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Russia: White Army General Reburied In Moscow

  • Claire Bigg --> Soldiers carry General Denikin's remains to their new resting place Anton Denikin, a general who fought against the Bolsheviks in Russia's civil war following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, was reburied today in Moscow. The remains of Denikin, who died in exile in the United States in 1947, were brought to Moscow yesterday. A hero of the Russo-Japanese War at the beginning of last century and World War I, Denikin led forces opposing the Bolsheviks in southern Russia during the civil war.

Moscow, 3 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Eighty-five years after fleeing into exile, General Anton Denikin was reburied with full honors at Moscow's Donskoy Monastery in a grand ceremony attended by some 2,500 people.

A number of high-ranking officials attended the ceremony, which featured both religious and military traditions.

Denikin's remains were reburied along with those of emigre philosopher Ivan Ilyin, often considered the White Army's ideologist, and their wives. Their remains were repatriated to Russia yesterday.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II hailed the reburials as a vital step toward healing rifts left by the 1917 revolution:

"Today's event proves that we are concluding the process of restoring the unity of our people who were divided by the tragic history of the last century," Aleksii said.

Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov, who actively supported the reburial process, described the event this way: "This is not just a physical transfer of the remains of two great people into our soil," MikhaIkov said. "I hope this is the beginning of the end of the terrible civil war."

Following his defeat by communist forces, Denikin fled to France in 1920 before emigrating to the United States, where he died in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The reburial of Denikin in Russia, especially with such pomp, would have been unthinkable during the Soviet era, when the general was considered one of the worst enemies of the people.

Today, however, the bulk of Russians largely welcomed the return of Denikin's and Ilyin's remains to their native country. For many, it was an emotional event.
During the Soviet era, General Denikin was considered one of the worst enemies of the people.

Pensioner Valentina Ivanova was among those who crowded outside the monastery today in the hope of catching a glimpse of the ceremony.

She said her strong nostalgia for the Soviet Union does not prevent her from considering Denikin a hero.

"He was a White officer, but the simple people nonetheless respect him," Ivanova said. "I loved the Soviet Union very much and regret its breakup, but all the same I greatly admire those who struggled. They all left their idea."

For Valerii Perkov, a 67-year-old pensioner, Denikin's reburial is a highly symbolic event. He said it is an act of repentance for all the wrongs committed after the 1917 revolution and for the long rift between the Russian state and the White emigres.

"I consider it part of our people's repentance, because I think we haven't fully repented for all the outrages the Russian people committed starting from 1917," Perkov said. "Being in a state of hatred, of war with each other, is amoral. This is why we fail in everything, why we are the way we are."

The lavish reburials are the latest sign of rapprochement between the Kremlin and descendents of the White Russians living abroad.

Russia has also reburied the bodies of the tsarist family in St. Petersburg and, earlier this year, Putin cancelled a holiday marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, replacing it with the date of a 17th century victory over Poland.

Denikin's 86-year-old daughter, who lives in France and accompanied her father's remains to Moscow, was the one who initiated the decision to move her father's ashes to Russia.

The general's dying wish, she said, was to be buried in Russia after Soviet rule came to an end.

Putin granted Denikin's daughter Russian citizenship earlier this year.
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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to​