Last tribute to Gorbachev, absent Putin

The citizens of Russia paid their last respects to the last leader of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. He was laid to rest in an informal ceremony held in Moscow on Saturday. Russian President Vladimir Putin was not present at the event. Hundreds of people lined up to pay their respects to Gorbachev at Moscow’s historic Hall of Columns.
Gorbachev died last Tuesday at the age of 91 after a long illness. Putin had a sour-sweet relationship with this Soviet leader.

While in power from 1985 to 1991, Gorbachev sought to reshape the Soviet Union through democratic reforms. But in the end he brought down the Soviet Union. He is remembered as one of the greatest political figures of the 20th century for his contribution to ending the Cold War. But he is disliked by many in Russia because of the economic chaos and loss of global influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev has remained out of the political discourse for most of the past few decades. So his death this week was not much discussed in Russian state circles. Last Thursday, the country’s state TV channel showed Russian President Vladimir Putin placing a red rose on Gorbachev’s coffin in hospital. Putin will not attend yesterday’s funeral due to his work schedule, the Kremlin said. Gorbachev’s daughter Irina Varganskaya was seen sitting next to the coffin with other family members.

Today, Gorbachev is buried next to his wife Raisa in Moscow’s prestigious Novodevichy Cemetery. His wife Raisa died of cancer in 1999.

Many countries have imposed sanctions on Russia due to the attack of Russian forces in Ukraine. As a result, many heads of state could not attend Gorbachev’s funeral. However, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban went there. After Gorbachev’s death, Western countries paid tribute to him. Flags are flown at half-mast in his memory in Germany. The US ambassador to Russia paid tribute to Gorbachev in Moscow with flowers. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.