Cremation is on the rise in Russia because of corona


Eastern Europe


Cremation is getting more and more popular in Russia. Burial gets too costly, sometimes, mainly because of "additional costs". The Russian Church, however, is still against cremation. Photo EPA, Andrej Cukic

Russians are increasingly choosing to cremate their loved ones rather than bury them. That's the clear tendency during the corona pandemic.

There are indeed more deaths in Russia than usual. The country has one of the world's highest excess death tolls from Covid-19. In recent weeks, the infections are surging again. As the death toll rises, cremation is much more popular than burial, funeral industry leaders say in The Moscow Times.

In the building of crematoriums, there has been a much higher demand over the past few months, says Pavel Kodysh, president of the Russian Union of Burial Organizations and Crematoriums, in The Moscow Times. According to the association's estimates, there are currently only 30 crematoriums in Russia. Some are state-run, while others are privately owned. Cost concerns mainly drive the demand for cremation.

In addition to dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, many Russians are forced to pay hidden fees during the process of burying the body at a specific cemetery, Ilya Boltunov, the head of the Cranes funeral home, told The Moscow Times. He links fees to rampant corruption within the industry.

"The cemetery business is one of the most monopolised and corrupt industries in Russia," Boltunov added. "Cremating bodies is a more transparent business model compared to [paying] extensive bribes to organisations that own a monopoly on cemeteries."

While it costs approximately 40,000 roubles (500 euros) to bury a body at a cemetery, businesses take "additional services" that can amount to up to 100,000 roubles (1200 euros) extra, Bortunov said. In contrast, the average cost of cremation is around 20,000 roubles (250 euros).

Church is against cremation

The higher cremation in Russia is in contrast with the growing appreciation for the Russian Orthodox Church. However, the Orthodox Church prefers burial over cremation, according to Orthodox Christian Information Center. It sees burial as the Christian way of dealing with death because Jesus Christ Himself was buried before His resurrection.

The Russian church is still making its return in public life. In many towns and villages, new churches are built, or old churches are restored. Much of this is funded by the political leadership that finds close contact with the church important.



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