William H. Rehnquist Center
Sun Jun 24 2018 17:23:45 UA Law | Rehnquist Center | News
News & Updates

Justice Sidorenko Visits Arlington National Cemetery to Lay Wreath at Chief Justice Rehnquist's Grave

As part of ongoing judicial exchanges involving Russian and U.S. judges, Justice Yuriy Ivanovich Sidorenko of the Russian Supreme Court attended several meetings with Chief Justice Rehnquist and other Justices and judges in Washington.  Justice Sidorenko recounts a time when Chief Justice Rehnquist brought up the Battle of Poltava, a battle between Russia and Sweden that took place in the summer of 1709.  Chief Justice Rehnquist, whose paternal grandparents were Swedish, knew all about this famous battle in which the Russians won a decisive victory.

Some time later, Justice Sidorenko had just experienced a very difficult time with the Russian legislature, when he received an unexpected letter from Chief Justice Rehnquist.  Handwritten across the bottom was "Remember Poltava!"  Justice Sidorenko said this personal note from the Chief Justice of the United States, recalling a Russian victory in battle, inspired him not to give up.  But that is not the end of the story.

In September of 2007, Justice Sidorenko was visiting Washington and asked to visit Arlington National Cemetery in order to lay a wreath at Chief Justice Rehnquist's grave.   The group had some difficulty finding the grave site, until they asked a woman leading a group of school children.  The woman agreed to show them the way, but wanted to know why they were interested.  When Justice Sidorenko (through an interpreter) explained who he was and that he was there to place a wreath because of how much he admired the Chief, the woman noted that she did not know very much about Chief Justice Rehnquist.  She asked if Justice Sidorenko would mind taking a few minutes to tell her school children about his late friend.   Justice Sidorenko spent about five minutes telling this group of American school children about Chief Justice Rehnquist.  When he finished, the guide said, "These children will never forget learning about a great American jurist from his Russian friend."

This story illustrates what Chief Justice Rehnquist once said – that the real value of judicial exchanges is in establishing face-to-face contact with judges in another country.


(Left to right:)  Alexander Shibanov, Head of Mission of the Russian American Judicial Partnership in Moscow; Justice Yuriy Ivanovich Sidorenko of the Russian Supreme Court and Chairman of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation; Judge Michael Mihm of the U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois; and Judge Lloyd George of the U.S. District Court, District of Nevada. 

Justice Sidorenko

(Above) Justice Sidorenko laying a wreath.

The above photos were taken on the 12th of September, 2007 at Arlington National Cemetery, at Chief Justice Rehnquist's grave site.

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