The Military Historical Memorial Complex in Bendery was opened on October 7, 2008. It was erected on the site of an old military cemetery where the remains of many soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army who were killed in the military conflicts of the 19th century were buried.
Historical reference: The Russian military presence in Bendery was established in the autumn of 1806, six years before the signing of the Bucharest Peace Treaty, which stipulated that the territory of Bessarabia belongs to the Russian Empire. Since then the Bendery Fortress, regained from the Ottomans, became the place of permanent deployment of the troops of the Russian Imperial Army. Near the present Military Historical Memorial, a military hospital was opened, next to which a place was chosen for burial of soldiers who died of wounds and diseases. On September 1, 1887, the Bendery City Duma officially dedicated this site to be a military cemetery, which functioned as such throughout the entire 19th century.
In the 19th – early 20th century, the territory of the cemetery was well-groomed, trees and bushes grew there, there were paths, lighting, several groundskeepers. The cemetery was fenced and had a high stone gate.
As the city grew, the land around the cemetery was quickly filed with residential buildings. Necropolis was in the heart of three densely populated urban neighborhoods, and most of it was soon given up for city’s utilities system. The rest of the cemetery territory was surrounded by a blind fence of reinforced concrete slabs, and later on it gradually fell into decline.
During the 20th century, the vandals, who sought historical artifacts for profit, looted the tombs of Major-General Commandant of the Bendery Fortress, A.I. Wedemeyer, Lieutenant General P.P. Dubelt, sergeant-major M.A. Khoperskov and others.
On the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the PMR, the looted tombs were explored. The disturbed by looters remains were exhumed and reburied in the consecrated territory near the Russian Glory monument according to the Orthodox rites and with proper military honours.
In preparing these events, the idea of creating a military historical memorial arose. According to the Decree of the President of the PMR I.N. Smirnov dated November 8, 2006 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the PMR supported by other government agencies started its creation.
For more than a year enthusiasts bit by bit gathered information about the Bendery military cemetery and the people buried there. The main source of information was the church books of the Alexander Nevsky Church for the period from 1828 to 1910 from the Naval Clergy Fund of the military historical archive. During the research, dozens of volumes of manuscripts were scanned and copied. Already in Bendery, the experts deciphered the gathered materials and after that managed to identify that more than 5,000 Russian soldiers were buried in the military cemetery of Bendery, including representatives of the high command staff.
The names of the initiators, authors, performers and co-creators, as well as patrons of the complex, are carved on granite slabs at the entrance to the territory of the memorial So, before starting construction, they cleared the territory of the complex.
At the very beginning of the construction, with the support of the Tiraspol-Dubossary diocese, a massive cross of black granite was erected in the center of the future memorial as a symbol of faith and repose for all who are buried there.
At the fist stage, they made paths and planted the whole area with lawn grass. In the summer of 2007, they laid foundation of the stone Сhapel of the Icon-Bearing Image of Jesus Christ, and in the autumn – of the colonnade of the main entrance to the necropolis.
Due to intensive construction, almost all major works on erecting the memorial complex were completed just within two years – 2007–2008.
The entrance to the complex was decorated in the form of a colonnade. In its right wing there is a museum of “History of creation of the Military Historical Memorial and of the people buried”. In the left wing there is a
museum of the 55th Podolsk Infantry Regiment, a military unit that was stationed in Bendery for more than 30 years.
In front of the colonnade there is a monument to the Prince G.A. Potemkin – the famous Russian statesman, Field-Marshal-General, who played an important role in joining the lands of Tavria and Novorossiya to Russia and their further arrangement.
Behind the colonnade there are stairs down to the territory of the complex with three paths: on the left – to the Historical Sector, on the right – to the Foreign Sector. The middle and shortest path leads to the Central Cross and the Church of the Icon-Bearing Image of Jesus Christ. This path from the Colonnade to the Cross is the Generals Alley.
Archival research and the work of local ethnographers allowed to identify the names of eleven Russian generals buried in the territory of the memorial. They are basically commandants of the Bendery Fortress: Ph.I. Cannabich, M.M. Olshevsky, A.I. Wedemeyer. Also this is a burial place of military engineer, creator of the fist Odessa port facilities E.K. Foerster, builder of military barracks in Tiraspol P.P. Dubelt and others.
Large granite plates are installed on the sides of the path from the colonnade to the central cross, forming the Generals Alley. Each plate has a record of service and a list of military awards, which one or another general was awarded during the service.
On both sides of the chapel there are two largest burial grounds of the memorial. There, in even rows, are plates of polished black granite with the carved names of soldiers and officers buried here.
One hundred and ten regiments and units of the Russian Imperial Army. Twenty-one units of the Bendery garrison. Over five thousand names and surnames. Every date on the stone reflects events of the stormy 19th century.
The sector dedicated to the victims of the 1770
assault of the Bendery Fortress
Located to the right of the Generals Alley, this sector has a large memorial-symbolic significance. The point is that, despite the successful assault and capture of the fortress, very soon the Turkish stronghold returned to the Ottoman Empire. During the siege and storming of the fortress, more than two thousand Russian soldiers were killed, and not all the bodies of the dead were buried according to religious norms and customs. In the second half of the last century, during town-planning works between the fortress and the cemetery – at the point from which the 1770 attack began – machines raised hundreds of human bones out of the ground. The fallen were left to lie here, covered with earth from explosions. This sector was created for hundreds of those nameless soldiers.
Sector of the 55th Podolsk Infantry Regiment
Located to the left of the central alley, there are 11black granite plates telling the military history of the unit.
Presence of this unit of the Russian Imperial Armin Bendery had a significant impact on the history and appearance of the town. Many descendants of the servicemen of the regiment live here to this day. The archives preserved records of service of the marching church of the unit, which was referred to as the Church of the Icon-Bearing Image of Jesus Christ. Due to this, the names of the soldiers of the regiment became known who were killed in various military conflicts – in the Crimean and Russo-Japanese wars, during the Balkan campaign, in the World War I. Starting from 2007, the Creation Day of the 55th Podolsk Infantry Regiment is celebrated on August 29 in Bendery every year.
Historically, in addition to Russian military graves, there are also graves of soldiers of foreign armies. In late 1917– early 1918, military intervention by the Royal Romania began, and the units of the French Foreign Legion also joined the occupation forces. The heroic defense of Bendery lasted 2 weeks, but despite stubborn resistance the town was occupied on February 7, 1918.
A bright page of the struggle against the occupation regime was the Bendery armed uprising in May 1919. While planning it the Bendery Bolsheviks understood that to succeed they needed neutrality of the French. The underground committee established contacts with French soldiers, and its members, who spoke foreign languages, took on subsidiary work in the French division and tried to convince the soldiers not to take part in the confrontation. Discontent began to grow among the French military. At the beginning of the year, the 37th Avignon Infantry Regiment refused to fulfil the orders and shoot the demonstrators. 25 officers of the regiment were executed and buried in the territory of the modern complex for disobeying the order. Now in the Foreign Sector there is a commemorative plate with words of gratitude to the residents of Bendery in Russian and French.
In this part of the memorial there are also Romanian and Hungarian sectors. At the very beginning of the creation of the complex, the question of burials of the Romanian army came up. According to available information, during the years of occupation, 333 burial places of Romanian soldiers and officers appeared in the cemetery. Part of the Foreign Sector was dedicated for the 33 crosses left, placing them in a strict order. The opening of the sector was marked by the installation of a memorial plate with the text in Russian and Romanian.
After Bendery was liberated in 1944, several camps were built on the territory of the town for foreign prisoners of war, including Germans, Romanians, Hungarians and soldiers of other armies. Archival searches allowed to gather information about Hungarian soldiers and officers died in the NKVD camps and buried in the cemetery in 1945–46. With the support of the Hungarian Embassy in Moldova, a hard work was done to fid the names of the buried soldiers.
Seven months later, a valuable cargo was delivered to Bendery from Hungary: 16 black granite plates with the names of 328 Hungarian soldiers buried at the memorial. On October 14, 2010, the Hungarian section of the Foreign Sector was inaugurated in the presence of the staff of the Hungarian Embassy in Moldova, the leadership of the Military History Institute of the Ministry of Defense of Hungary, officers of the Pridnestrovian Ministry of Internal Affairs and residents of Bendery.
Near the Romanian and Hungarian sectors there is a massive granite monument. It was erected in memory of more than two hundred Soviet prisoners of war who were shot and died of hunger and diseases during the Romanian-German occupation of 1941–44. So far most of the names of these soldiers cannot be determined.
A large burial sector located in the lower left corner of the complex.
In the Historical Sector there are gravestones collected during the creation of the memorial. Most of the gravestones are made of soft limestone rocks and the inscriptions on them almost worn off in the past dozens of years. It seemed that the names could no longer be identified. However, the moisture after irrigation of lawn grass of the entire area of the complex effected on the gravestones and there appeared hardly distinguishable lines that returned from the past long-forgotten destinies and names.
In the furthest sector of the Military Historical Memorial a large granite plate was erected in memory of the 1992tragedy, when the units of the national army of Moldova entered the peaceful Pridnestrovian town. In the period of spring-summer 1992 the Moldovan aggression daimed the lives of 489 residents of Bendery. People often bring flowers here, remembering the victims of that terrible war.
Simultaneously with other construction works, a stone Chapel of the Icon-Bearing Image of Jesus Christ was erected in the framework of a single complex on the territory of the Military Historical Memorial. It was built in honor of the non-preserved church of the same name of the 55th Podolsk Infantry Regiment. The chapel became so popular among the residents and guests of the town that the decision of the Holy Synod in 2010 granted it the status of a church. The granite plates on the walls of the church indicate milestones of the Podolsk regiment’s history. Moreover, there are the names of those who died during the storming of the fortress in 1770, as well as a list of regiments of the Russian Imperial Army, who took part in it.