TBILISI: Georgia yesterday held ceremonies to bury Eduard Shevardnadze, a former Soviet diplomat hailed internationally for helping end the Cold War but a controversial president
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 capital.
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 after more than a decade at the helm of post-Soviet Georgia, which ended with him being overthrown in 2003.
In a traditional Georgian Orthodox ceremony, Shevardnadze’s coffin was draped with the national flag and surrounded by flowers.
His son, daughter and grandchildren sat in the front row as well as Georgia’s top politicians, all wearing black and holding long candles. “I would like to thank everyone for sharing our pain,” said the late statesman’s son Paata Shevardnadze.
“Countries’ histories are made by heroes and by people who can foresee the world’s future. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Eduard Shevardnadze was both,” he said.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and President Giorgi Margvelashvili were among the mourners. “The elimination of the death penalty is linked to his name,” Margvelashvili said as he paid tribute to his predecessor.
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,
“Dear friend Eduard... thank you for what you did for Europe, thank you what you did for our people,” Genscher said.
Georgia’s former leader, who died on July 7, had lived a quiet life after stepping down in the wake of the so-called Rose Revolution in 2003. AFP