Great funerals in recent history

2013-03-08 22:03
The flag-draped coffin containing the body of Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez is taken from the hospital where he died. (Ricardo Mazalan, AP)

The flag-draped coffin containing the body of Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez is taken from the hospital where he died. (Ricardo Mazalan, AP)

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Caracas - With hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans expected to attend, president Hugo Chavez's state funeral on Friday is likely to be one of the biggest gatherings ever of respect for an important world figure:

The Americas:

- In Argentina, the funeral of Eva (Evita) Peron, who died aged 33 on 26 July 1952, brought the country to a standstill. Her funeral, which brought out some two million people in the capital, lasted 16 days.

On the death of president Juan Peron, on 1 July 1974, a crowd filed past his coffin and a million people converged in the centre of the capital Buenos Aires for his funeral.

And in February 1936, a 5km-long cortege of hundreds of thousands of people accompanied the funeral procession of singer Carlos Gardel.

- In Washington, in November 1963, more than one million people paid a silent homage at the state funeral of president John F Kennedy who had been assassinated.


- In April 2005, the funeral of Pope John Paul II brought more than a million worshippers to St Peter's Square in Rome. Gatherings took place around the world, notably at Krakow in John Paul's homeland Poland, where some 800 000 people prayed and watched the funeral on giant screens.

- In Britain, in September 1997, the country came to a standstill and hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of London for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris.

- The deaths of leaders from the former communist bloc in Eastern Europe have also been the occasions of great outpourings of national grief. In March 1953, some five million Soviet citizens filed past the coffin of Joseph Stalin, followed by a funeral which brought more than a million people into the streets of Moscow.


- In India, in September 1997, the streets of Calcutta filled with more than a million people saying their farewells to Mother Teresa, the frail Albanian nun who became a living legend for her work among the poorest in the city's slums.

In 1948, some two million turned out to witness the cremation of Mahatma Gandhi, the day after his assassination. Prime Minister Pandit Nehru was accompanied on his final journey by more than a million of his subjects in May 1964. The funeral of his daughter, Indira Gandhi, also prime minister, drew more than a million mourners 20 years later.

- In China, in September 1976, 800 million people stopped work during the funeral of Mao Zedong, the Great Leader, whose funeral was attended by a crowd of a million packed into Beijing's central Tiananmen Square.

- In July 1994, the funeral of the founder of communist North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, led to scenes of unprecedented mass grief in the streets of Pyongyang. Two million people bowed to the funeral cortege, according to North Korean media. South Korean observers put the number at more than a million.

In December 2011, hundreds of thousands lined the streets of Pyongyang, sobbing and wailing for the funeral of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-Il.

The Middle East:

- In the Arab world, the funerals of political leaders often give rise to massive crowds.

In October 1970, the streets of the Egyptian capital Cairo were swamped with millions of grief-stricken mourners for the funeral procession of president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

- In Tehran on June 6 1989 collective hysteria reigned when perhaps as many as 10 million, according to the IRNA news agency, lined the streets for the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, the father of the Iranian Islamic republic.

- In November 1995, a million Israelis and hundreds of foreign dignitaries including many leaders from the Arab world, paid tribute to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by a right-wing gunman.

- On 12 November 2004, when the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was laid to rest in Ramallah, on the West Bank, scenes of great emotion saw a crowd of several thousand surge around the military helicopter bringing the body from Cairo, preventing his flag-draped coffin from being unloaded for some 20 minutes.

- But it was an artist, the Egyptian singer Oum Kalsoum, who brought out the biggest crowd in 1975, according to the Arab media, when several million people accompanied her coffin through the streets of Cairo.

Read more on:    hugo chavez  |  venezuela

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