Honour or disgrace – how Russia has buried its past leaders

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(Reuters) – Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, was buried on Saturday in Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery but there was no official day of mourning and it was not be a state funeral.

Here are some details of the funerals and burials of previous Soviet and Russian leaders in the past 100 years:

VLADIMIR LENIN

The leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution died on Jan. 21, 1924 at the age of 53. Huge crowds turned out for his funeral on Red Square, despite brutally cold weather. His embalmed body was placed on permanent public display and can still be seen in his mausoleum on the square.

JOSEF STALIN

Stalin died on March 5, 1953, aged 74. His body lay in state in the Hall of Columns in central Moscow and was then placed alongside Lenin’s in the mausoleum after a funeral service on Red Square. Stalin’s rule of terror was later denounced by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, and his body was removed from the mausoleum in 1961 and buried near the Kremlin wall.

NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV

Khrushchev was ousted in 1964 following a plot by fellow Communist Party leaders who accused him of rude, erratic and high-handed behaviour, policy failures and going against the teaching of Lenin. Disgraced, he died on Sept. 11, 1971, aged 77, and was given a private burial in Novodevichy cemetery, with a wake beforehand at a morgue in a Moscow suburb. According to his biographer William Taubman, news of his death was withheld until the morning of the funeral and only a small number of mourners were able to talk their way past rings of troops and police at the cemetery to join the family by the graveside. It took four more years before the family obtained permission to erect a monument there – an imposing sculpture by Ernst Neizvestny.

LEONID BREZHNEV

Brezhnev died on Nov. 10, 1982, aged 75. After five days of national mourning, he received a state funeral on Red Square, with his coffin borne on a gun carriage accompanied by a goose-stepping guard of honour. He is buried in the Kremlin wall necropolis.

YURI ANDROPOV

Andropov died on Feb. 9, 1984, aged 69, after 15 months in office. He received a state funeral on Red Square after four days of national mourning, with foreign leaders including U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in attendance. He is buried in the Kremlin wall necropolis.

KONSTANTIN CHERNENKO

Chernenko, in power for only 13 months, died at the age of 73 on March 10, 1985. He received a state funeral after three days of official mourning and was buried in the Kremlin wall necropolis – the last person to be interred there.

BORIS YELTSIN

Yeltsin, the Russian president who joined with the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine to dismantle the Soviet Union and force Gorbachev to step down in 1991, died on April 23, 2007 at the age of 76.

President Vladimir Putin, his hand-picked successor, declared a national day of mourning for the funeral. Yeltsin’s body lay in state in Moscow’s gold-domed Christ the Saviour cathedral before being buried in Novodevichy cemetery.

His funeral was attended by dignitaries including former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, Britain’s Prince Andrew and former Prime minister John Major, German President Horst Koehler and former Polish President Lech Walesa.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

Gorbachev died on Tuesday, aged 91. His body will lie on public view in the Hall of Columns near the Kremlin on Saturday morning, before being buried next to his wife Raisa in Novodevichy cemetery. The Kremlin said Putin was working on Saturday and too busy to attend, but he paid his respects on Thursday at the hospital where Gorbachev died. No day of mourning has been declared. Western leaders who would normally have attended the funeral will be absent because of entry bans imposed by Russia in response to sanctions slapped on Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

Reporting by Mark Trevelyan Editing by Frances Kerry

Photo – A man puts flowers near the coffin with the body of the late former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, during farewell ceremony at the Hall of Columns of the House of Trade Unions in Moscow, Russia, 03 September 2022. EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

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