Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Russian Chapel on the Italian Front

St. Vladimir Memorial Chapel

In the upper Soca/Isonzo Valley in the Bovec Valley, about 12 miles northwest of Kobarid/Caporetto, the Austro-Hungarian army could only be supplied through the Vrsic Pass (1156 m). Ten thousand Russian prisoners of war, who had been captured on the Eastern Front, were imported in 1915 to build a road over the pass. On 12 March 1916 an enormous avalanche charged down the nearby Mojstrovka mountain, destroying the Russians' camp. More than 300 prisoners and their guards lost their lives under the snow. The surviving comrades built beautiful St. Vladimir Chapel in their memory just below the pass. In 1937 all the victims were buried beside the chapel in a common grave marked with a little pyramid.

Difficult to See Through the Trees, the Chapel Is Located Just Off the Highway,
Originally Constructed by the Russian Prisoners of War

After the downfall of the Communist regime in Russia and the subsequent declaration of Slovenia's independence, diplomatic relations between two Slav nations improved and tourism grew. Since 1991, the chapel has been an important stopping point for Russian visitors who journey there to pay their respects.


  1. The more I study the first world war, the more I'm struck by its international nature. Growing up on stories of the British on the western front, I've been fascinated by the war's global scope.
    Small stories like this one are microcosms of the conflict's deep and extensive globalism.

  2. Well said Bryan. This looks like a very interesting area to visit; the construction and maintenance of this memorial appears to be very well kept, seeing how it is from 1937; I am curious to know more of its history.

  3. Another insightful post on an aspect of the war that is too often forgotten.