September 26, 2022

Russia bids farewell to Mikhail Gorbachev’s “slow path to freedom” Mikhail Gorbachev

TThe Pillar Hall in the House of Guilds is a large old ballroom where Soviet leaders are paraded as they died. For nearly a century, the body of Vladimir Lenin was kept in good condition for three days before his funeral. Stalin and Brezhnev followed him. Currently Mikhail Gorbachev Here, pale in a lighted coffin: the last Soviet leader is finally buried.

Vladimir Putin is not here, a disdain the Kremlin said was As a result of his busy schedule. Nevertheless, thousands of Russians came to pay their respects, lining up in front of downtown theaters and trendy cafes, and everyone mentions that Mikhail Gorbachev is still a hero to some.

“He did a lot, but now people in our country hate him,” Vladimir Gubarev, a retired journalist who lined up on Saturday morning, holding some carnations, told observer. “People want to be happy quickly. At once. Gorbachev’s road was the slow road to freedom, to true freedom. And he didn’t have enough time.”

For many, coming into the hall was an act of appreciation and defiance to honor the memory of a leader who brought new liberties and hastened the collapse of his country. “He was a great man,” said Gubarev, “so immediately after his death people say kind words about him.” “But only after he was gone. Because while he was alive, he was dangerous. He was the enemy.”

A hard-line communist who saw the failings of the Soviet system, Gorbachev lost control of his reforms and watched the Soviet Union try to salvage the collapse. The next 30 years launched a battle over his legacy, which saw his relationship cool with Putin, who set a course for reversing many of the reforms Gorbachev initiated in the late 1980s. He was a famous figure for the division among the Russians: Pizza Hut even filmed an ad In 1997 a family appears squabbling over his inheritance.

Gorbachev's memorial service in the Pillar Hall.
Gorbachev’s memorial service in the Pillar Hall. Photo: Evgenia Novozhenina/AFP/Getty Images

“He liked to say that history was a fickle lady who never knew which direction it would go,” said Pavel Palachenko, a former translator who worked with Gorbachev for decades and is now the head of his press office.

“He understood that there were quite a few people who blamed him Russia to dissolve the Soviet Union; “He didn’t think the criticism was unfair,” Palachenko said. It is the blame game, the ignorant accusations and slander he rejected. I made a mistake.”

And while Putin was absent from the funeral, the Russian state was not. A uniformed military guard stood next to a portrait of Gorbachev as mourners entered the Council of Trade Unions, and the National Guard patrolled the halls of the 18th-century palace.

Silence fell as people entered the wood-and-marble Pillar Hall, where light opera music was playing and the lights were dim, except to highlight Gorbachev’s coffin. Mourners swarmed past, some leaving flowers or bowing in reverence, others stopping to take a picture. Family members and some dignitaries, including Nobel Prize-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov, were sitting nearby. Mourners were shoved in front of a cadre of soldiers in parade uniforms, bayonets wedged into their guns, and back into the world. The whole process took about two minutes.

There was a hidden tension: this was perhaps the largest gathering of liberal Russians in the capital since the anti-war protests that erupted after the invasion in late February. Many took part in the protest, although public opposition has almost disappeared from the country.

“It’s been six months since so many decent people got together in one place,” said Alexey, an amateur photographer who attended the ceremony. He requested that his last name not be used due to safety concerns.

Those close to Gorbachev said that he was experiencing personal suffering because of the events that took place in Ukraine In the last months of his life but refrained from taking on a more public role due to his deteriorating health.

He felt a sharp pain when I mentioned these things. I can definitely tell you, Palachenko said. Balachenko added that Gorbachev personally agreed to a statement issued by his institution calling for an “early cessation of hostilities and an immediate start of peace negotiations.”

However, Gorbachev’s legacy itself complicates matters. The former Soviet leader told an interviewer in 2016 that he supported Putin’s actions in Crimea, and as his health deteriorated, his voice was conspicuously absent as the scale and brutality of the war in Ukraine became apparent.

Palachenko defended his former boss. “I think the people who wrote on their Facebook pages and in the media that Gorbachev is silent … I think this is unfair.

They did not understand very simple things. And we can’t say things about his health that are now crystal clear.”

Outside, the war was apparently hanging over the funeral. A sign on the new stage of the Bolshoi Theater reads: “We’ll get the job done!” It bore pro-war symbols, including the orange and black patriotic Saint George ribbon as well as Vs and Zs that became conquest symbols.

When asked how Gorbachev should have dealt with the war, Sergei Truba, a retiree at the party, said: “He has already done the main thing that is required in his life.” When asked what it means, he replied: “Perestroika.” Of the war, he said: “His voice would not have made any difference. He cannot change this.”

“I actually hated Gorbachev,” Truba said, adding that he had condemned Gorbachev and Yeltsin as the main culprits in accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union. “But as soon as Putin arrived, everything changed for me…I realized how great a man he was before us.”