Russians pay respects to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as Putin snubs funeral

Muslims lined up near the Kremlin on Saturday to pay their respects to Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who is widely admired in the West for his reforms and has lived enough long to see Russia’s leadership revert to much of that change.

Gorbachev, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91is set to be buried without state honor or President Vladimir Putin present.

However, he was allowed a public funeral, with the authorities allowing Russians to view his coffin in the majestic Great Hall, in view of the Kremlin, where former Soviet leaders mourned.

Journey participants carry Gorbachev’s wooden coffin, covered with a tricolor Russian flag, and place it in the center of the hall, where there is a soothing recording of the film’s melancholy music. Schindler’s List play in the background.

People line up to enter the Hall of Columns for the Gorbachev memorial service on Saturday. (Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters)

It is a little surprising that Putin, a longtime KGB intelligence officer who called the collapse of the Soviet Union a “geopolitical disaster”, denied Gorbachev’s state title in its entirety and said his schedule did not allow him to attend the funeral.

However, Putin paid his respects to Gorbachev alone on Thursday, and the Kremlin said its honor guard would provide an “element” of a state occasion at the funeral for him. Gorbachev, who won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War.

A divisive number

Gorbachev became a hero to many in the West by allowing Eastern Europe to shed more than four decades of Soviet communist control, reunite East and West Germany, and forge control treaties. weapons with the United States.

But when the 15 Soviet republics gained equal freedom to claim independence, Gorbachev was powerless to prevent the collapse of the Union in 1991, six years after he became its leader.

Because of that, and the economic chaos his “perestroika” liberalization program has caused, many Russians cannot forgive him.

A woman holding flowers looks on as she lines up to pay her respects near Gorbachev’s coffin during Saturday’s farewell ceremony. (Relevant press)

Many Western heads of state and governments who would normally attend will be absent on Saturday, due to the gap in relations between Moscow and the West opened up by Putin’s move to send troops into Ukraine in February.

Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs wrote on Twitter that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a conservative nationalist and one of the few European leaders on good terms with Putin, will attend the funeral.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA news agency that Putin has no plans to meet Orban during his visit to Moscow.

Several Russian officials and cultural figures, including senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachyov and singer Alla Pugachyova, also paid their respects to the Gorbachev family, who sat to the left of his open coffin.

People pass Gorbachev’s coffin in the Hall of Pillars. Gorbachev will be buried at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow next to his wife, Raisa, according to a farewell ceremony. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / The Associated Press)

Putin pushes back reforms

Gorbachev’s funeral stands in sharp contrast to the national day of mourning and mourning at Moscow’s main cathedral held in 2007 for former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who was credited with removing Gorbachev when the Soviet Union broke up and who later reached out to Putin as his own successor.

However, after the ceremony, Gorbachev will be buried like Yeltsin in Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery, along with his beloved wife Raisa, who passed away 23 years ago.

VIEW | Gorbachev left behind complex legacies:

Gorbachev is praised in the West, but may have a different legacy in Putin’s Russia

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, is being remembered in the West as a leader who ended the Cold War, but his legacy is quite different in Russia’s Russia. Vladimir Putin.

When he entered the Kremlin in 2000, Putin wasted little time restoring the political diversity that had evolved from Gorbachev’s “glasnost” or open-door policy, and slowly began to rebuild. Moscow’s influence over many republics was lost.

Gorbachev’s longtime translator and assistant said this week that Russia’s actions in Ukraine left the former leader “shocked and bewildered” in the last months of his life.

“It’s not just the operation that started on February 24, but the whole evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the years has been really, really a big blow for him. It’s real. crushing him, emotionally and psychologically,” Pavel Palazhchenko told Reuters in an interview.

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