There should be a worthy memory of the man who made German reunification possible, but how? Because of the war in Ukraine instigated by Vladimir Putin and in view of the fact that Russia is not organizing a state funeral for the late Mikhail Gorbachev, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) or other leading representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany are not planning to travel to Moscow for the funeral service on Saturday.
Instead, after intensive debates, there should only be a short commemoration. “Bundestag President Bärbel Bas will pay tribute to the outstanding life’s work of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev before the start of the general debate in the Bundestag on Wednesday, September 7th,” said a spokesman when asked by the Tagesspiegel. “There will be a minute’s silence in honor of the deceased.”
The Reichstag building is also flown at half-staff all day. The 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner and President of the Soviet Union died in Moscow on Tuesday evening at the age of 91.
Several MPs, on the other hand, are campaigning for a commemoration in the Bundestag. “I support his merits for peace and reunification being recognized in the German Bundestag,” said Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) to the “Spiegel”.
“There should be a German act of mourning for Mikhail Gorbachev,” said CSU boss Markus Söder to the “Münchner Merkur”. “Germany owes him a lot, he is one of the fathers of reunification and gave freedom to millions of people. Germany must appreciate that.”
The left-wing politician Gregor Gysi told the “Spiegel” that he had in mind a commemorative event “at which the difference between Putin and Gorbachev would be made clear, so that the sharp criticism of Putin does not lead to a rejection of all of Russia”.
The human rights policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Michael Brand (CDU), has a slightly different opinion with regard to a commemoration event. “Gorbachev’s greatest achievement is that he decided against violence in the face of the loss of power,” Brand told the Tagesspiegel. “If we wanted to honor foreign personalities, it would be those who were pro-freedom from the start, like Pope John Paul II, the American Presidents Reagan and Bush and other important pioneers like Václav Havel – who lived peacefully for the dictatorship fought for freedom and were sentenced to prison for it.”
In government circles it was said that the German embassy in Moscow could represent the Federal Republic and pay their last respects to Gorbachev. Before the funeral, Gorbachev is to be laid out in the pillared hall of the trade union building in the center of Moscow, where funeral services for high-ranking Russian politicians are traditionally held. The former General Secretary will then be buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery – next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999.
The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz had recommended that the German head of state travel to Russia in the event of a state funeral for Gorbachev. “In any case, I would recommend that the heads of state and government on the European side accept an invitation if it is given,” Merz told the television station Bild TV. Merz described Gorbachev as a “stroke of luck for the Federal Republic of Germany”.
Although no state funeral is planned for Gorbachev, who is controversial because of his policy of detente and the end of the Soviet Union in Russia, there was sharp criticism of Merz’s demands from within his own ranks. The conservative publicist Andreas Püttmann emphasized: “This Merz is unbelievably lacking in instinct. With all due respect to Gorbachev, we live in the cruel present of a fascist-totalitarian Russia at war.”
There were general warnings that Putin could exploit foreign guests – or not let them enter at all.
Meanwhile, Putin himself created a historical photo document. On Thursday, he looked extremely cool at Gorbachev, who was laid out in an open coffin without a guard of honor in Moscow’s central hospital. Gorbachev died there. The man who started a major war in Europe, at the coffin of the man who ended the Cold War.
Russian state television showed pictures of Putin laying down red roses and staying by the coffin for some time. Then he bows, places his hand on the coffin and makes the sign of the cross. Putin will not attend the funeral on Saturday. There are scheduling difficulties, the President is in Kaliningrad, said government spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He explained that Putin had already paid tribute to Gorbachev.
In addition, Peskov said the funeral would contain “elements” of a state funeral. This includes an honor guard. In addition, the state will help with the organization. In Russia, nationalist circles and large sections of the population hold Gorbachev responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union, which Putin sees as a geopolitical catastrophe. His war against Ukraine is an attempt to rebuild imperial Russia – and reverse history.