A great political figure of the 20th century, Gorbachev died Tuesday evening at the age of 91 after a “long and serious illness,” according to the hospital where he was treated.
He made history by ending the Cold War in 1991 when he defied the disappearance of the Soviet empire and tried to save it with democratic and economic reforms.
Gorbachev, hailed as a man of peace in the West, is seen by many in Russia as the cause of Moscow’s geopolitical downgrade and the political and economic crisis that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.
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No national day of mourning was declared, a sign of Russian power’s displeasure. After all, the funeral took place in the absence of Vladimir Putin, which the Kremlin justified by a busy “schedule”.
Still, a few hundred people lined up in the morning outside the House of Trade Unions in Moscow, where Gorbachev’s coffin was on display, to bid him farewell, AFP noted.
Inside, a portrait of the former leader sat next to an open coffin, next to which sat Gorbachev’s daughter Irina.
Two uniformed guards were stationed on either side of the casket, and visitors laid flowers before respectfully bowing before the body.
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But no major world leaders attended the ceremony, amid an apparent crisis between Moscow and the West over the conflict in Ukraine.
Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the only foreign leader whose visit was announced on Saturday at the last minute, close to the Kremlin. According to the Russian president, no meeting with Vladimir Putin is planned.
The House of Trade Unions, where Gorbachev’s casket is displayed, is a symbolic place where the remains of many leaders of the Soviet Union, including Joseph Stalin, were laid to rest in 1953.
After the ceremony, Gorbachev was to be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, next to his wife, Raisa Gorbacheva, who died in 1999, to whom he was very close.
If he does not attend Saturday’s funeral, Mr. Putin made a discreet visit to the Central Medical Hospital (TSKB) in Moscow on Thursday, where Gorbachev died, to lay a bouquet of red roses next to the coffin.
In his obituary, Mr. Putin paid minimal tribute to Gorbachev: in a neutral tone, he noted that he “had a great influence on world history.” Problems of the Soviet Union.
The relationship between the two men was complex, oscillating between respect and mutual reproach, leading to affectionate indifference.
Berlin in mourning
Instead, Western capitals, from Washington to Berlin, via Paris and Rome, fondly celebrated Gorbachev’s memory, praising him for his work for East-West rapprochement and nuclear disarmament, which earned him the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize.
Germany, whose reunification was made possible by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union, announced Saturday that flags will be at half-mast in the German capital.
But in Russia, Gorbachev is seen by many as the gravedigger of the great Soviet power that rivaled the United States, whose end, seen as humiliating, led to a decade of crises and violence.
Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first president during the years of the painful transition to a market economy, and who appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor, received strong tributes when he died in 2007.
The Kremlin declared a national day of mourning and organized an official funeral. In the presence of Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Gorbachev.
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