07/06/2022, 10.17
Send to a friend

Buriati fallen in Ukraine deemed 'saints'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

They are among the many conscripted from Russia's remotest provinces to fight against Kiev. At home they are seen as gods, incapable of doing bad deeds. Enlistment is their only employment opportunity. Orthodox in Buryatia see "mystical signs" of Russian victory against all enemies.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In the cemetery of Kjakhta, a city in Siberian Buryatia, several dozen coffins are lying on the ground, stacked neatly in rows, with the names of the deceased written on one side in felt-tip pen:They are all soldiers who fell in the war in Ukraine. "Don't worry, they are empty," explains the cemetery's caretaker, Elena Takhtaeva, opening one for demonstration purposes. "They are just the transport crates, from here they take the bodies in zinc and send them to the morgue, from where they return in much more solemn coffins, and then the funeral takes place," Elena adds with a sigh: "You are in heaven, boys, you have done God's will."

The cemetery guardian resembles a character from old Russian fairy tales, in her light yellow dress and black jumper with orange roses. She has been working here for eight years for the local parish priest, Fr Oleg Matveev, after a stint in an Orthodox monastery. He knows all the deceased boyswho have arrived home by name, 'good boys, true believers', and has his son, a grave digger, put aside the now empty 'Ukrainian' coffins, 'they will serve the dead without relatives'.

Kjakhta has 20,000 inhabitants and is 230 kilometres away from the Buriata capital Ulan-Ude, which can be reached by crossing the Mongolian border. Near the city, one can see a long series of large grey buildings, which house the 37th Special Guard Brigade, the main employment solution for young people in the area. At least fifty young men from here lost their lives in Ukraine. There are no official documents on them, but the local press writes about them as martyrs and angels of the Fatherland, with funeral bands playing almost daily in the streets of the city.

A journalist from Kjakhta, Aleksandr Farfutdinov, tells of witnessing scenes of devotion in the barracks every day, with candles lit in front of the photographs of the fallen, and people praying and crying in front of them. "They are our best children," says Aleksandr, who does not believe the allegations of brutal violence carried out in Ukraine against some members of the 37th brigade. "They may fight and beat each other, but they are not capable of offending anyone, let alone participating in the torture of others." Farfutdinov tells of a young soldier, a relative of his, who, after a few days of war, phoned and said that he had stolen food for the first time in his life, after wandering hungry in the fields for a long time, 'and I am very ashamed of it'.

A local historian, Aleksandr Kuzkin, reads poems of his own composition on Kjakhta's central square, extolling the town's history. "Once the Chinese brought tea to Russia through our lands, the locals had a lot of money, so much so that they called us the city of millionaires, a kind of Mongolian Venice. Churches, schools, theatres were built here, there was even a planetarium. Only on central Lenin Street are the old merchants' houses preserved.

Kuzkin expresses nostalgia for a peaceful country, which he now fears will never return to the way it once was. He is one of the few inhabitants who does not extol the exploits of the Buriati soldiers, among the most committed Russian armies in Ukraine. Even the director of the local museum, Bair Tsyrempilov, repeats that 'the people and the army are one', and proudly shows visitors the main hall dedicated to the Great Patriotic War with the main exhibit, a 'glorious Maksim rifle'. The inscription at the entrance has been changed to 'muZej', the museum of Putin's Zeta.

"Before, we didn't pay attention to the soldiers," says Tsyrempilov, "and now that they have thrown themselves into the defence of the fatherland, they have become our gods, replacing the doctors at the time of the pandemic. He recounts the 'divine story' of when, on the night of 24-25 February, the alarm sounded in the room of the museum dedicated to the Orthodox Church: two icons of the Saviour fell on the one of the Mother of God, which collapsed to the ground, 'but not a single crack was produced'. Fr Matveev assured that it was a 'mystical sign', heralding Russia's victory against all enemies, and now preaches that the fallen of Kjakhta 'are our saints'.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Moscow: Largescale deployment of Caucasian and Asian troops to Ukraine front
28/06/2022 09:58
Patriarch Kirill: we will not separate from the Ukrainians
30/05/2022 09:23
Kiev wants to destroy Putin's bridge in Crimea
21/06/2022 09:32
Ukrainian Orthodox on the road to reconciliation
08/07/2022 10:40
Ukraine's Orthodox Church linked to Moscow breaks relations with Russian Patriarchate
28/05/2022 08:43


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”