T.The Pillar Hall of the Capitol is a grand old ballroom that was put on display when former Soviet leaders passed away. Almost 100 years ago, Vladimir Lenin’s body had been laid to rest for three days before his funeral. Stalin and Brezhnev followed. Now Mikhail Gorbachev is here. Pale in a spotlighted coffin. The last Soviet leader is finally buried.
Vladimir Putin is not here. The Kremlin said it was a result of his busy work schedule. Still, thousands of Russians have come to pay their respects, lining up in front of theaters and trendy cafes downtown. A reminder that Mikhail Gorbachev is still a hero.
“He did a lot, but people in our country hate him now,” said retired journalist Vladimir Gubarev, who was standing in line with a few carnations on Saturday morning. . Observer“People want to be happy quickly. Soon. Gorbachev’s path was a slow one to freedom, to true freedom. And he didn’t have enough time.”
For many, coming to the hall was both an act of gratitude and an act of defiance to honor the memory of the leader who brought new freedoms and hastened the fall of their country. So soon after his death people said good things about him,” Gubarev said. “But since he was gone, because he was a danger while he was alive. He was the enemy.”
A hardcore communist who saw the failure of the Soviet system, Gorbachev lost his reform initiative and saw the Soviet Union he was trying to save collapse. During his next 30 years, a battle began over his legacy. Relations with Putin have cooled, and Gorbachev has turned to reverse many of the reforms he initiated in the late 1980s. He was notorious for being a divisive figure among Russians. In 1997, Pizza Hut shot an ad in which his family argued over his inheritance.
“He liked to say that history is a fickle woman and you never know how it will change,” said a former translator who worked with Gorbachev for decades, now his Head of the Public Relations Office, Pavel Parachenko, said.
“He understood that there were quite a few people in Russia who would criticize him for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He did not believe the criticism was unfair,” Parachenko said. “What he rejected was the blame game, a defamatory and ignorant accusation. He drew a line.”
Putin was absent from the funeral, but the Russian state was not. Military guards in mourning stood by Gorbachev’s portrait, mourners entered the Reichstag, and the National Guard patrolled the halls of his 18th-century mansion.
There was silence as people entered the pillar hall of wood and marble. Light opera music was playing and the lights were dimmed, except for a spot of his light on Gorbachev’s coffin. Mourners shuffled past, leaving flowers, bowing their heads in respect, and stopping to take pictures. Family members and dignitaries, including Nobel Prize-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov, sat nearby. The mourners passed a cadre of soldiers in parade uniforms, fixed bayonets on their rifles, and returned to the world. The whole process took about 2 minutes.
There was an undercurrent of tension. It was perhaps the largest gathering of liberal Russians in the capital since the anti-war protests that erupted after the invasion in late February. He virtually disappeared from the country.
Alexei, an amateur photographer who attended the ceremony, said, “It’s been six months since we’ve seen so many decent people together. He asked not to use his last name because of safety concerns.” rice field.
People close to Gorbachev say that during the last months of his life, Gorbachev personally suffered from the events in Ukraine, but his declining health prevented him from taking on more public roles. Told.
“He was in a lot of pain when he said these things. I can definitely say that,” Parachenko said. Gorbachev personally endorsed a statement by his foundation calling for an “early cessation of hostilities and immediate commencement of peace talks,” Parachenko added.
Still, Gorbachev’s own legacy complicates matters. The former Soviet leader told interviewers in 2016 that he supported Putin’s actions in Crimea. voice was noticeably lacking.
Parachenko defended his former boss. “People who wrote on Facebook and in the media that Gorbachev is silent … think this is unfair.
“They didn’t understand something very simple, and they couldn’t say what is now clear about his health.”
Outside, the war seemed to hang over the funeral. A banner on the new stage of the Bolshoi said: “We are on a mission!” It featured pro-war symbols, such as the patriotic St. George’s orange and black ribbon and the V and Z, which became symbols of aggression.
When asked how Gorbachev should have responded to the war, pensioner Sergey Truba, who attended the ceremony, said, “He had already done the main things he needed in life.” rice field. When asked what he meant, he replied, “Perestroika.” Regarding the war, “His voice would have made no difference. He could not have changed this.”
“I actually hated Gorbachev,” Turba said, adding that he blamed Gorbachev and Yeltsin for hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union. “But when Putin arrived, everything changed … I realized how great we used to be.”