On July 25, 2020, Slovenia hosted annual memorial celebrations at the Russian Chapel under the Vrsich Alpine Pass. This day, hundreds of Slovenes, as well as guests from Russia, gathered to honor the memory of Russian prisoners of war during the First World War, to express solidarity with Russia.
This year, the ceremony organized by the Russian Embassy in Slovenia, the «Slovenia-Russia» Friendship Society, the Mayor’s Office of Kranjska Gora and the «Russkiy Mir» Foundation was held under the solidarity and unity of peoples and was dedicated to all who has demonstrated exceptional organization, competence and empathy in a period of common trouble and pandemic.
The Russian chapel in honor of St. Vladimir, was built by Russian prisoners of war in memory of their comrades, hundreds of soldiers and officers who died in March 1916 during an avalanche during the construction of a mountain road on the Vrsich alpine pass.
Local Slovenian citizens, who sympathized with the Slavic brothers from Russia, buried the dead in a mass grave, and their surviving brothers in arms in 1916-1917 built a small chapel of logs and thick branches. In the 1920s, the remains of Russian prisoners of war who died at the Vrsich Pass were carefully reburied near the Russian Chapel in a mass grave, over which a small obelisk was erected with the inscription “Sons of Russia”. Since then, this piece of the Russian world has become a kind of monument to all Russians who tragically died in these places.
Today the chapel has become a symbol of friendship between the peoples of Russia and Slovenia. In 1995 it received the status of a cultural monument protected by the government. Since that time, every year at the end of July, solemn meetings of Russians and Slovenes began here with the participation of government delegations from Russia, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, and leaders of the Slovenian state.
Greetings were addressed to the audience: Mayor of Kranjska Gora, Mr. Janez Khrovat, honorary patron of memorial celebrations, President of the State Council of the Republic of Slovenia Alojz Kovshca, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Slovenia Timur Rafailovich Eyvazov and member of the Board of the Friendship Society “Slovenia-Russia” – Mr. Urban Otsvirk.
The ceremony dedicated to the 104th anniversary of the founding of the chapel was attended by: President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor, Chairman of the State Assembly of Slovenia Igor Zorcic, Metropolitan Porfiry of Zagreb-Ljubljana (Serbian Orthodox Church), Bishop of Celje Stanislav Lipovsek (Roman Catholic Church), Bishop Leon Novak (head of the Evangelical Church of Slovenia), chairman of the Slovenia-Russia society Sasha Gerzhina.
Traditionally, the President of the Republic of Slovenia B. Pahor and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Slovenia T.R. Eyvazov laid wreaths at the obelisk “Sons of Russia” located near the chapel.
Then the head of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Tikhon of Podolsk, performed a memorial service for Russian prisoners of war who died in Slovenia during The First World War.
At the end of the memorial events at the Russian Chapel in the center of Kranjska Gora, an annual meeting of members of the Slovenia-Russia Friendship Society took place.
The Russian chapel in the name of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Grand Duke Vladimir under the Vršić Pass (near the resort town of Kranjska Gora, Slovenia) is a memorial dedicated to the memory of Russian soldiers who died in these places during the First World War. The monument is located on one of the slopes of the Julian Alps at an altitude of more than 1000 m above sea level under the Vrsich pass (1611 m), the road through which connects the central regions of Slovenia with the western ones – the valley of the Socha River.
During the First World War, the city of Kranjska Gora (the terminal station of the Austrian railway was located here) was a major transshipment point for the delivery of ammunition, equipment and troops to the Austro-Italian front. Based on military needs, the Austrian command decided to build a road through Vrsich. Already in July 1915, a camp for Russian prisoners of war was organized near the town of Kranjska Gora, whose hands were building a road across the pass.
On March 12, 1916, an avalanche hit one of the groups of Russian prisoners of war who were clearing the road, together with their Austrian guards. Then, according to some reports, more than 300 people died. All in all, during the existence of the camp (1915-1917), about 10 thousand Russian prisoners of war died here from hard work and hunger.
In 1916, in memory of their comrades who died under an avalanche, Russian prisoners of war built a small wooden chapel near their temporary barracks.
In the 1920s, the road across the Vrsich pass was reconstructed, the remains of prisoners of war buried along it were reburied in a mass grave near the chapel, above which in the 1930s. a small pyramidal obelisk with the inscription “Sons of Russia” was installed. During these years, at the end of July, Russian emigrants from all over the then Yugoslavia began to gather at the chapel to honor the memory of their compatriots.
After Slovenia gained independence in 1991, an initiative group of representatives of the Slovenian public, which later became the nucleus of the «Slovenia-Russia» Friendship Society formed in 1996, began annually to hold meetings of Russians and Slovenes – politicians at the Russian Chapel on the last Sunday of July. Business people, representatives of public organizations and the Church, cultural workers.
In 1995, the Russian chapel received the status of a cultural monument protected by the state. In 2005, the territory adjacent to the chapel was transformed into a memorial park and transferred to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture of Slovenia.
In 2006, on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Chapel, the Slovenian authorities decided to name the road leading from Kranjska Gora past the Russian Chapel to the Vrsich Pass “Russian Road”.