The funeral of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ (USSR) last premier Mikhail Gorbachev will be held in Moscow today.
Gorbachev died on Tuesday aged 91. He has been denied a state funeral, but a public ceremony will be held in the Hall of Columns, the site of past Soviet premiers’ funerals. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend, citing a busy work schedule.
Gorbachev was a controversial figure in Russia. As the last leader of the Soviet Union, his liberalizing policies of “glasnost” and “perestroika” were blamed by many for its ultimate collapse. President Putin was particularly critical, calling the collapse of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. He has justified invading Ukraine as a restoration of Soviet glory.
While Gorbachev’s funeral will be a large public event, do not expect it to be met with major displays of national mourning. In many ways, the former premier’s death heralds the death of his democratic and liberal reforms. Modern Russia is increasingly authoritarian, with President Putin suppressing dissent and blaming the West for Russia’s domestic problems. Medium-term, Russia will continue pushing for more Ukrainian territory and subsequently hurting their economy through Western isolation.
Wescott is a Copy-Editor and Senior Analyst. His thematic focuses are international security, politics, economics and public policy.