State funeral

The coffin of John Curtin, the 14th Prime Minister of Australia, lying in state inside King's Hall, Old Parliament House, Canberra on July 6, 1945

A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honour people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition. Generally, state funerals are held in order to involve the general public in a national day of mourning after the family of the deceased gives consent. A state funeral will often generate mass publicity from both national and global media outlets.






South Africa





Almost three million people attended Eva Perón's funeral in the streets of Buenos Aires.
State funeral of Néstor Kirchner at Casa Rosada.

In 1952 Eva Perón died at age 33. She had the title of Spiritual Leader of the Nation of Argentina, a title granted by the Congress of Argentina. Nearly three million people covered the funeral of Evita in the streets of Buenos Aires. A radio broadcast interrupted the broadcasting schedule, with the announcer reading, "The Press Secretary's Office of the Presidency of the Nation fulfills its very sad duty to inform the people of the Republic that at 20:25 hours Mrs. Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation, died." Eva Perón was granted a state funeral and a full Roman Catholic requiem mass.[1] On 9 August, Saturday, the body was then transferred to the Congress Building for an additional day to be publicly viewed. On Sunday, 10 August, after a final Sunday mass, the coffin was laid atop on a gun carriage pulled by CGT officials. Following next was Juan Perón, his cabinet, Eva's family and friends, the delegates and representatives of the Partido Peronista Femenino, then workers, nurses and students of the Eva Perón Foundation. Passing her coffin through the streets was showered with carnations, orchids, chrysanthemums, wallflowers and roses thrown from the balconies nearby.

Juan Perón died at age 78 on July 1, 1974, after his health would be aggravated. The Vice President, saying the country was announced "with great sorrow I must convey to the people of Argentina the death of this true apostle of peace and nonviolence." After several days of national mourning, in which the body lay in state at the Argentine National Congress for hundreds of thousands of people, the remains were moved to a crypt in the Quinta de Olivos Presidential. On November 17, 1974 the remains of Evita. While the body was in Congress, filed past the coffin 135,000 people, out of more than a million Argentines lost their bid farewell to their leader. Two thousand foreign journalists reported the details of the funeral.

Raul Alfonsín died at age 82 on 31 March 2009, due to lung cancer and then his health would be aggravated, in his last days, broncoaspirativa pneumonia. Argentina's government declared three days of national mourning for the death and his remains were veiled from the early hours of April 1, 2009 in the Blue Room of the National Congress, which was attended also by authorities and politicians of different parties an estimated 80,000 people had to wait in line for five to six hours. Among the political authorities who attended the event were former presidents Carlos Menem, Eduardo Duhalde, Fernando De la Rua and Nestor Kirchner, President Cristina Fernandez was unable to attend because they were in the G-20 London but sent its condolences. The next day they were taken to a military gun carriage escorted by the Mounted Grenadiers Regiment at Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. The remains of former President rested temporarily in the vault of the fallen in the Revolution of the Park until 16 May were transferred to a single monument in the cemetery in a place built of gray and beige marble, where there is a cross on top and a bright stained glass by entering a glimmer.

Argentina's former President and Secretary General of UNASUR, Néstor Kirchner, died of heart failure on the morning of 27 October 2010 at the Jose Formenti hospital in El Calafate, Santa Cruz Province at the age of 60.[2] Although there was some effort made to revive him, it did not do so[3] His wife, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was present with him when he died.[4] He was also expected to run for president in 2011.[5]


A state funeral was held on November 3, 2010 in Bridgetown for former Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson.[6]


State funeral of José Alencar, former Vice President of Brazil, at the Planalto Palace, Brasília.

State funerals were held for the president-elect of Brazil, Tancredo Neves, who died before taking office. The former vice-president of Brazil, José Alencar, was also buried with a head of state's honor, after his passing due to cancer. Other than heads of state, personalities such as the Formula 1 racing champion Ayrton Senna, dead in 1994 after a crash during a race, and the architect Oscar Niemeyer, who died in 2012 at the age of 104.


In Canada, state funerals are public events held to commemorate the memory of present and former governors general, present and former prime ministers, sitting members of the Ministry (the Privy Council) and other prominent Canadians at the discretion of the Prime Minister. With ceremonial, military, and religious elements incorporated, state funerals are offered and executed by the Government of Canada which provides a dignified manner for the Canadian people to mourn a national public figure.

In 2006, the House of Commons voted unanimously, on a motion introduced by the NDP, to hold a state funeral when the last Canadian veteran of the First World War died. However, John Babcock, after becoming the last surviving veteran, stated that he did not feel the need to be honoured in such a way.

In August 2011, in a rare circumstance, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a state funeral for his political adversary and Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton. Layton died of cancer three months after his New Democratic Party became the official opposition, for the first time in his party's history.

In 2014, former finance minister Jim Flaherty received a state funeral after his death.


Crispin Sorhaindo, former President of Dominica, was given a state funeral on January 18, 2010 in Roseau.[7]


On November 16, 2016, the state funeral of former President of Ecuador Sixto Durán Ballén was held in Quito.[8]


On March 16, 2012, a state funeral was held in St. George's for former Grenadian Prime Minister George Ignatius Brizan.[9]


Legendary reggae singer Bob Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy[10][11] and Rastafari tradition.[12]

On July 18, 2004, a state funeral was held for former Jamaican Prime Minister Hugh Shearer in Kingston.[13]


Novelist Carlos Fuentes received a state funeral on May 16, 2012, with his funeral cortege briefly stopping traffic in Mexico City. The ceremony was held in the Palacio de Bellas Artes and was attended by President Felipe Calderón.[14]

State funerals have also been held for former Mexican presidents. Traditionally, the final funeral services for a former Mexican president is held at either the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral or Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The services are attended by the former president's family, the current President of Mexico, the Head of Government of the Federal District and their families, foreign heads of state or their representatives (usually a foreign ambassador, vice president, prime minister or premier), military officials, Senators and Deputies, and other dignitaries. The principal celebrant of the service is usually the Archbishop of Mexico City, and traditionally the President and the Head of Government of the Federal District deliver the final eulogies and remarks.

On the days leading to a Presidential state funeral, the Mexican flags are at half-mast, and the Olympic cauldron at Estadio Olimpico Universitario is lit until the funeral services have ended. The day of the Presidential funeral, if held in Mexico City, is usually the national day of mourning; there is no mail to be delivered on that day, all schools and colleges in Mexico City are closed, and all television and motion picture studios in Mexico City, and with them the studios of Televisa and TV Azteca affiliates across Mexico, are closed to audiences and tours. All business, including shopping centers and entertainment facilities, in Mexico City are closed; stores and theaters that are part of regional and national chains headquartered in Mexico City are closed.

The most recent Presidential funeral was that of Miguel de la Madrid, which was attended by thousands of dignitaries including President Calderon and Head of Government of the Federal District Marcelo Ebrard.

St Lucia

Sir William George Mallet GCSL GCMG CBE (July 24, 1923 – October 20, 2010) received a State Funeral on October 28, 2010 in the capital Castries. Mallet was a politician who held a number of high offices in Saint Lucia, one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles in the Eastern Caribbean. On June 1, 1996, "Sir George" was appointed to the office of Governor General of St Lucia.

The Bahamas

On September 4, 2000, a state funeral was held in Nassau for former Bahamian Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling.[15] On January 5, 2012, a state funeral was held in Nassau for former Bahamian Governor-General Sir Clifford Darling.[16]

United States

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, lying in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda as spectators and mourners file past his flag draped casket on June 10, 2004.

In the United States, state funerals are held in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and involve military spectacle, ceremonial pomp, and religious observance. As the highest possible honor bestowed upon a person posthumously, state funerals are an entitlement offered to a sitting or ex-President of the United States, a President-elect, as well as other people designated by the President.[17][18] Administered by the Military District of Washington (MDW), state funerals are greatly influenced by protocol, steeped in tradition, and rich in history. However, the overall planning as well as the decision to hold a state funeral, is largely determined by the President before his death and the First Family.[19]

State funerals have been held in Washington D.C. for William Henry Harrison (1841),[20] Zachary Taylor (1850),[20] Abraham Lincoln (1865),[21] Thaddeus Stevens (1868),[22] James A. Garfield (1881),[20] William McKinley (1901),[20] Warren Harding (1920),[20] the Unknown Soldier of World War I (1921),[23] William Howard Taft (1930),[24] John J. Pershing (1948),[25] the Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War (1958),[26] John F. Kennedy (1963),[27] Douglas MacArthur (1964),[28] Herbert Hoover (1964),[29] Dwight D. Eisenhower (1969),[30] Lyndon B. Johnson (1973),[31] Ronald Reagan (2004),[32] and Gerald Ford (2006-2007).[33]



In Australia, Commonwealth (federal) state funerals are generally offered to former governors-general, prime ministers and long-serving members of the Parliament of Australia. In rare occasions a Commonwealth state funeral is offered to people outside politics but who made a significant contribution to the nation, for example Sir Douglas Mawson was granted a Commonwealth state funeral in 1958, as was AFL footballer Jim Stynes in 2012.[34] A Commonwealth state funeral was offered for Margaret Whitlam but the Whitlam family declined.[35]

Military state funerals are offered to former senior officers of the Australian Defence Force, for example Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey, and sometimes given to governors-general, prime ministers, state governors and state premiers who had previous military service. The Unknown Soldier was given a Commonwealth military state funeral on 11 November 1993 before being interned in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial. In the early years of the 21st century, military state funerals were offered to the last few World War I veterans.

New South Wales

State funerals held in NSW are subject to a policy operated since 1966. Governors, Chief Justices, premiers, and long-term ministers are generally offered a state funeral. However the premier of NSW can offer such a service for those determined to be distinguished citizens of NSW. For example, soccer player Johnny Warren was given a state funeral in NSW. Where the family of the dead person does not wish to have a state funeral, the offer of a state memorial service will be considered.

Some former governors who had previous military service were given military state funerals, for example Rear Admiral Sir David Martin and Air Marshal Sir James Rowland.

On 27 November 2007, Bernie Banton, a campaigner for asbestos victims who worked for James Hardie, lost his battle with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related disease. His family was offered a state funeral by NSW premier Morris Iemma.


Current and former Governors, Premiers, deputy premiers, speakers of the Legislative Assembly, chief justices of the Supreme Court, presidents of the Court of Appeal and current members of the members of the Executive Council are automatically eligible for a state funeral.[36] It is the prerogative of the premier of the day to offer a state funeral to other prominent Queenslanders. A state funeral was offered for TV celebrity Steve Irwin in September 2006 but his family declined the offer.


State funerals are generally offered to former governors, premiers and other senior public officials. At the discretion of the premier, a state funeral can be offered to other prominent Victorians, for example broadcaster Peter Evans (1985), Australian Rules football player Ted Whitten (1995), race-car driver Peter Brock (2006), actor Charles 'Bud' Tingwell (2009), and former Australian Rules football player and charity worker Jim Stynes (2012).[37] Explorers Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills received Victoria's first (and Australia's first) state funeral on 21 January 1863.[38]

South Australia

State funerals are generally offered to former Governors, Premiers, Deputy Premiers, Speakers of the House of Assembly, Chief Justices and other senior public officials.

Western Australia

The offer of a state funeral is a decision of the Cabinet.


State funerals are generally offered to former Governors, Premiers, Deputy Premiers, Speakers of the House of Assembly, Chief Justices and other senior public officials.

Australian Capital Territory

The offer of a state funeral is at the discretion of the Chief Minister. People who have received state funerals include former chief minister Trevor Kaine, Supreme Court judge Terry Connolly and former chairman of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority Jim Pead.


Cambodia held state funerals for the following people:

Republic of China

According to the Act of State Funeral (1948), state funerals are declared by presidential order after a majority vote in the Legislative Yuan. The national flag shall be flown at half-mast on the day of the state funeral.

State funerals (or equivalent) were arranged for the following persons:

By the Parliament of the Republic of China
By the Canton Military Government
By the Nanking Nationalist Government
By the Government of Republic of China

Hong Kong

British Hong Kong

Prior to 1997, in British Hong Kong, Edward Youde was given Hong Kong's first state funeral in 1986.[39] The casket was carried by ten guardsmen, draped in the Union Flag,[40] and a 17-gun salute from HMS Tamar (shore station) was fired. The funeral was exceptionally well attended.

Hong Kong post-1997

Since 1997, only three people from Hong Kong have been allowed to have the flag of the People's Republic of China draped on their coffin during their funeral:

Funerals using a SAR flag are not deemed state funerals in Hong Kong.

Uniform services also provide funerals for fallen members. Flags of the specific service or the SAR flag maybe used on the coffin. Escort maybe provided by Hong Kong Police to Gallant Garden. For police funerals the force's pipe band, police vehicles (to transport the body) and pallbearers are used.


In India, State funerals were initially reserved only for current and former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Union ministers and State Chief Ministers. And the decision to accord a state funeral rested initially with the union government. But laws have been changed such that the state government can now decide who will be given a state funeral, depending on the stature of the deceased. If the union government has decided for a state funeral then following procedures will be applied to all over India, else if the state government has declared a state funeral then it applies only to the state.

The government takes into consideration the contribution made by the person to the state in various fields like politics, literature, law, science and arts. The chief minister of the concerned state takes a decision after consultations with other cabinet ministers. Once a decision is taken on the issue, it is conveyed to senior police officials including the deputy commissioner, the police commissioner and the superintendent of police, who have to make all the arrangements for a state funeral.

During a State funeral,

State funerals were organized for the following India's Prime Ministers who died in office:

Personalities who received a state funeral who were not current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers or Union Ministers are:

It is also to be noted that in the event of death of either the Head of the State or Head of the Government of a foreign country the Indian Mission accredited to that country may fly the national flag at half-mast. In the case of Pope John Paul II, India declared a three-day official mourning period.


A state funeral was arranged for the military ceremony on their deathbed on the respective date:



In Japan, before the Second World War, a state funeral was performed when an Imperial edict is issued. Since then, funerals of the Emperor and the other members of the Imperial Family were privately organized, and only certain portions of the funeral involved the state.

Formal state funeral

Funeral where the state is involved

New Zealand

People draped in the New Zealand flag at the Auckland Domain as the hearse carrying Sir Edmund Hillary's coffin drives past during his state funeral.

Traditionally, state funerals are reserved for all former Governors-General, as well as Prime Ministers who die in office, such as John Ballance in 1893, Joseph Ward in 1930[43] and Michael Joseph Savage in 1940.[44] The funeral of John Ballance occurred in Whanganui after a lying in state in the New Zealand Parliament and a rail journey from Wellington. It was a Masonic funeral carried out at the Whanganui cemetery where he was interred.[45] Both funerals of Ward and Savage were held in Sacred Heart Cathedral adjacent to the New Zealand Parliament.[44] In the case of Savage, his body lay in state in the Parliament building, where 50,000 people filed past it, before the Requiem Mass at the Cathedral.[44] Others to receive state funerals include Sir Frederic Truby King (1937) who founded the Plunket Society, the unidentified victims of the Tangiwai rail disaster (1953),[46] Victoria Cross recipient Jack Hinton (1997),[47] the mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary (2008)[48] and the Unknown Warrior whose reinterment (from the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on the Somme in France) took place on Armistice Day, 11 November 2004 and whose tomb at the New Zealand National War Memorial represents all New Zealand soldiers who died in war.[49] The offer of a state funeral was refused by the family of former Prime Minister David Lange.[50]


The Philippines held state funerals for the following people:


A state funeral was arranged for the following people on their deathbed on the respective date:

Another type of funeral in Singapore is a state-assisted funeral. Similar to a state funeral, the deceased may or may not be entitled to a ceremonial gun carriage, though he/she does not lie in state in the Istana. Such funerals are accorded to:

South Korea


See also: Buddhist funeral and Antyesti for more information

State funerals in Thailand are a mix of the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Generally, state funerals for lay Buddhists who served in the government, the armed forces and the police and the Buddhist clergy, as well as for members and relatives of the Royal Family of Thailand (as may be granted by the government) start with the traditional bathing of the body of the decreased and then putting it in gold funeral urns or phra kot (as was the case during the state funeral for HRH Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda and in the tradition of former kings of Thailand and deceased members of the royal family) or, as in the cases of HRH Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother, HRH Galyani Vadhana, the Princess of Naradhiwas, and HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), gold coffins in the manner of Western royals, heads of state and members of the government, the military and police as well as the placing of a golden death mask (only for royal funerals of the King) and the embalming process. As the government (and for royal funerals, the Bureau of the Royal Household) declares a mourning period, all national flags are flown half-mast nationwide and in Thai embassies and establishments abroad for a specific period, and yet again on the cremation days, while TV and radio programming are replaced by special programs as for a specific time period.[57][58]

For government officials and distinguished armed forces and police personnel, as well as religious leaders, their lying-in-state is in Wat Ratchanatdaram or in other major Bangkok Buddhist temples (as well as in major provincial temples) while the Grand Palace's Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall serves the same purpose for royalty. While the lying-in-state for government officials and retired military and police personnel last from either 2 weeks to 5–7 months, the royal lying-in-state (as well as the lying-in-state for senior members of the Buddhist clergy) can last from 6–8 months to a whole year (for royals) or two for the Buddhist clergy, with Buddhist services led by monks with prayers made while using the bhusa yong or memorial ribbon attached to the urn held 3 to 4 times a day with chanting by 4 monks (for lay funerals) or 8 for royal and clergical funerals also being performed. During the period for royal funeral services, the Sanam Luang Royal Plaza is where the Royal Family and the BRH supervise the building of a temporary royal crematorium complex where the state cremation will be held and the traditional prakom yumyam or ceremonial music will be played by the Traditional Band of the Royal Family of Thailand and the Piphat Ensemble of the Royal Family every 3 hours on weekdays and weekends of the first 172 days of the lying-in-state and twice daily until the services end. During the prayer services, food is served beforehand to the monks presiding.[59] At the royal funeral lying-in-state, candles are lit as a sign of remembrance.

When the 100-day mark for state funerals is reached special commemorative books, pamphlets and flyers containing Buddhist doctrines and on the funeral service are commissioned and special services are held.

Once everything is set for cremation as per Buddhist and Hindu customs, the cremation proper begins with one final late-night service for the decreased officially kicking off the state cremation services. At the same time, invitations are sent for those attending and special books published, and the public, just like during the designated mourning period, wears black or white dresses. Differences occur for the funeral procession and cremation process.

See also: Highlights of the state cremation service of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, the Princess of Naradhiwas, in November of 2008

While the tradition of burning the urn in the pyre itself was last done in 1995, the carriages used in the royal cremation ceremonies date back to the 1790s during the reign of King Rama I and were restored many times since then. The carriages are stored at the Bangkok National Museum pending future royal cremations.


A state funeral was arranged for the following people on their deathbed on the respective date:

In Vietnam, in a State Funeral, all national flags at governmental agencies worldwide, including public schools, hospitals, etc., will be tied to the pole by a black piece of cloth with the length equaling to the length of the flag, and the width equaling to one tenth of the flag, and the flag will be flown at half mast. Finally all entertainment are officially suspended within the days of the State Funeral (however this rule isn't always followed).



State funeral in Belgium needs three conditions: playing the national anthem, the presence of the king or one of his representative and the presence of the national flag on the coffin. State funerals was held for all the kings and queens of Belgium, for some royal family members, and for former prime ministers.


On 29 August 1945, two years after the German occupation force in Denmark had dissolved the Danish army and navy, a state funeral was held for 106 killed members of the Danish resistance at their execution site which was thus inaugurated as the memorial cemetery that would later become Ryvangen Memorial Park. While flags were flying half-mast throughout Copenhagen 106 hearses drove from the Christiansborg Riding Grounds through the city to Ryvangen, where bishop Hans Fuglsang-Damgaard led the funeral with participation from the royal family, the government and representatives of the resistance movement.[61]

Czech Republic

A state funeral was held for the former President Václav Havel in 2011.


In Finland state funerals are primarily reserved for former presidents but the honour has been granted to long-serving prime ministers, speakers of the parliament and other distinguished citizens as well. In the 1990s the criterion for awarding a person a state funeral was considerably specified, as not to diminish the prestige of the affair.

79 people have been awarded the honour of state funeral, among them:


The state funerals (obsèques nationales) are awarded by decree of the President of the French Republic to especially eminent Frenchmen and women. It was held for writers Victor Hugo (1885), Maurice Barrès (1923), Paul Valéry (1945), Colette (1954) et Aimé Césaire (2008),[62] Generals Jacques Leclerc (1947),[63] Giraud (1949)[64] et de Lattre de Tassigny (1952)[65] and politicians Georges Coulon (1912), Albert Lebrun (1951),[66] Léon Blum (1951)[67] et Édouard Herriot (1957)[68] An even higher honour is burial in the Panthéon de Paris.



State funeral of General Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa, his wife Emanuela Setti Carraro and agent Domenico Russo, assassinated by the Sicilian mafia on 3 September 1982. In the front row among others are President Sandro Pertini and Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini.

In Italy state funerals are granted[69] by law to the Presidents of the constitutional entities, such has the Presidency, the Parliament, the Government and the Constitutional Court, even after their terms have expired, and to Ministers who died during their term in office. State Funerals can also be granted, by decree of the Council of Ministers, to people who gave particular services to the country; to citizens that brought honor to the nation; or to citizens who died in the line of duty, or were victims of either terrorism, or organized crime.

The official protocol provides for[69]

For the funeral of the President or a former President the six members of the Carabinieri, who carry the coffin, belong to the special branch of the Corazzieri.

Public mourning, either national or local, is declared following the dispositions of the Prime Minister's decrees. The flags are flown at half-mast outside of public buildings, while inside they display two black ribbons, with the exceptions provided for military flags, when required by military protocol.[69] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives instructions to the Italian embassies and consulates around the world, and can ask the foreign embassies and consulates in Italy to fly their flags at half-mast.

If the departed held a public office, the body can lie in state in the building of the office's institution. In other cases it is followed the will of the family, the traditions of the office or the local customs.[69] The family of the departed chooses the place in which the funeral will take place, in consultations with the Government's Department of State Ceremonies.

Outside of the cases provided for by the protocol, for example during natural events that deeply impact the community, solemn funerals can be arranged[69] and the six people who carry the coffins are members of the Civil Protection.


State Funerals have been held for presidents, prime ministers and archbishops.

The last state funeral held for the President of Malta was that of Censu Tabone on March 2012.[70]

The last state funeral held for the Prime Minister of Malta was that of Dom Mintoff on August 2012.[71]


The royal funerals of Prince Claus, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard are the only royal funerals that were denoted state funerals; previous royal funerals were considered private affairs.[72][73] The only non-royal Dutchman who is considered to have received a state funeral was Joannes van Heutsz in 1927.[74]


Poland held a state funeral for President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife, Maria Kaczyńska, on April 18, 2010 after he and 95 others perished in a plane crash.


In Russia, during the time of the Soviet Union (1917-1991), the state funerals of the most senior political and military leaders were staged as massive events with millions of mourners all over the USSR. The ceremonies held after the deaths as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko all followed the same basic outline. They took place in Moscow, began with a public lying in state of the deceased in the House of the Unions and ended with an interment at the Red Square. The most notable examples of such state funerals during the Soviet period of Russian history are the ceremonies that were held for Lenin and Stalin, and for the death and funeral of Leonid Brezhnev.

The House of the Unions in Moscow

In the second half of the 20th century, whenever a General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union died, the event would first be officially acknowledged by Soviet radio and television. After several days of national mourning, the deceased would be given a state funeral and then buried. Soviet state funerals were often attended by foreign heads of state, heads of government, foreign ministers and other dignitaries from abroad. Following the death of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, there were five days of national mourning. Following the death of General Secretary Yuri Andropov in 1984, a four-day period of nationwide mourning was announced.

The state funeral for a deceased General Secretary would be arranged, managed and prepared by a special committee of the Communist Party that would be formed for the occasion. As the funeral committee would normally be chaired by the deceased's successor, the preparations for Soviet state funerals were usually followed with great interest by foreign political scientists trying to gauge power shuffles within the Communist Party. The allocation of responsibilities during the funeral, appointment of pallbearers and positions within the order of precedence observed during the televised funeral ceremonies in Moscow could often be interpreted as a clue for the future position of Politburo members within the Party. When, after Brezhnev's death in 1982, Yuri Andropov was elected chairman of the committee in charge of Brezhnev's funeral, this was seen as a first sign by First World commentators that Andropov might be the most likely candidate for the position of General Secretary.[75]

Prior to interment, the body of the deceased General Secretary would lie in state in the Pillar Hall of the House of the Unions which was decorated by numerous red flags and other communist symbols. The mourners, which usually would be brought in by the thousands, shuffled up a marble staircase beneath chandeliers draped in black gauze. On the stage at the left side of the Pillar Hall, amid a veritable garden of flowers, a full orchestra in black tailcoats would play classical music. The deceased's embalmed body, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and a tie, would be displayed in an open coffin on a catafalque banked with carnations, red roses and tulips, facing the long queue of mourners. A small guard of honour would be in attendance in the background. At the right side of the hall there would be placed seats for guests of honour, with the front row reserved for the dead leader's family.

On the day of the funeral, final ceremonies would be held at the Pillar Hall during which the lid of the coffin would be temporarily closed. The coffin would then be carried out of the House of the Unions and placed on a gun carriage drawn by a military vehicle. A funeral parade would then convey the coffin from the House of the Unions to the Red Square. Two officers led the funeral parade, carrying a large portrait of the deceased, followed by a group of numerous soldiers carrying red floral wreaths. A group of general officers would come next, carrying the late leader's decorations and medals on small red cushions. Behind them, the coffin rested atop a gun carriage. Walking immediately behind were the members of the deceased's family. The Politburo leaders, wearing red armbands, came next and led the last group of official mourners. At Brezhnev's funeral, the escort of official mourners included forty-four persons.

As the coffin reached the middle of the Red Square, it would be removed from the carriage and placed on a red-draped bier facing the Lenin Mausoleum, with its lid removed. After a series of funeral speeches, which were delivered by military and political leaders (typically including the deceased's successor as General Secretary, as well as 'ordinary' workers) from the balcony of the Lenin Mausoleum, the coffin would be carried in a procession around the mausoleum to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis just behind it. There, with the most senior mourners looking on, the coffin would be placed on a red-draped bier and the mourners would pay last respects. The coffin's lid would then be closed for the final time and the body lowered into the ground by two men, with handfuls of earth thrown onto the coffin by the senior mourners. The grave would be filled in immediately afterward, while the mourners were still present to watch. Gun salutes would be fired, sirens sounded around the Kremlin and the Soviet national anthem be played. This marked the end of the interment. The senior mourners would then return to the balcony of the Lenin Mausoleum to review a parade on Red Square while the military band would play quick marches. This concluded the state funeral.

With small deviations, the described protocol was roughly the same for the state funerals of Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. Lenin and Stalin were placed inside the Lenin Mausoleum while the others were interred in individual graves in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis located behind the mausoleum along the actual Kremlin wall. Stalin's body would lie beside Lenin's in the mausoleum until being moved to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis several years after his death.

In April 2007, Russian Federation's first President Boris Yeltsin was buried in state funeral after church ceremony at Novodevichy Cemetery. He was the first Russian leader and head of state in 113 years to be buried in a church ceremony, after Emperor Alexander III of Russia.


A state funeral was held for the former President Michal Kováč in 2016.

United Kingdom

A state or ceremonial funeral consists of a military procession where the coffin is borne on a gun carriage from the private resting chapel to Westminster Hall. In a state funeral the gun carriage is pulled by members of the Royal Navy. In a royal ceremonial funeral, the gun carriage is pulled by horses, as opposed to servicemen. The body usually lies in state in Westminster Hall for three days. This is then followed by a funeral service at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral. Many of the features of a state funeral are shared by other types of funerals—a royal ceremonial funeral (for example, that of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales) often has a lying in state and Westminster Abbey service. The real distinction between a state funeral and a royal ceremonial funeral is that a state funeral requires a motion or vote in Parliament. State funerals are usually reserved for sovereigns, though on rare occasions, they may be granted to distinguished citizens with exceptional contributions to the country. Other members of the royal family, or occasionally politicians, typically receive ceremonial funerals instead.

The most recent state funeral was that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. Although technically following her divorce from the Prince of Wales in 1996, Diana, Princess of Wales was no longer a member of the Royal Family, and as such not entitled to a state or ceremonial funeral, the large outpouring of public grief following her death led the Prime Minister Tony Blair to recommend a ceremonial funeral. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Baroness Margaret Thatcher also received ceremonial funerals.


A massive state funeral was held for the late President Josip Broz Tito on 8 May 1980 in Belgrade, the capital city of the SFR Yugoslavia. It was the largest funeral of a statesman in the 20th century, with 129 delegations from all around the world.Tito's funeral drew many statesmen to Belgrade. Notably absent statesmen from funeral were Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro. His death came in the moment when Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended American-Soviet détente. Yugoslavia, although a communist state, was non-aligned during the Cold War and fearful that the nation might be invaded like Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. After learning that Chinese Premier Hua Guofeng would lead the delegation of China, ailing Leonid Brezhnev decided to lead the Soviet delegation. In order to avoid meeting with Leonid Brezhnev and the middle of electoral campaign for the 1980 United States Presidential election, Carter opted to send his mother Lilian Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale as heads of the US delegation. After realizing that leaders of all Warsaw Pact nations would attend the funeral, Carter's decision was criticized by Presidential candidate George H. W. Bush as sign that the United States "inferentially slams Yugoslavs at time that country has pulled away from Soviet Union".[10] Carter visited Yugoslavia later in June 1980 and made a visit to Tito's grave.[11][12]

Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany was the most active statesman, meeting with Brezhnev, Erich Honecker and Edward Gierek. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sought to rally world leaders in order to harshly condemn the Soviet invasion.[citation needed] While she was in Belgrade, she held talks with Kenneth Kaunda, Schmidt, Francesco Cossiga and Nicolae Ceaușescu. Brezhnev met with Kim Il-sung and Honecker. James Callaghan, President of the British Labour Party explained his presence in Belgrade as attempt to warm relations between his party and Yugoslav communists, severed more than a decade ago after dissident Milovan Đilas was welcomed by Jennie Lee, Minister for the Arts under Harold Wilson. Mondale avoided Soviets, ignoring Brezhnev while passing close to him. Soviet and Chinese delegations also avoided each other.[citation needed]

Tito was interred on May 8 twice. First interment was for cameras and dignitaries. Grave was shallow with only 200 kg replica of sarcophagus. Second interment was held privately during the night.[citation needed] His coffin was removed, shallow grave was deepened. Coffin was enclosed with copper mask and interred again into much deeper grave which was sealed with cement and topped with a 9-ton sarcophagus.[citation needed] Communist officials were afraid that someone might steal the corpse, similarly to what happened to Charlie Chaplin. However, the 9 ton sarcophagus had to be put in place with a crane, which would make funeral unattractive.


Since proclaiming independence in 1991,by law the presidents and prime ministers are entitled to a funeral with state honors, but by a decision of government its possible for other senior officials and distinguished persons with great merit for the state to be buried with state honors. The largest state funeral was held in 2004 for President Boris Trajkovski and the funeral was attended by 47 foreign delegations.Аmong others that are buried with state honors,are the first prime minister of independent Macedonia Nikola Kljusev and the famous singer Toše Proeski.


See also


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Further reading

External links

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