Kazan crematorium: municipal property, makeup room, criticism from the clergy

The Kazan crematorium, the first in the Muslim region, can reduce the cost of budget funerals by 30% and remove the Covid-19 load

The project of the Kazan crematorium called “Funeral Home” — with an area of about 1,5 thousand square metres — is almost finished and its operation can begin in 2022. The Mayor's Office of Kazan acts as the instigator of the project, which expects to receive political good and with it at least 120 million rubles from the republican budget. About the project developed by the forces of Tatinvestgrazhdanproekt SUE, the reasons why its implementation has to be rushed, and approximate prices for the services — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Direction — to the southeast

The place where the crematorium will be built was shown to Realnoe Vremya by employees of the Kurgan funeral complex — within the territory allocated for the new cemetery, to the southeast of the premises with the inscription “Service”.

“The crematorium is needed, very much needed, people are interested in this service," the representative of the complex explained. “But all we know so far is that the new building will be made in the same style as the rest of the buildings — the administration building, the service building, the rotunda and the farewell hall.

The only photo of the sketch design of the main facade of the crematorium, which the designer, Tatinvestgrazhdanproekt, provided to our publication (the image on the poster), looks very schematic and differs in colour from the rest of the structures of the Kurgan complex. The representatives of the funeral complex clarified: according to their data, the colour of the new building will be the same as the rest — yellowish-gray.

Purification is better, area is larger

With the question of what the Kazan crematorium will be and what needs it will be designed for, Realnoe Vremya turned to the head of the city department for the organisation of funeral services, Marat Ishkin.

“We still know only in general terms what the crematorium will look like, and officially speaking, the funeral home," he explained. “It is important that the designers took into account our wishes. And we asked that there necessarily are two halls for farewell, a room with a modern incinerator and treatment facilities that will completely eliminate the possibility of emissions that are unfavourable to the health of the population of nearby settlements. Also, our condition was the availability of a psychological relief room, convenient workrooms for employees, and a room for temporary free storage of urns with ashes — for one to two weeks, while relatives decide on the burial place.

According to Marat Ishkin, it was originally planned that the area of the crematorium building would be 1,220 square metres, but during the design it turned out that it would be required by about 100 square metres more than expected for the treatment facilities.

The interlocutor of the publication also explained that before formulating its proposals for the crematorium project, the city administration for the organisation of funeral services got acquainted with the experience of other cities, in particular, Nizhny Novgorod, where the bodies of Kazan residents are now often sent for cremation.

“However, the main reference point for us was the experience of Novosibirsk, where there are two crematoriums and the level of cremation is very high: 60-65 percent of all deceased. We used his experience in determining the set of necessary premises and equipment, the functionality of the farewell halls. And when choosing cremation equipment, we also focused on the crematorium in Simferopol. As a result, we made the decision, and this is reflected in the project — in the Kazan 'Funeral Home', there will be two halls for farewell, separated by a portable wall. This is quite enough to organise a farewell with dignity, without fuss and at the same time, if necessary, provide a farewell with a large number of mourners.”

“Didn't you ask for a columbarium?" the journalist asked.

“No, although a columbarium will certainly be needed in the future. But this is a separate commercial project and we shouldn't rush to order it — first it is necessary to study the demand for this service. And this is possible only after the crematorium being functioning for some time.

It turns out that the crematorium itself will be run by the municipality, although this project could only benefit from being transferred to private hands.

Sure tender

The tender for the design of the crematorium in the Kurgan funeral complex was won in November 2020 by Tatinvestgrazhdanproekt SUE. However, Tatinvestgrazhdanproekt won the auction without a fight — it had no competitors, so the initial price of 6,448,050 rubles did not decrease by a penny.

At the same time, the project was not a separate lot — it was “packed” together with a number of other objects into one general tender worth almost 58,6 million rubles — together with projects of objects scattered throughout Tatarstan: Menzelinsky central district hospital, kindergarten school in Agryz, Tatar gymnasium, marina, fire station, and another school. Not every design workshop is capable of “digesting” an order of such volume.

An interesting detail: the project, according to the technical design specification, has to still provide “two free-standing columbarium walls 3,5 metres high, 0,88 metres wide and up to 15 metres long with an internal niche size of at least 400x400x300 mm for urns with ashes”.

Transformable ritual hall

“The object, which we prefer to call not a “crematorium”, but a “Funeral home” in order to avoid incorrect associations, is planned to be located on the territory of the existing burial complex Kurgan on the M7 highway," Tatinvestgrazhdanproekt SUE told Realnoe Vremya. “This is a one-story building with the size of 37,8 by 44,4 meters. It provides the following functional groups of premises: for the reception of the deceased, for the cremation of the deceased, a ritual area, administrative, service and technical premises.”

The Funeral Home will provide a full range of “pre-funeral” services — a room with cold storage rooms, make-up room, room for temporary storage of corpses in coffins before cremation, room for storing funeral supplies, and room for washing carts are designed for this purpose. The room with refrigerating chambers will be equipped with three chambers with 10 places for storing bodies.

In the ritual area where the farewells will take place, there are two separate lobbies and two waiting rooms, two mourning (ritual) halls for 45 people each, separated by a transformable partition (when it is opened, the halls are combined into one for 70 seats), a cloakroom, room for a priest (choir, honour guard — depending on the type of farewell procedure), first aid post, and bathrooms for visitors.

“If relatives wish to carry out the farewell procedure before cremation, the coffin with the body is first moved to the funeral hall, where the farewell ceremony is held, then the body is cremated," Tatinvestgrazhdanproject clarified.

The cremation time will be one hour. The cremation incinerator runs on natural gas. Before emission, the exhaust gases from the incinerator will undergo deep purification. And the cooled ashes after cremation will be cleaned of metal impurities, ground and placed in an urn, which will then be received by the relatives of the deceased.

In addition to all the listed premises, the building provides eleven more office premises, including a psychological relief room, as well as two rooms for storing urns — new and with ashes.

“I hope to live until its opening”

The debate about whether or not Kazan needs a crematorium has been going on for more than 10 years. The population has long voted “yes”, this is evidenced by the results of surveys conducted at different times. The clergy are against it: neither the Muslims nor the Orthodox approve of this method of burial of the dead. However, this is the way all the world's megacities have gone, so as not to be surrounded by huge “cities of the dead”.

“The demand for cremation services in Kazan has been high for a long time," said Marat Ishkin, the head of the city department for the organisation of funeral services, in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya. 'Appeals to the executive committee on this matter are most often formulated in one sentence: 'When will the crematorium be?', and elderly people are especially worried, they sometimes ask directly: 'Will I live to see it open?'. The reasons why people want to receive this service are different, often it is due to the desire to bury the ashes in a related enclosure, and there is no free space in it, and the time has not passed sufficient for mineralisation of the ashes to be able to carry out burial in a related grave. Then an urn with ashes is a way out, it can be buried at any time, since we are talking about a small depth — within one metre.”

According to Ishkin, the pandemic also contributed to the demand for funeral services: over the two coronavirus years, the number of funerals has increased dramatically: if in 2019, 9,062 deceased were buried in Kazan, then in 2020 — 11,000. The 2021 year set an anti-record: from January 1 to October 31, 11,800 people were buried:

“The growth compared to the pre-Covid-19 period was 46 percent. In the summer, our employees worked from morning until sunset, and October turned out to be the worst month and only now the number of funerals has slightly declined.

Every day, several hearses leave Kazan for the nearest crematorium in Nizhny Novgorod.

“Cheaper and quieter”

Besides, in conditions of a shortage of space in family enclosures in old cemeteries and rising prices for all services, including funeral services, cremation seems to be a good alternative to classical funerals. This is an opportunity to honourably, but most economically, see a loved one to their last journey and place the ashes in a cemetery, to which you do not have to go far away.

Of course, if the cremation is carried out on the spot, in Kazan. Because cremation is expensive for Kazan residents today. The minimum set of services for transporting the body in the most budget coffin to Nizhny Novgorod, urgent cremation (when the urn with the ashes is given out an hour or two or three after the delivery of the body) and transportation of the urn in the opposite direction costs 50,000 rubles. If the cremation is carried out in Moscow, the procedure will cost more. And if in Kazan— then at the rates of Nizhny Novgorod, it will cost from 18,000 — at least 30 percent cheaper than the cost of a “classic” funeral.

As funeral specialists explained to Realnoe Vremya, if there is a crematorium in Kazan, the cost of cremation will be reduced due to transportation and the refusal of extra charge for urgency.

“We could not fail to fulfill the mother's last wish, and she firmly said in advance: 'Only the crematorium!'," Irina A. told Realnoe Vremya. “My father is a career military man, he died in the line of duty and is buried where he served — in Belarus. Mom wanted to be with him after death. We did everything as she asked, but how much easier it would be not to send her body anywhere, but to cremate her here in Kazan. Yes, and calmer — everything would have been done in front of our eyes!”

The same was told by another interlocutor of Realnoe Vremya, who, according to his father's will, buried the urn with ashes at the Arsky cemetery in the family enclosure, where the family has been lying for five generations. He complained: although the staff of Ritual worked well, the relatives of such funerals had a lot of extra worries:

“It is customary for us to accompany the body to the cemetery, to go in a hearse, to be near until the last moment… But here — they take it away, then deliver a box with ashes. Everything is as we asked, but then I had a quiet tantrum when I realised everything that was happening to the end. Somehow it was wrong. And it turned out to be expensive, but for us this factor mattered. Father was seriously ill for a long time, and we spared no expense, hoping that we would get him out. But when everything happened, I had to choose a simpler coffin so that there would be enough for the rest. It's a shame, it's embarrassing even to admit it, but it's true.”

For whom “entrance” to crematorium is never let

Realnoe Vremya asked the employees of Ritual Municipal Unitary Enterprise whether the number of burials of unclaimed corpses will not decrease with the launch of the crematorium. After all, this type of funeral is much cheaper. They agreed to answer us only on an anonymous basis.

“We definitely won't be able to cremate unclaimed bodies. And we are not allowed to do it. Today we practically do not bury unidentified citizens — everything is with documents. A body in the morgue may be unclaimed for various reasons. Someone has no relatives. Someone has them, but far away. For example, abroad. And they were not notified. We had a case — a woman was looking for her father 10 years after his death. She lives in the USA, no one informed her that he had died. And we found this grave for her. What would have happened if he had been cremated without her consent? Relatives can even initiate a lawsuit! And we will remain wrong.”

In addition to relatives, the police may also oppose cremation, our anonymous interlocutor noted. Corpses can be not only unclaimed, but also criminal. Exhumation in such cases can be carried out years or even decades later. New circumstances have been revealed, the case has been resumed — and sometimes we have to open the grave.

Inna Serova

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