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In early February this year, Moscow historian and writer Sergei Galani, a board member of the Russia-Greece Friendship Society, said that descendants of Crimean Greeks, including those deported after World War II, were preparing an appeal to the Presidential Administration and the Russian Defense Ministry. to the Russian President’s Aide, the infamous former Russian Minister of Culture Volodymyr Medinsky, with a request to help save the ancient cemetery in Balaklava from destruction. At the same time Galani stressed that the situation around the Balaklava necropolis, which existed since the first half of the XVIII century, worries him not least because of ancestral memory: his ancestors lived in the Crimea since the early XIX century, one of them, John Galani , was a non-commissioned officer of the Greek Legion of Emperor Nicholas I and participated in the defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War. The historian added that among those who found their last rest in the old Balaklava cemetery were representatives of famous families – Seraphim, Michael, Spai, Terlandi, Ginali. Despite the fact that during the Soviet era (late 1950s) the cemetery was partially lost due to the extraction of raw materials in the quarry of the Balaklava ore management, dozens of tombstones have survived on it, and the inscriptions on some are well readable. Today, both the cemetery and the adjacent territory are currently protected by the occupiers as a place for the implementation of another “federal target project.” According to Galan, there are several ways to prevent the construction on the bones – to transport the remains to another cemetery (for example, Bratsky on the north side of Sevastopol, where the Crimean War participants are buried) or to preserve the Balaklava necropolis with the status of historical and memorial object.
Almost simultaneously with Serhiy Galani’s statements in the Russian-language weekly Mir i Omonia, published in Athens, an open letter was published by representatives of the Greek intelligentsia and the public from Greece, Sweden and Great Britain to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to protect the ancient Greek cemetery. which is not only in a depressing situation, but also not taken into account in all “documents” related to the “development” of the occupied city. The authors of the letter expressed particular regret over the current situation, given that the occupying state pays “extremely important attention” to issues of military history, and its public organizations in Greece over the past two decades with the assistance of local authorities have restored many “Russian” burials. Among the latter, including the burials of the 1920s on the island of Lemnos, where about 16,000 Kuban Cossacks were evacuated from the Crimea. However, the inscription on the tombstone clearly states that it was installed in memory of the “Russian people”.
The puppet “government” of Sevastopol hastened to respond to media reports about the situation around the necropolis in Balaklava, assuring that the burial place is not included in the yacht marina project, so the occupiers are not going to demolish it or build anything in its place – at least because they do not responsibility for it. On February 3, an “official statement” stated that the territory of the old cemetery in Balaklava was adjacent to a plot of land used by the Balaklava Ore Administration. OHM. Gorky “, and is not included in the project to create a yacht marina under the state program” Socio-economic development of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. ” Construction on the specified territory is not planned, however at the same time the question of its “improvement” is considered.
The cemetery itself is on the balance of the “specialized funeral service”, which said that the cemetery is not operational and burials do not take place there. In addition, the occupation “government” reminded that they are implementing a priority project “Development of Balaklava”, which is aimed at “an integrated approach to the development of the territory and improvement of the urban environment of Balaklava Municipal District” and aims to “preserve specially protected natural areas and cultural heritage sites “. In addition, it is planned to recreate the planning structure of the historical part of the Balaklava Bay building – that is, “the creation of new objects of modern architecture that will not contradict the historical one.” It should be noted that at the end of last year in the “government” of Sevastopol for the whole of 2022 announced a phased implementation of works on the Tavria embankment in Balaklava in the construction of a marina for 600 vessels from 6 to 75 meters, “state contract” for the construction of which was concluded with the Russian public joint-stock company Mostotrest, which was the contractor for the illegal construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait.
According to the “government” of Sevastopol, the Russian publication “Komsomolskaya Pravda” – with which, by the way, the affiliated Athenian newspaper “Mir i Omonia”, which published the above-mentioned open letter to Putin, was called a “fake” – information about the possible construction of an ancient Greek cemetery in Balaklava. . They say that the representatives of the Greek diaspora for some reason revised the old unapproved project for the reconstruction of Balaklava, so they slandered those far from publications and caused public outrage. And some of the inhabitants of Sevastopol came to the defense of the occupying “government” of the city: there was a cemetery no one needed, covered with dumps and perennial limestone dust – and then suddenly some foreigners miraculously worried about his fate.
However, the head of the Crimean “Center for Greek Studies. Kondaraki “, a member of the Sevastopol Society of Greeks” Chersonese “, Candidate of Historical Sciences Igor Moshuri. In particular, he reminded that the yacht marina is only part of a large-scale project of “reconstruction” of Balaklava – as well as the cable car to the Genoese fortress of Chembalo, hotel complexes and even the railway station: all these objects are depicted in the concept of Balaklava Bay infrastructure development. “- on the site of the necropolis, which is preserved by the descendants of the Greeks of Sevastopol and Balaklava. In particular, this issue was recently raised by the chairman of the Sevastopol Society of Greeks Christopher Yefimov during a meeting with Greek Ambassador to Russia Ekaterina Nassika and President of the Federal National-Cultural Autonomy of Greeks Ivan Savidi, who is also a member of the Council on International Relations. The Greek community in Sevastopol assured that they were preparing all the necessary documents and planned to send an “official” protest against the destruction of the cemetery in Balaklava to the highest authorities of the occupying state. Crimean activists hope for a favorable solution to the issue, given that the current year in the pandemic, like the previous one, was declared a “cross year of the history of Russia and Greece”, and in 2023 will mark the 170th anniversary of the Crimean War. By the way, in the “Republic of Crimea”, which by the will of the occupiers is a “neighboring object of the federation” for Sevastopol, the “State Council” on August 8, 2014 adopted a “resolution” on commemorative events, including measures to improve cemeteries , territories of monuments and memorials associated with the events of the Crimean War. However, in the occupied Crimea every year “officially commemorates” the day of remembrance of Russian soldiers killed during the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and the defense of Sevastopol “: thus the occupiers make it clear that in their historical memory there is no place to the soldiers of the army of the Russian Empire of Greek origin, nor to the numerous “Greeks” from the mainland of Ukraine, nor to anyone else.
It is believed that the Balaklava necropolis first appeared on a map of 1874 made by the captain of the corps of military topographers Karasev. However, Igor Moshuri claims that the cemetery was marked on the layer “Map of the outskirts of Sevastopol”, compiled in 1836 by the topographer of the 2nd class, NCO Osipov, and on the “Map of the Southern Crimea, which belongs to the Crimean collection of Peter Köppen” by order of the Novorossiysk and Bessarabian Governor-General Count Mikhail Vorontsov. The earliest surviving tombstone found during the research dates back to 1871: it was installed on the grave of Christina Yegorovna Fonti, who was born in 1794. However, data on the dead in the metric notebooks of the Balaklava Battalion St. Nicholas Church indicate earlier burials – for example, Major of the Balaklava Greek Infantry Battalion Yegor Dmitrievich Salti (1785-1847), whose tombstone has not survived, as well as many other monuments. The necropolis also has the burial of the former Balaklava mayor Peter Xirihi. According to the metric books, it was possible to establish the presence in the cemetery of several dozen burials of soldiers, officers and members of their families. In particular, the participants of the battle of the Balaklava Greek Infantry Battalion with the enemy, who had a colossal numerical advantage, brothers Fedor and Spyridon Ginali were buried here: the former was a lieutenant of the battalion, after its disbandment and his resignation – the mayor of Balaklava, the latter hotel “Grand Hotel”, the builder of the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the central part of the cemetery in memory of the battle. The Ginali brothers also built a small stone chapel with an underground family crypt in the north-eastern part of the cemetery. equipment.
The list of burials in the Balaklava necropolis is far from complete: the Greek community of Sevastopol is working hard to restore its history. In addition to officers and lower ranks of the Balaklava Greek Infantry Battalion, who took part in the Russo-Turkish wars of 1768–1774, 1787–1791 and 1806–1812, participants of the defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War are buried here, as well as graves of businessmen and public figures of the Balaklava region. XIX – early XX centuries – for example, relatives of the first chairman of the Socialist Youth Union of Sevastopol Orion Aleksakis, members of the “Expedition of underwater works of special purpose”, representatives of the families Aleksakis and Christopoulou, people’s volunteers MN Trigoni and E.D. Levenson and many others.
In 1925, the religious community of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Balaklava rented a Greek cemetery “by special agreement” and maintained its condition, but there was almost no space left, and new burials were carried out in place of the old “with great inconvenience.” The community then asked the city council to expand the cemetery for new burials. After the deportation of Greeks from the Crimea in late June 1944, most of the graves were left unattended. On January 1, 1960, the cemetery was closed by the decision of the Sevastopol City Executive Committee.
The concept of preserving the old cemetery in Balaklava, developed by the Greek community, states that it is currently in danger of complete destruction, and its disappearance will cause not only moral and ethical damage, but also irreparable loss in the study of the city’s history. In addition, community members are concerned about the lack of full synchronization in the plans and “documents” of the occupying regional “government”: although it assures that the old cemetery is not part of the future marina project and therefore construction is not planned, however, in other concepts and various projects you can see visualizations, which are simply located in the cemetery of various infrastructure facilities, so this situation requires unambiguous clarity – not only during the construction of the marina, but also during the implementation of other projects “improvement” Balaklava. In particular, these wishes and suggestions were passed to the “Vice-Governor of Sevastopol” Maria Litovko, who is also the curator of the marina project. If the “government” of the region transfers a plot of land with historic burials, which currently occupies less than a hectare, to the Greek community, its members are obliged to take care of it and its maintenance.
The project of “development” of Balaklava is a priority for the “government” of Sevastopol and is implemented on the instructions of the head of the occupying power since 2016; the functional customer was the “Department of Economic Development of Sevastopol”. According to the concept approved in 2018, Balaklava is planned to be transformed into a “significant international tourism center” by 2030. Earlier, in 2017, a “special investment contract” was signed with the Balaklava Ore Administration, which undertook to liquidate the crushing and processing plant located in the Gulf and a shunting area of 6.5 hectares by 2020 and transfer the latter to Sevastopol together with the West Balaklava Car covering an area of 20.5 hectares; probably the specified area includes a necropolis. Also on the basis of “investment sites” in the Balaklava Bay is planned to create a tourist and recreational cluster with hotels, shopping and entertainment centers, restaurants, a network of cable cars, a yacht club and a complex for repair and storage of ships. At present, no one can say whether the graves of the Crimean Greeks will be sacrificed to these far-reaching plans of the occupiers.
Implemented within the project “Information Platform” Voice of Crimea. Culture “- about Crimea honestly, qualitatively, actually” with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US government.