December 9, 2022

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Gorbachev, buried Saturday in Moscow, without state honors and in the absence of Putin

Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader beloved by the West who lived long enough to see all the reforms he promoted undone, will be buried on Saturday without state honors or the presence of Russia’s current president, Reuters reports.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, has died at the age of 91Photo: Maksim Blinov / Sputnik / Profimedia

Gorbachev became a hero in the West for enabling Eastern Europe to shake off more than four decades of Soviet communist control, allowing East and West Germany to reunite, and concluding arms control and limitation treaties with the United States .

When pro-democracy protests swept the Soviet-bloc nations of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force – unlike previous Kremlin leaders who had sent tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 .

But the protests fueled aspirations for autonomy in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, which disintegrated over the next two years in chaotic fashion.

For this, and the economic chaos that his “perestroika” liberalization program unleashed, many Russians could not forgive him.

Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91, and Muscovites will be able to see the coffin with the lifeless body in the imposing Hall of Columns in the House of Unions, where other former Soviet leaders were also mourned.

But it was no surprise that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB intelligence officer who called the collapse of the Soviet Union a “geopolitical catastrophe”, refused Gorbachev state honors and said he was too busy to attend the funeral.

Buried without state honors

Many Western heads of state and government who were sure to come will also be absent, kept at bay by the chasm in East-West relations caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Instead, ordinary Russians will walk past the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s open casket from 10am (0700 GMT).

This comes as in 2007 former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who played a key role in ousting Gorbachev as the Soviet Union collapsed and later elected Putin as his successor, had a national day of mourning and state funeral in the main cathedral of Moscow.

After the ceremony, however, Gorbachev will be buried as Yeltsin in the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow, next to his beloved wife Raisa.

Gorbachev, “crushed” by the events in Ukraine

When he became president, Putin wasted little time in undoing the political plurality that had developed from Gorbachev’s policies and slowly began to rebuild Moscow’s influence over many of the lost republics.

February’s invasion of Ukraine was arguably the final nail in the coffin of Gorbachev’s legacy, one that his aide said left him “shocked and stunned” in the final months of his life.

“It’s not just the (special military) operation that started on February 24, but the whole evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine over the last few years, which was really, really a big blow to him. It really crushed him emotionally and psychologically,” Palazhchenko said in an interview with Reuters.

“It was very obvious to us that he was shocked and disoriented by what was happening (after Russian troops entered Ukraine in February) for all kinds of reasons. He didn’t just believe in the rapprochement between the Russian and Ukrainian people, but he believed that these two nations were intertwined,” Palazhchenko added.

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