Monthly Archives: December 2013

The August Coup, 1991


Boris Yeltsin urging resistance against the August Coup

With the election of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, the Soviet Union looked like it was on a path of reform on all levels, from economic to political to social.  Obviously, hard lined Soviets would be opposed to such reforms and changes in the Soviet Union that they have already obtained power in and have become accustomed to.  At this time, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Estonia had already declared independence from the Soviet Union, and the SU itself was experiencing food shortages and a shrinking economy.  One of the most influential tipping points that caused this coup was the idea of the new Union Treaty, which would create a federation of independent soviet states, that only had a common foreign policy, military, and president.  After finding that eight of the nine republics, not including the Ukraine, had all agreed to sign the treaty, hard liners high up in the Soviet government felt that they had to do something to prevent this from happening.

These hard liners, who consisted of the minister of defense, the minister of the interior, and the head of the KGB, just to name a few, drew up a referendum that placed Gennady Yanayev, the vice president, as acting president of the SU since Gorbachev was “unable to perform his duties”.  At the time, Gorbachev was sick and trying to recover at his holiday home, when this group of eight showed up to his residence and asked him to sign off on a state of emergency to maintain stability in Moscow and the rest of the SU.  Gorbachev refused and the group of rebels returned to Moscow, taking over the radio and newspapers, and preparing for an attack on the White House, which was used by the Supreme Soviet of Russia.  The attack was fended off with barricades and a lack of support for the coup.  Ultimately, those responsible for the coup were arrested within the next 48 hours, and Gorbachev remained in power.

This failed coup, a shrinking economy, push for reform, and an ever growing number of Soviet states declaring independence with no attempt to retake them eventually lead to the end of the Soviet Union four months later on December 24th, when it was announced that Mikhail Gorbachev would step down as acting president and the Russian Federation would replace the Soviet Union in the UN and take over the Soviet Union as the acting government body.

I really find this post as a beautiful culmination of events that continuously built upon each other  towards the dissolution of the original Soviet ideal and its purpose.  It seems that, at least in my opinion, that once the SU reached the Khrushchev Era, the policies to come seemed to be overly reform like, causing Soviet States to try and separate or support these changes, or way to authoritative, like the Brezhnev years, where rights and liberties were restricted and violence, both domestically and abroad, was more rampant.  It seems that the Soviet Union was a successful government for the generation that called for it and established it, and a poor one for those who inherited it and tried to reform it to an ever changing global and domestic society.