Thousands pay respects as Gorbachev laid to rest

Thursday 08th September 2022 03:05 EDT

Moscow: Thousands of mourners have paid their respects to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachv, who was laid to rest in a ceremony snubbed by Vladimir Putin.

Widely considered to be one of the most important figures of the second half of the 20th century, Gorbachev was the final leader of the Soviet Union. The statesman is credited with changing the course of history by bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end.

The Kremlin’s refusal to declare a state funeral reflects its uneasiness about the legacy of Gorbachev. He has been venerated worldwide for bringing down the Iron Curtain but reviled by many at home for the Soviet collapse and the ensuing economic meltdown that plunged millions into poverty.

Putin had previously called the fall of the Soviet Union ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century’ and claimed his schedule meant he was too busy to attend the former leader’s low-key funeral.

Gorbachev, who died last week aged 91, was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife, Raisa. His farewell ceremony was held at the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions, a mansion near the Kremlin, which has served as the venue for state funerals since Soviet times.

Upon entering the building, mourners saw guards flanking a large photo of Gorbachev standing with a broad smile, a reminder of the cheerful vigour he brought to the Soviet leadership after a series of dour, ailing predecessors.

The turnout was large enough that the viewing was extended more than an hour beyond the stated two hours.

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