Ex-Soviet minister and Georgia leader Shevardnadze buried

by Reuters
Sunday, 13 July 2014 17:22 GMT

By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI, July 13 (Reuters) - Eduard Shevardnadze, who as Soviet Foreign Minister helped bring down the Berlin Wall and end the Cold War, was buried in his native Georgia on Sunday.

Shevardnadze, who was 86, died on Monday after a long illness. He went on to lead Georgia in the stormy early years after independence before being ousted in street protests.

Around 30 foreign dignitaries joined Georgian community and business leaders, government ministers and family for a funeral service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the capital Tbilisi, where his coffin had been lying in state since Friday.

The flag-draped coffin was carried from the Cathedral by men wearing long black coats, or chokas, past a military honour guard lining the road.

The coffin was then driven in a motorcade to a hill-top residence where Shevardnadze was buried next to his wife following an Orthodox funeral ceremony.

Loved by some but hated by others after bringing stability to Georgia but failing to tackle widespread corruption, Shevardnadze had spent most of his final years at the residence.

One of those who attended the funeral was former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, or 'Jim' as Shevardnadze called him. Their friendship helped to shape the post-Cold War era.

"We are gathered here today in God's house to express our respect and our admiration for a man who helped shape his country, Europe and indeed the world," Baker said at the ceremony. "The world needs leaders like Eduard Shevardnadze."

His West German counterpart in the late 1980s, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, also attended the service.

"Dear friend, thank you for what you have done for Europe and what you have done for our people," Genscher said.

As Soviet foreign minister, Shevardnadze oversaw a thaw in ties with the West and was one of the intellectual fathers of "perestroika" (restructuring)- the reform policy which Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said was conceived during a stroll along the shores of the Black Sea with his Georgian comrade.

In the post-Soviet landscape, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia to become president and brought some stability to the republic after a period of anarchy, when protesters toting Kalashnikovs prowled the streets.

He was toppled in the country's 2003 Rose Revolution, which was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, unceremoniously bundled out of parliament by his minders when it was stormed by protesters. (Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)

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