I discovered that Lonely Planet readers are advised to stop in Yekaterinburg in order to see the following sights: Euro-Asia border, the site where the Romanovs were killed, the site where their bodies were buried. And if it isn’t grave enough for you, visit a mafia cemetery. Whilst my list of interesting sights is much longer, of course, a cemetery is not something I would go to without a certain occasion. On the other hand, if tourists find it fascinating why not pay a visit. So I grabbed my camera, put on a sad face (you can’t stroll through the cemetery with a happy smile, can you?) and went to the pantheon of the dead.
There are two mafia cemeteries in Yekaterinburg as there were two major clans in 1990s: Uralmash and Central. The real war between them started in 1991 when bratki (Russian mafiosos) from Uralmash shot one of the Central gang. After that both parties got serious and started to kill each other using machine guns and grenades. The war was going on in Yekaterinburg through the 90s. Those were the times when Russia was associated with mafia in the world. The two clans eventually eliminated each other and the final touch was made by the Uralmash – they shot the leader of the Centrals in the yard of his house. The head of the Uralmash Khabarov was captured by the police later. He hanged himself in the cell before the trial started. However, most people think that it wasn’t a suicide.
I visited the cemetery of the Centrals on the river Shirokaya Rechka. Initially, it was a military cemetery for the fallen in the Great Patriotic War. In 1980s prominent artists, professors and local communist leaders were buried there but the main alleys are occupied by the Mafia. You can recognize their tombstones easily. They are huge with full-sized portraits of those who dominated the society in the new country in Yeltsin’s times. Bratki had their dress code: crimson jackets, thick golden chains and they all drove Mercedes.
I have to admit, a walk in the cemetery was quite interesting and informative, although it was a very cold day and I froze to death (not literally as you can imagine). One thing for sure, the church at the entrance to the cemetery Shirokaya Rechka is certainly worth visiting!
Book the mafia tour here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/mafia-tour
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