Tatar cemetery in Minsk

Belarus was actually a multiethnic country during its whole history. People of different ethnic groups and religions have been living here up to the present time. In pre-revolutionary Minsk the number of Muslims was about one and a half thousand, Tatar community was located on quite a vast territory at that time (today it is a Sport Palace region). But Tatars have lived in Belarus for a long time and we know hundreds of examples of ancient orthodox or catholic temples, but there was not a single Muslim temple.

While it’s possible to build a mosque, but  it’s impossible to restore a destroyed cemetery.   

In the mid-70-ies the last mazar was annihilated

A Tatar cemetery is called mazar. In the 74-th the last Muslim burial place was annihilated. And a spare place hasn’t been found to bury Islam adherents officially so far. But more than 10 thousand Muslims live in Minsk today.

Minsk Muslims have prayed in a wooden mosque for many years

At the beginning of the XX century the walls of a new temple with a big central dome and high multystoried minaret were built, which quickly became an attraction of pre-war Minsk. This depiction of a capital Muslim mosque were printied on thousands of postcards of the century beginning.

This temple asserted its right for existence and services holding in the years of atheism,  remained whole during The Great Patriotic War. It would seem, the ordeals have left behind, and better tomorrow and temple’s prosperity awaits ahead. However, in 1949 the Soviet authority placed a cross on Minsk mosque – the temple was closed, and in 10 years it was burst. On the place of the shrine, wherein thousands of people’s prayers sounded, the government decided to open “public catering” – the hotel “Yubileinaya” restaurant was built there.

After the mosque they decided to “look into” the Tatar cemetery

In 10 years the city government paid attention to the cemetery as well. By that time nobody had been buried, but a lot of relatives of Minsk Tatars rested there. According to their traditions, they visited the ancestors’ graves.

Cemeteries in a city’s borders is quite usual thing for large residential areas, moreover for the capital –  million-plus city. But in the mid 70-ies information that the Tatar cemetery was going to be terminated, appeared in one of the newspapers. Then, a terrible story started.

Certainly, people are powerless in such issues. And the only thing, that’s left was to leave all as it was, or to reinter relatives’ bodies. The memories of those years have still preserved, of how people removed their dead relatives’ remains  in small coffins.

What remained of Minsk Tatar cemetery?

 A plain land. Not all of the Tatars had the possibility to reinter the dead. Many graves were just leveled to the ground with bulldozers. Even cemetery’s pines were replaced with young birches.

Now Minsk residents should come to this place not to honour the dead memory, but to take a walk – such was the government decision, and architects designed and laid out a park here. Firstly, people certainly didn’t appear there. And even today, those who know this terrible story prefer to avoid this place of “recreation”.

The name “Tatar” was assigned to the park on Griboedov Street, and the mazar’s theme has been closed so far, even though Belarusian Tatars have a place to come to pray.  In 2016 a new mosque was opened in Minsk.