Sep 3, 2022 - World

Gorbachev's funeral draws thousands despite Putin's absence

A man holds a book with Mikhail Gorbachev portrait.
A man holds a book with Mikhail Gorbachev portrait. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands gathered in Moscow on Saturday to pay their respects to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who died last week.

The big picture: Gorbachev, one of the most important political leaders of the 20th century, has held a complicated legacy in his home country.

Details: The farewell ceremony was held at the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions, an older mansion close to the Kremlin that has often housed state funerals, AP reports.

  • He was buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery alongside his wife, Raisa.
  • So many people attended the ceremony that its length was extended by two hours, per AP. It was planned as a two-hour event.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend the funeral as expected, per AP.

  • Putin privately paid respects at a hospital in Moscow last week, the New York Times reported.
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told the Associated Press on Wednesday that "the president's working schedule wouldn't allow him to do that on Saturday, so he decided to do that today."

The intrigue: The ceremony was not deemed a state funeral, though it had all the makings of one with the national flag draping Gorbachev's coffin and guards firing shots into the air, AP reports. A band also played the Russian anthem.

Context: The decision to not make it a state funeral may be due to the Kremlin's complicated feelings on Gorbachev's legacy.

  • Gorbachev launched a number of domestic reforms that helped bring an end to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • Though he is seen as "bringing down the Iron Curtain" across the world, critics of Gorbachev believe he led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, AP reports.

Go deeper: Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev dies

Go deeper