The last Soviet leader and the only president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev died in hospital on August 30, 2022, at the age of 92. One can only guess how the former leader of the Soviet Union felt in his last days, knowing that war was raging in Ukraine.
However, what exactly could Gorbachev, who was seriously ill and was in the Kremlin hospital, know about the outside world is a separate question. In recent years, he has actually been Putin’s hostage. In such a situation, the short and very restrained anti-war statement of the Gorbachev Foundation, published on February 26, 2022, looked like a courageous gesture.
Two worlds – two mourning
In Berlin, as a sign of mourning for the last Soviet leader, the flag of the FRG was lowered to half mast, prominent German politicians remembered him with the warmest words, there was even a proposal to declare mourning – in Germany, special treatment for Gorbachev. Kind words about the deceased were also found in many world leaders.
But apart from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is close to Putin, to Moscow in September 2022 no one came. Obviously, the point is not in relation to the deceased, but in the fact that Western politicians simply did not want to give Putin a reason to use their participation in Gorbachev’s funeral for demagogy about breaking through Russia’s international isolation.
The “elements of a state funeral” promised by Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov came down to a military guard, crowds of policemen in the center of Moscow, the overorganization of the entire event, endless fences and metal detector frames. It looked as if the authorities wanted to force those who came say goodbye to Gorbachev citizens regret their decision.
Nevertheless, people were ready to stand at the fences and frames to honor the memory of a man who had not held any public office for more than 30 years. And there were so many of these people that the farewell ceremony was extended by an hour. According to media reports, several people who came to say goodbye, including for anti-war symbols, were taken out of the crowd.
The Soviet leader was buried as a Russian official
Vladimir Putin did not come to say goodbye to the deceased as part of a civil ceremony; a strange photo session was arranged for Putin at the Central Clinical Hospital, where he posed at the body of the deceased with a bouquet of flowers. Dmitry Medvedev arrived and left the Hall of Columns before the coffin was accessible. open to everyone. No other officials took part in the ceremony. Naturally, no state mourning was declared, and the coffin of the last Soviet leader was for some reason covered with the Russian tricolor.
Gorbachev was buried to the music of the Soviet anthem – which, however, became Russian by the will of Putin. As a result, the Soviet leader was sent on his last journey as a Russian official, despite the fact that even the former Putin guard and Minister of Emergency Situations Yevgeny Zinichev, who strangely died in September 2021, was awarded more honor.
All this looked all the more ridiculous against the background of the recent pathetic farewell to the little-known journalist Daria Dugina and state ceremonies at the funeral of the odious LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. But at those funerals, speeches by statesmen and propagandists were heard, which were generously broadcast in the media – Gorbachev was buried in silence.
Silent funeral of the father of Russian Glasnost
Silence – that was the strangest and most revealing thing in the entire farewell ceremony for Mikhail Gorbachev. The funeral of a great politician, one of the most influential and famous leaders of the 20th century, historical man passed in gloomy silence. This muteness is all the more contrasting with the temperament and polemical fervor of Gorbachev himself.
In his most famous photographs and newsreels, he is always either on the podium or among people – he speaks, listens, argues, proves. Even in recent years, he attracted people with his openness to communication, ability to speak and willingness to listen. The man who started democratization, announced glasnost and taught a huge country to argue and debate – including with himself – could he imagine that everyone would be silent at his funeral?
In a normal situation, speeches should have been heard at the coffin of such a person – memories of him, his life, his politics and his legacy. Given the role and place of Mikhail Gorbachev in history, many people clearly had something to remember. After all, did Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov, who was present at the funeral, really have nothing to say about his friend, Nobel laureate Mikhail Gorbachev?
It is easy to guess from which high offices Gorbachev’s relatives and friends were convincingly asked to mourn in silence. Everything that could and should be said at his grave is impossible for public utterance in Moscow in September 2022. Mikhail Gorbachev did everything to stop the USSR from being a dictatorship, a threat to democracy and world peace. Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a citadel of evil, aggression and militarism, in which Mikhail Gorbachev no longer has a place.
Author: Fedor Krasheninnikov – Russian political scientist and publicist, was forced to leave Russia in 2020. Telegram: @fyodork
The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the Russian editorial board and Deutsche Welle generally.