Vvedensky Cemetery or Cemetery for Non-Russian-Orthodox believers or foreigners, was founded in 1771 and hasn't changed its shape much since the early 20th century. The administration still have the huge old hand-written register books that they consult each time you ask them to look up a name. Some of the information is digitalised. The problem is, that most of the time, when it is an old grave, they cannot give you the exact location, they just provide you with the number of a rather large area and then you are on your own.
Below you can see the numbered areas of the cemetery.
The problems don't end here, either. From my personal observation, I've found out that many of the old graves were reused in the 1950s. It is always the 1950s, no idea why. There are 3 scenarios that repeat over and over.
- The best one. The grave is reused, but the old stone is either untouched or moved into a corner. A new tombstone is placed in the centre. In this case you can get through the bushes to the old tomb, use a combination of your reading skills, imagination, paper and pencil to read or guess what it says. Here's a good example of such a grave, with the tombstone in the corner and difficult to get to, but intact:
2. The second best one. It is not only the grave that is reused, it is the tombstone as well. The old inscription is left and the new one is added. It is obvious that the new name has no relation to the old one, it is not some distant descendant, it is a complete stranger. Here is an example of such a tombstone. The old inscription is on top, the new one is modestly added at the bottom. The old one is practically impossible to read, but to be fair, the new one is also sort of uncared for:
3. The worst and saddest one. The grave is reused. The old tombstone is either destroyed or reused but the inscription is destroyed. In this case there's no chance to find out who this grave belonged to in the first place. Like in this example below. It is a very big grave with the Union Jacks used as an ornament for the fence and a Celtic cross on top of the tombstone. Because the grave is big, it is now divided into two. Right in the centre. The inscription is destroyed. Its possible fragment is lying behind the grave, but judging by the letters it is impossible to guess what the name was.
When you spend some time at this cemetery looking for and sometimes finding old British graves, you start recognising certain patterns, which makes the search a little easier. The most obvious and easiest way to find such graves is by looking for Celtic crosses. There are not many of them left, but still there are some. And then it's back to luck. The grave above has retained the Celtic cross and the ornate Union Jack fence - but not any inscriptions. Here below you can see the untouched gravestone of Charles John Gibson, Director of Nevsky Stearin Factory in Moscow and of his wife Elizabeth:
A more subtle pattern that can help you in your search is the one that you find on the fence. There are all sorts of fences at the cemetery. But I have noticed that most British graves have a more or less similar fence patterns: