April 24, 2007 / 2:50 PM / 13 years ago

Yeltsin resting place a break with Soviet past

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Boris Yeltsin, the first president of an independent Russia, will be buried on Wednesday in a quiet corner of Moscow far from the Red Square resting place of previous Kremlin leaders like Lenin and Stalin.

Yeltsin’s death on Monday from heart failure created a protocol headache because Russia has never before buried a head of state from its brief history as a sovereign nation.

The problem in arrangements is of Yeltsin’s own making, since he helped tear down the communist state in 1991.

The site chosen for his burial is the Novodevichye cemetery, near a Russian Orthodox monastery on the banks of the Moskva river and about 5 km (3 miles) from the Kremlin.

Roads outside the cemetery were closed off in preparation for Yeltsin’s burial on Wednesday. Workmen were laying new tarmac and cleaning the grass verges.

Most previous heads of state in the past 90 years, including Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, have been buried in or under the Kremlin wall. The embalmed body of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin is still in a mausoleum nearby.

The Novodevichye cemetery is reserved for distinguished Russians but the only former Soviet leader buried there was Nikita Khrushchev — denied a place on Red Square because he died in disgrace after being removed from power in 1964.

Yeltsin will be laid to rest alongside high-profile figures who in their lifetime were adversaries of the country’s first post-Soviet president.

These include Raisa Gorbacheva, widow of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin effectively forced Gorbachev to quit as Soviet president.

Yeltsin’s successor as president, Vladimir Putin, declared Wednesday a day of national mourning and delayed a scheduled state of the nation address by 24 hours until Thursday.

Diplomats in Moscow were scrambling to decide the appropriate level of representation at the funeral.

Serving leaders of neighboring ex-Soviet states are expected to attend, including Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. Russian media reported that former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush are also due to fly in to Moscow.

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