Thousands Of Russians Said Goodbye To Mikhail Gorbachev, The Final Soviet Leader

Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev

After a farewell ceremony attended by thousands of mourners but skipped by Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was buried on Saturday.

Moscow: After a farewell service attended by thousands of mourners and precipitating the dissolution of the Soviet Union, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was buried on Saturday. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, chose to ignore the ceremony.

The Kremlin’s reluctance to officially declare a state funeral for Gorbachev reflects its unease with the legacy of the man who is admired internationally for bringing down the Iron Curtain but despised at home for the fall of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic collapse that sent millions into poverty.

Putin personally placed flowers on Gorbachev’s casket on Thursday at the Moscow hospital where he passed away. The Kremlin said that the president wouldn’t be able to attend the funeral because of his hectic schedule.

When asked what specific matters would keep Putin busy on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the president would have a number of working meetings, make a call to another country, and need to get ready for a business forum he will be attending in Russia’s Far East next week.

Following a farewell ceremony at the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions, an opulent 18th-century mansion close to the Kremlin that has served as the location for state funerals since Soviet times, Gorbachev, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91, was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery alongside his wife Raisa.

At the memorial service on Saturday, attendees laid flowers alongside Gorbachev’s open casket, which was guarded by honour guards. Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina, and his two granddaughters sat near the coffin.

In addition to hosting balls for the nobility under the czars, the opulent, chandeliered hall adorned with columns served as a location for important conferences and congresses as well as state funerals throughout the Soviet era. As they entered the structure, mourners noticed honour guards positioned on either side of a big photograph of Gorbachev grinning widely, a reminder of the upbeat vitality he gave to the Soviet leadership following a string of gloomy, ailing predecessors.

The viewing was extended for two more hours beyond the originally scheduled two due to the significant turnout.

Despite selecting such a prominent location for the farewell service, the Kremlin refrained from referring to it as a state funeral, though Peskov did indicate that it would include “components” of one, like honorary guards and government support for planning. He declined to explain how it will be different from a traditional state funeral.

Except for the name, the event on Saturday included all the traditional elements of a state funeral, such as the national flag draped over Gorbachev’s casket. a tiny band performing the Russian song, which shares the same melody as the Soviet anthem, and goose-stepping guards firing airborne rounds.

However, announcing a state funeral for Gorbachev would have made Putin attend and forced Moscow to invite world leaders, something it seemed unwilling to do given the escalating tensions with the West following the deployment of soldiers to Ukraine.

Attending the goodbye ceremony was Dmitry Medvedev, who presided over Russia’s Security Council alongside Putin from 2008 to 2012. Then, he published a message on a messaging app channel in which he made reference to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and accused the United States and its allies of attempting to manufacture the dissolution of Russia, a strategy he called a “chess game with Death.”

On Saturday, the goodbye was attended by Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, who has frequently criticised the Western sanctions against Russia. Additionally present were the ambassadors from other Western nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and others.

The comparatively understated funeral stood in stark contrast to Boris Yeltsin’s grandiose official funeral in 2007, who served as Russia’s first post-Soviet leader and chose Putin as his chosen replacement, paving the way for Putin to gain the president by resigning.

Yeltsin was buried there as well. The Novodevichy cemetery is home to the graves of a number of well-known Russians, including Anton Chekhov, Sergei Prokofiev, and Dmitry Shostakovich. Nikita Khrushchev, the former Soviet leader who was overthrown in 1964, is one among those who were interred there.

The knowledge that Putin has hindered the transparency Gorbachev championed cast a cloud over the farewell viewing.

Ilya, a mourner in his early 30s who works in financial services, said, “I want to thank him for my childhood of freedom, which we don’t have today.

He used the Russian term for Gorbachev’s reform, or reconstruction, initiatives: “I am a son of perestroika.”

Another mourner, Yulia Prividennaya, expressed her desire for history to include more individuals like to him. “When the world is on the verge of World War III, we need such politicians to settle the situation.”

The liberal Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, who collaborated with Gorbachev on economic reform initiatives, praised him for “giving people an opportunity to voice what they thought—something that Russia never had before.”

Despite avoiding direct personal criticism of Gorbachev, Putin, who once referred to the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” has repeatedly accused him of failing to obtain written commitments from the West that would have prevented NATO’s expansion eastward. The problem has harmed relations between Russia and the West for years and fueled tensions that erupted on February 24 when the Russian president launched soldiers into Ukraine.

Putin said of Gorbachev that he had “had enormous impact on the path of world history” in a carefully worded condolence letter that was made public on Wednesday.

According to Putin, “He guided the nation through difficult and dramatic transformations, despite significant foreign policy, economic, and societal obstacles.” He truly understood the need for reforms and made an effort to present his own solutions to the pressing issues.

State television broadcasts reflected the Kremlin’s ambivalence toward Gorbachev, which described his international acclaim and the lofty expectations raised by his reforms but blamed him for throwing the nation into political upheaval, economic hardship, and failing to adequately defend the nation’s interests in negotiations with the West.


What signalled the start of the Soviet Union’s demise?

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the subsequent toppling of Communist rule in all of Eastern Europe were both influenced by Gorbachev’s decision to remove the Soviet burden on the nations of Eastern Europe.

What modifications did Gorbachev make to the USSR?

Gorbachev implemented actions that Soviet economists at the time regarded as audacious in order to bring perestroika to the Soviet Union’s external economic sector. The Ministry of Foreign Trade’s former monopoly over the majority of trade activities was essentially destroyed under his programme.

Where is the grave of Gorbachev?

23 September 2022

What happened specifically that brought the Cold War to an end?

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the unification of Germany in 1990, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 all served as signposts for the end of the Cold War. Each was influenced or brought about by the demands and deeds of common Europeans who were eager to bring about change.

Since 2014, Eliza Grace has worked as a reporter covering movies and other forms of media. She is particularly well-known for the humorous way in which she analyses film. On a regular basis, she contributes articles to The Current that are movie reviews as well as articles about the newest movies, video games, and entertainment news. Words from Eliza Grace: "There's a standard formula for success in the entertainment medium and that's: Beat it to death if it succeeds."