crime and Punishment.

The composers are all bunched up.

I should add here, that Borodin’s Steppes of Central Asia may well be the classical piece of music I’ve heard most times, outside opera pieces.

Tchaikovsky is in a corner by himself, and so is Mussorgsky. Still, Tchaikovsky has a much bigger sculpture than the others.

Two mathematicians are also buried here. You’ll have to leave the Tikhvin cemetery and enter the Lazarevsky section opposite.

The first one is Lomonosov, the closest Russia had to the polymath genius of Isaac Newton; he was the one who discovered the principle of conservation of mass in chemical reactions.

He also predicted the existence of a frozen continent where Antarctica now stands.

The other one is Euler (he of the base of natural logarithms denoted as e). He was born in Switzerland but spent most of his working life at the Imperial Academy of St Petersburg along with Bernoulli.

There are many other artists’s graves for the connoisseur Russophile, but the one you shouldn’t miss is the tombstone of  Adolphe Mahir who was a doctor of medicine.

His  bronze figure lying on a pedestal in the form of a rock looking at the tombs next door is by far the most bizarre sight in any cemetery, anywhere.