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August 21, 1991

Discussion in '"Today in History", Literature & Media Review' started by Martin Antonenko, Aug 21, 2022.

  1. Martin Antonenko A Fixture

    The coup against Gorbachev collapses!

    August 19, 1991...:

    In the early morning, the Soviet news agency TASS reported that Soviet head of state and party leader Mikhail Gorbachev was ill and could no longer carry out his official duties. Vice-President Gennady Janayev took over his powers.


    In reality, meanwhile, Gorbachev is under house arrest at his holiday dacha in Crimea and is being guarded by members of the KGB. His 30-strong bodyguard team remains loyal.

    Yanayev declares a state of emergency. An eight-strong “emergency committee” assumes power.

    The "Committee" includes:
    • Gennady Ivanovich Yanayev, Vice President of the USSR
    • Dmitry Timofeevich Yazov, Minister of Defence
    • Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov, Chairman of the KGB
    • Valentin Sergeyevich Pavlov, Prime Minister
    • Boris Karlovich Pugo, Minister of the Interior
    • Oleg Dmitrievich Baklanov, member of the CPSU Central Committee
    • Vasily Alexandrovich Starodubtsev, Chairman of the Peasant Union
    • Alexander Ivanovich Tisyakov

    Other co-initiators of the coup include:
    • Valentin Varennikov, Army General, Deputy Defense Minister, previously Commander-in-Chief of
    the 40th Army in Afghanistan
    • Oleg Shenin, full member of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
    • Valery Boldin, head of department in the Central Committee of the CPSU
    • Yuri Plekhanov, KGB general and head of the security services

    During the first press conference of the "Northern Committee" the heavily intoxicated Yanayev trembled like a leaf!


    Demonstrations and parties are banned and the media censored. In the late morning the first tanks of the "Taman Division" arrive in the center of Moscow.


    Around 10 a.m., several hundred opponents of the putsch stop a tank convoy in front of the White House, the Russian seat of parliament.


    Speaker of Parliament Boris Yeltsin climbs onto one of the tanks and gives his famous speech "to the citizens of Russia".

    He calls for resistance against the putschists and a general strike, and declares that he is taking control of Russian territory.


    It is estimated that there are 20,000 soldiers with about 100 tanks in the city. Demonstrators set up barricades against the tanks around the White House.


    Elsewhere in the city, too, people are now stopping tanks, handing the crews flyers with Yeltsin's appeal, and putting flowers in the barrels of their guns.

    In front of the White House, parliamentarians loyal to Yeltsin negotiate with the tank commanders.

    August 20, 1991...:

    Yeltsin demands a meeting with Gorbachev and assumes command of all troops on the territory of the Russian Republic. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, several 100,000 people demonstrate against the putschists.


    The White House defenders prepare for an onslaught by troops loyal to the coup plotter.

    August 21, 1991...:

    The situation in Moscow is getting worse. When trying to get into a tank, three men are shot dead by soldiers in the morning. The first (and only) deaths of the attempted coup shock the country. The protests against the Emergency Committee threaten to spiral out of control...:


    Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov...


    Member of the "Emergency Committee", finally orders the withdrawal of troops from Moscow.

    The “Emergency Committee” flees Moscow. Three of the putschists fly to Gorbachev in the Crimea, but he refuses to talk. The state of emergency is lifted. The attempted coup failed.

    Gorbachev returns to Moscow.


    I will never forget these three days!

    At the time, I spent it in Eberswalde, deep in eastern Germany, for professional reasons. I worked there with three other "Wessis".

    At that time there was a large garrison of the Soviet Army in Eberswalde. The gate was usually always closed and covered with screens, not a single soldier could be seen on the streets of Eberswalde.

    Now, however, in front of the garrison gate, which I had to pass by every day to work, there were two armored personnel carriers and a good dozen Red Army soldiers equipped with helmets, submachine guns and bulletproof vests.

    To be honest, we were quite stumped and asked ourselves: "What will actually become of us if they do it again now...?" In our paranoia, we even thought of a detailed escape route.

    When it was over, I don't think anyone was more relieved than I...

    What became of the putschists:

    Gennady Yanayev was sentenced to a long prison term, but was released in 1993 for health reasons. Yanayev was addicted to alcohol. In 1994 he was granted amnesty by the Duma.

    Yanayev was then a consultant in the Committee of Veterans and Disabled Civil Service. He was director of IMF assistance to children with disabilities. Most recently he was Head of the Department of National History and International Relations of the Russian International Tourism Academy. He died of lung cancer in a Moscow hospital in 2010.

    Dmitry Yazov was arrested after the coup failed and expelled from the Communist Party on August 23 by the CPSU Central Control Commission for “organizing a coup d'état”.

    Until January 25, 1993 he was in the Moscow prison on sailor's rest. On that day he was transferred to a Russian Interior Ministry hospital due to deteriorating health and released from there on February 11. He never returned to prison. By Decree No. 250 of February 7, 1994 of the President of the Russian Federation, Yazov was retired.

    He died on February 25, 2020 in Moscow - as the last surviving Marshal of the Soviet Union...:


    Vladimir Kryuchkov was sentenced to prison for his participation in the coup, but was also granted an amnesty in 1994. November 23, 2007 in Moscow

    Valentin Pavlov was arrested for his participation in the coup, convicted, also granted amnesty in 1994 and then worked in the banking sector in post-Soviet Russia. He died in Moscow on March 30, 2003.

    Boris Pugo shot himself on August 21, 1991, just as he was about to be arrested, at the same time his wife Valentina died. It is still unclear whether she was killed by her husband or by the security forces, or if she committed suicide.

    Oleg Baklanov went the same way as most of his utsch colleagues: arrested, sentenced to a long prison term, amnested in 1994. He died in Tver on July 28, 2021.

    Vasily Starodubtsev: arrested, sentenced to a long prison term, pardoned in 1994, died on December 30, 2011 in Novomoskovsk, Tula Oblast.

    Alexander Tisyakov: Arrested, sentenced to a long prison term, pardoned in 1994, died on 25 . January 2019 in Novo-Iwanayevo (Tatarstan).
  2. Nap A Fixture

    Very turbulent and very dangerous times in Russia


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