In Norway, Russian and Ukrainian soldiers share a cemetery


Northern Europe


Ukrainian memorial in Norway. Photo Facebook, Nina Hagen

In Norway, Ukrainian soldiers share a memorial place with Russian soldiers. All of them died under the flag of the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine causes dissatisfaction. “It is completely unbearable for a Ukrainian to go to the Soviet memorial and lay flowers in a place they share with the country that shoots down Ukrainian compatriots.”

At this time of conflict, Ukrainians need a place to mourn the lost lives of loved ones, says Per-Kaare Holdal to Vart Land. He represents the non-profit organisation Support to the Ukraine People.

The memorials shared to remember the Soviet soldiers –including those born in current Ukraine– were set up after the Second World War to commemorate the soldiers that had fallen in the battle against Nazi Germany. During Russian anniversaries, the memorials in Norway are decorated with Russian flags.

Especially in the north of the country, there are many Soviet monuments. Recently, a car from the Russian embassy drove by, and the driver placed a wreath with a Russian flag at the memorial. According to parish priest Frode Wigum, from the Borge Church in Nordland, who lives in the area, it is the first time that the Russian authorities have been in the area since 1995. He sees the visit as a deliberate provocation.

Russian provocation

In mid-May, Norway built its first Ukrainian memorial from World War II. It was erected in Lyngdal municipality. One of the killed Ukrainian soldiers was reburied at the place. However, not many Ukrainian soldiers can rest under a Ukrainian flag. At the memorial in Oslo, 333 Soviet soldiers and prisoners of war are buried. About 45 of them are said to have been Ukrainian.

Holdal from Support to the Ukrainian People argues in favour of a separate memorial for Ukrainian soldiers who fell in battle. According to him, it should be located at the Vestre gravlund, where other monuments are also found.

Cold shoulder from Ministry of Culture and Equality

The Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Equality does not see a solution in the erection of special Ukrainian memorials. It argues that Norwegian authorities must act in line with the fact that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. “Foreign war graves are managed according to the international law of the war, and the warring states are used as a basis. The deceased individual is remembered according to the state for he or she was in service, regardless of the place of birth”, a spokesperson of the Ministry writes to Vart Land in an e-mail. Furthermore, the Norwegian authorities believe that the buried Ukrainians should be allowed to “rest in peace without being drawn in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian Ambassador Viacheslav Yatsiuk disagrees. He believes the Ukrainian war effort of the Second World War should be detached from the Soviet memorials. “There is no such thing as a Soviet people. It was an artificial creation, created by the totalitarian Soviet regime.”



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.