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Strange orthodox reburial ceremony at Neiden

A strange and once-in-a-lifetime orthodox reburial ceremony took place at Neiden i Finnmark 25th Sept.

Until 1930 many grave yards in Finnmark (Norwegian Lapland) were opened in order to use the remains for scientific studies. This was done under official support by Norwegian authorities.In 1915 exhumations took place on the oldest part of the graveyard at 'Skoltebyen', i.e. the Skolt Sami village at Neiden.

94 human skeleton remains were transported to the Anatomical Institute of the University of Oslo for research purposes, where they have been preserved until today.

The reburial had two parts: The first, secular part, took place at Neiden Hotel. Here background information on the reburial was given before representatives of the University of Oslo formally handed over the caskets with the mortal remains to the Skolt Sami population.

Skolt sami reburial procession

The procession with the three caskets that had been handed over to the Skolt Sami by representatives og the University of Oslo. All photos: Olav E. Johansen
Skolt sami woman with casket

A Skolt Sami woman places a casket with the other 91.

Then a funeral procession moved to the cemetery, where 91 caskets had already been placed. The remaining three caskets were put into the graves together with the other. Finally a remembrance service was held by the orthodox church.

Orthodox church representaives and other officials 2 The Skolt Sami, Orthodox parish council at Neiden, together with the Norwegian Orthdox church, have worked diligently with this reburial case for many years. There have been many discussions with Norwegian authorities at all levels, and with the university, before the reburial could be arranged.

About 200 people had come to participate in the reburial ceremony.

Orthodox church clergy together with government representatives of the government and the University of Oslo. The ceremony was led by Orthodox archbishop Gabriel from Paris (no. two from left). He is the head of the Orthodox church of Europe

As we can see in this article, a reburial ceremony can be a problem which is discussed all over the world.

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