TBILISI: Georgia on Sunday held ceremonies to bury Eduard Shevardnadze, a former Soviet diplomat hailed internationally for helping to end the Cold War but a controversial president at home. Hundreds of people flocked to Tbilisi’s Trinity Cathedral to pay their last respects to Shevardnadze, who died on Monday aged 86. He was later buried next to his wife at his home in the city.
Shevardnadze was the Soviet Union’s last foreign minister, praised by world leaders for his role in negotiating a bloodless end to Moscow’s long confrontation with the West. At home, however, he came to be despised for the more than decade he spent at the helm of post-Soviet Georgia, which ended with him being overthrown in 2003. In a traditional Georgian Orthodox ceremony, Shevarnadze’s coffin was draped with the national flag and surrounded by flowers in the centre of the cathedral accompanied by his son, daughter and grandchildren, wearing black and holding long candles. Dignitaries from 28 countries attended the funeral, including former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and former US secretary of state James Baker. “Georgia would not be free today without Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikhail Gorbachev,” the last president of the Soviet Union before its breakup in 1991, Baker said. A procession later left for Shevardnadze’s house in Tbilisi. Georgia’s former leader died on July 7 after retiring from politics in the wake of the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003, which installed a more pro-Western regime headed by his nemesis Mikheil Saakashvili. He is credited to have been instrumental, along with Gorbachev, in brokering a deal that brought down the Berlin Wall, but was a polarising figure in Georgia after leaving his country mired in poverty and chaos.
“Shevardnadze made some important mistakes but his role in history is still very important,” mourner 56-year-old Natela Adamia said.
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