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Jan 20, 2023

New Database Helps Setos Find Graves of Relatives on Russian Side of Border

Taking care of relatives’ graves is an extremely important part of Seto culture. However, in recent years, many Setos living in Estonia have been unable to get to their ancestors’ burial sites on the Russian side of the border to ensure their upkeep. Now, a new database has been established to help keep track of the Seto and Estonian graves in neighboring Petserimaa.

According to Ahto Raudoja, director of the Seto Institute, the Estonian-Russian border has never been as closed as it is right now. Under Raudoja’s leadership, however, an extensive database of cemeteries in eastern Petserimaa has been created. The database can help people find the graves of loved ones who are buried on the Russian side of the border.

The graves of thousands of Setos and Estonians are located in the cemeteries of Petserimaa, on the Russian side of the border. Most of the graves can be found in the cemeteries of the Lutheran and Orthodox churches in the city of Petseri. Others are in Orthodox cemeteries in the towns of Taeluva, Saalessa, Mõla and Pankjavitsa.

“The Petseri Lutheran cemetery was established in 1911. The Estonians and intellectuals who lived and worked (in Petseri), are mostly buried there. However, Setos are buried in the Orthodox cemetery,” said Raudoja.

In Seto culture, it is said that the path leading to an ancestors’ grave cannot become overgrown. However, Setos living in Estonia have not been able to get to the graves of their ancestors buried on the Russian side of the border in order to tend to them, for several years. First, due to the coronavirus pandemic and now as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

You can read more in an article by Mirjam Mõttus published in the ERR.EE web site at: https://news.err.ee/1608854477/new-database-helps-setos-find-graves-of-relatives-on-russian-side-of-border.

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