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Soviets Brave Chill to View Leader's Body

March 12, 1985|Associated Press

MOSCOW — Soviet citizens lined up in freezing temperatures today to view the body of President Konstantin U. Chernenko, and soldiers chipped ice from gutters and scrubbed streets and sidewalks to prepare for his funeral.

The portrait of Mikhail S. Gorbachev, 54--chosen to succeed the 73-year-old Chernenko as Communist Party chief only four hours after the death announcement--dominated morning editions of the national Soviet newspapers, adding to the air of briskness that surrounded the swiftest transition in Soviet history.

Chernenko's photo was on the second pages. Starting with Vladimir I. Lenin in 1924, the death of a Soviet leader had been reported on the front page of every Soviet newspaper. Dailies like Pravda, the party organ, bordered the page in black and ran quarter-page photographs of the dead ruler.

This time, Chernenko's picture was on the second page, and it was half the customary size. Every newspaper ran a lead story on the front page announcing his death, but the rest of the front pages were devoted to Gorbachev, including a portrait and a story on the plenum at which he was formally named general secretary.

"It's so striking that he's on the front page, but once you've got a general secretary . . . he's it," a Western diplomat said.

Chernenko, who died Sunday night of lung, heart and liver ailments, ending a 13-month rule, is to be buried Wednesday under the cobblestones of Red Square.

Gorbachev led the nine other members of the ruling Politburo in viewing the body today, and offered his condolences to Chernenko's widow, Anna Dmitrievna.

Workers draped lampposts with black-trimmed flags and store windows replaced their regular displays with portraits of the departed leader. People lined up to view Chernenko's body as it lay in state in a flower-bedecked bier in the House of the Union.

Under gray, overcast skies, thousands of police and soldiers lined the streets between the Kremlin and the House of the Union.

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