Expedition to Germany: uhlan Sulkevich’s grave, Napoleon’s unnamed veteran and Soviet soldiers

Sh. Mardjani Institute of History continues to examine the memorial heritage of Tatar soldiers in Europe

Expedition to Germany: uhlan Sulkevich’s grave, Napoleon’s unnamed veteran and Soviet soldiers Photo: Monument to Russian Muslims in Puchheim

Sh. Mardjani Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan continues to examine the memorial heritage of Tatar soldiers in Europe. The next expedition in Poland and Germany took place from 7 to 14 June. Realnoe Vremya's columnist Liliya Gabdrafikova who visited Germany with the first delegation and recently returned from abroad wrote a column about the first stage of the scientific trip especially for Realnoe Vremya.

Azerbaijani general staff commander and Seven Years' War veteran

Probably many people have ever heard that Tatars are not well known abroad. However, trips to the German backwater prove the contrary. The words ''Tatar nationality'' or '´´'Tatar'' are an indispensable part of history and culture for a European citizen. We already wrote about a Tatar tower in Magdeburg. A delicacy linked with the image of Tatars – tartare – appeared in Europe since then. It was supposed that nomads from the East were meat experts as nobody else. This is why they could easily eat raw meat…

But Tatar images in Europe don't limit to only raw meat or the defensive tower. Sometimes one can see arrows zum Tatarengrab and almost any local citizen will say how to get these places, for example, the grave of Tatar lieutenant, uhlan of the Kingdom of Poland and Duchy of Saxony Mustafa Sulkevich who lived during the Seven Years' War in Dippoldiswalde.

Mustafa Sulkevich's grave

The Sulkevichs are a famous dynasty who provided many brave militaries. For instance, Matvey (Suleyman) Sulkevich who became lieutenant general for his merits during the First World War was one of them. The Interim Government was going to entrust with heading the 1 st Muslim Corps. But the events in October 1917 ruined all the plans, and Suleyman Sulkevich headed the Crimean Regional Government in 1918 and chaired the General Staff of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic's army.

The tomb of his predecessor Mustafa Sulkevich is one of the sightseeing points for Dippoldiswalde (not far from Leipzig). The grave of 1762 was restored many times including by one of the Sulkevichs during the WWII. Being captive, an officer of the Polish army managed to agree with watchdogs and organised restoration of Mustafa's gravestone.

But not all the memorials had this fate. The burial story of another Tatar uhlan in this regions is sad. A copper mine was dug not far from the grave. It fell to the mine in the late 19 th century. Now a memorial sign Knochen schacht 1883 year is there that reminds this event. Today it is a territory of a farm, and the very stone is on a hill in the centre of a rapeseed field.

Yusuf's Tatar grave

The story of the next Tatarengrab (Tatar grave) in Kleinbosch near Leipzig is different. Tatar officer Mustafa's son Yusuf was sent here during the Napoleon wars for quarantine. A Muslim batman cared for him. Yusuf died from typhus and was buried on the outskirts of the village according to the Muslim custom. The same loyal batman cared about the Tatar grave during the first years. He was the person who placed a gravestone with the Arabic script.

Near the grave of Mustafa's son Yusuf

The time passed. The officer's grave was gradually forgotten. Only in the 1880s, one of the history lovers restored the memorial, put a new stone with a Latin lettering. It was Yusuf's second birthday – in the memory of residents of the village. The Tatar grave became a kind of place of power. Thanks to educational work of teacher Christian Gottlieb Winkler, pupils started to treat the memorial with respect. All the local community cared about the grave, an expression ''bei Jussuf '' (near Yusuf) became fixed in the local vocabulary. Picnics took place near, and pupils wrote essays about this grave during WWII. In the new political situation, the grave of the Tatar man from Poland was inimical, but the pupils of the Kleinbosch School were not going to leave the grave because the memorial became part of the village's history. Today this tradition continues. There are natural flowers on Yusuf's grave, a wooden arbour with a separate lettering with Tatarengrab's brief history was built next to it. The very village has several arrows. The locals are going to issue an advertising brochure and include their sightseeing point as one of the local tourist routes.

Headed by local ethnographer Helmut Hentschel, our group was friendly welcomed with flowers. It seems that the visit of Tatar scientists was a big event for them. Helmut told about an unpleasant incident that happened to this grave. Several 12-13-year-old teenagers left rubbish shortly before our visit. The old generation is concerned about the action of the kids calling it vandalism. Probably the development of historical and cultural tourism in this place will affect the attitude of schoolchildren to the Tatar officer's grave somehow. Here we should note that Pediga conservative movement appeared right in the capital of Saxony Dresden several years ago. It is against migrants including Islamisation. In Dresden, we were witnesses of the next procession of Pediga supporters with banners against mosques. Perhaps, the behaviour of the Kleinbosch teenagers, their attempt to desecrate Tatar Yusuf's grave is a result of the protests of Conservative citizens.

Unnamed soldiers

If Tatarengrabs found in Saxony are linked with, first of all, Tatar uhlans from Poland, soldiers of WWI and Great Patriotic War rest in war cemeteries. There is a great deal of them here. But Muslim names are not everywhere. For instance, after seeing 3,000 graves of the United War Cemetery of WWI soldiers in Munich, we found only one Turkic surname. But neighbouring Puchheim city has another memorial with WWI captives where tens of Muslim soldiers rest. Over 15,000 prisoners from different countries were in Puchheim. The remains of German, French and English soldiers were reburied in the homeland, but the so-called Russian cemetery remained. German authorities put a separate monument to Russian Muslims as early as 1919.

Dresden Post Cemetery

Not all the war cemeteries of Germany conserved their original appearance. Nowadays new memorial and park complexes are created in the place of former camps. Memorial signs with surnames in one style are put instead of the old gravestones. In some of the cemeteries of the former GDR, one can see how photos of Soviet soldiers that were brought at a time and placed on graves by relatives are gathered in one place (like a stand).

When it comes to WWII, unfortunately, there are so many graves of unnamed soldiers. Surprisingly, such graves are found in war cemeteries even after the war. For instance, the Dresden Post Cemetery has several graves of unknown Soviet enlisted men and officers of the 1950s and even 1960s at times. Some gravestones have a lettering ''died for liberation of Hurt'' (Hart is a town in Saxony). At the moment, we know little about these episodes of history with entire human tragedies standing behind. This is why the work of the scientists of Sh. Mardjani Institute of History of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences will continue further on.

By Liliya Gabdrafikova. Author’s photos