Dead Men Walking: Soviet Elite Cemeteries and Social Control


History and Philosophy

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2008


The article analyses the Soviet elite cemeteries and their structure and questions the impact of the communist ideology on the Soviet society. Contrary to the Soviet law that proclaimed principles of equality, the Soviet state rigidly maintained social hierarchies. This social stratification remained the rule even beyond the grave. Soviet elite cemeteries, a replica of the society of the living, sanctified the political power of the Soviet leadership and preserved a social order in which the elite had a superior status vis-à-vis the mortal commoners for eternity. This structure did not respond to the wishes of the departed. In fact, the deceased were “powerless” in the scheme and had no need to

justify their status. While Russian revolution meant to impose the proletarian equality as a rule, the living used the dead as means of social control within new society following traditional mores.