Former president Nikolai Podgorny was buried with state honors today as speakers hailed his services to the Soviet state without mentioning his political disgrace in 1977.
Although the funeral at the Novodyevichi cemetery was modest compared to elaborate Red Square ceremonies for other top Kremlin officials, it was the first time that a disgraced ex-leader was laid to rest with full honors.
Alexei Shitikov, head of one of the legislative houses, praised Podgorny for his significant contributions and said his memory "will long remain in our hearts." A deputy premier of the Ukraine also spoke before the open red-and-black coffin.
About 250 friends, relatives and officials attended the ceremony for the man who was head of state from 1965 to 1977. There were wreaths from the Communist Party's Central Committee and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.
As the cortege made its way through the cemetery, a small brass band played a funeral march. After the body was lowered into the grave, the band played the Soviet national anthem.
Supreme Soviet aides carried Podgorny's decorations and other honors to the grave site, where they were placed under his photograph. Although the funeral was not open to the public, journalists were allowed to attend.
Podgorny's death Tuesday at 79 was announced Wednesday on the front page of the government newspaper Izvestia. He was referred to as former chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the titular chief of state.
When former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev died in 1971, the announcement of his death was contained in one sentence on the inside pages of Pravda. No titles were mentioned and he was refered to as "private pensioner N.S. Khrushchev." No Soviet political personalities attended his funeral, also at the Novodyevichi cemetery.
Podgorny owed his political rise to Khrushchev. Following Khrushchev's ouster in 1964, he, premier Alexei Kosygin and party leader Leonid Brezhnev formed the ruling triumvirate known as the troika--firmly establishing that Russian word, for a three-horse chariot, in the English language.
Podgorny was dismissed from the Politburo in 1977, apparently after a confrontation with Brezhnev when the latter sought to add the presidency to his powerful party post. Podgorny is reported to have refused to step aside gracefully, leading to the disgrace.