A coup inside the coup attempt? (August 19, 1991) - History Key

A coup inside the coup attempt? (August 19, 1991)

The Russian coup d’état attempt of August 19, 1991 is one of the most important moments before the fall of the Soviet Russia, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “mass explosions” of the countries that soon will become “ex-soviet states”.

Soviet Army tanks parked near an entrance to the Kremlin and Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square after a coup toppled Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on August 19, 1991
Soviet Army tanks parked near an entrance to the Kremlin and Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square after a coup toppled Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on August 19, 1991 © Image Source: theatlantic.com

Which version is true?

The context of the coup is far from being clear. For instance, no one is sure if only Mikhail Gorbachev was the target of the plot or, on the contrary, the main target was the more unpredictable person, Boris Yeltsin. One side of the story suggests that Gorbachev and Yeltsin were warned on June 20 (by the US ambassador to Moscow, informed by the Mayor of Moscow) that a plot was planned to remove Gorbachev.

A few weeks before the Coup, Mikhail Gorbachev stands surrounded by his so-called friends, all of them soon to be leaders of the August Coup against him. Vice President Gennady Yanayev, second from right, became the most visible of the Coup leaders
A few weeks before the Coup, Mikhail Gorbachev stands surrounded by his so-called friends, all of them soon to be leaders of the August Coup against him. Vice President Gennady Yanayev, second from right, became the most visible of the Coup leaders © Image Source: theatlantic.com

However, it is certain that on August 19, Gorbachev’s phone connections were interrupted from his summer house, but it unclear why: maybe that the leader couldn’t communicate outside, or that the leader couldn’t be disturbed? The interesting fact is that some witnesses declared in the trial after the coup that Gorbachev wasn’t isolated and he could have communicated through the satellite communications system that existed on his escort cars. Even more, he could have left the house anytime since there was no terrestrial or maritime blockade around the house.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

If we extract the sequence of mysteries, the story is relatively simple. On August 17, in a conspiracy house on the outskirts of Moscow, some of the heads of the coup met there to establish all the details. Some of the members of the plot were the Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, the head of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov and the Minister of Defese Dmitry Yazov.

Tanks at the Red Square
Tanks at the Red Square © Image Source: Wikipedia

The next day, on August 18 a delegation of the putschists visited Gorbachev at his summer house. According the their version, they told Gorbachev their concerns about the state and their determination to form a State Committee of the State of Emergency (SCSE) in order to take the measures to stop the disintegration of the Soviet Union. They demanded a signature from him, but according to Gorbachev, he never signed the document. On the other hand, the putschists sustain that Gorbachev wanted to sign the document, but he was afraid.

On the evening of the same day, a new meeting of the putschists was held in the office of the Prime Minister Pavlov at Kremlin. In there, they found out about Gorbachev’s reaction regarded to the emergency situation. Around 3:00 AM, August 19, Gennady Yanayev, the Vice President of the Soviet Union, signed the decree of provisional assumption of the position of President of the Soviet Union (as a result of Gorbachev’s “subtle illness”). In the morning, at 10:00 AM, military units from Moscow began to patrol the area. At the same time, the Ministry of the interior sends intervention troops on the streets.

The leaders of the August Coup: from left, Soviet Interior Minister Boris Pugo, Soviet Vice President Gennady Yanayev, and Oleg Baklanov, the first Vice-President of the Soviet Defence Council. These men were members of the self-styled "committee for the state of emergency" which headed the coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Here, they gave a press conference on August 19, 1991 in Moscow
The leaders of the August Coup: from left, Soviet Interior Minister Boris Pugo, Soviet Vice President Gennady Yanayev, and Oleg Baklanov, the first Vice-President of the Soviet Defence Council. These men were members of the self-styled “committee for the state of emergency” which headed the coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Here, they gave a press conference on August 19, 1991 in Moscow © Image Source: theatlantic.com

Go West

The crucial moment was when Boris Yeltsin stepped outside from the “Russian White House” and he climbed on a tank. From that moment, more than 200,000 people gathered to protest against the situation, Yeltsin read his own message to the citizens. In other words, everything that happened in the next few years probably has resulted from that moment when Yeltsin climbed on the tank.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin stands on top of a tank parked in front of the Russian Federation building as supporters hold a Russian federation flag on August 19, 1991, during a coup attempt
Russian President Boris Yeltsin stands on top of a tank parked in front of the Russian Federation building as supporters hold a Russian federation flag on August 19, 1991, during a coup attempt © Image Source: theatlantic.com

Before the climbing, Yeltsin signed a decree declaring that the action of the SCSE is a coup d’etat and it is illegal. As a matter of fact the people from Moscow created the image of Yeltsin as the “anti-communist resistant”. Now, in August 1991, Yeltsin was in the centre of the entire world. With his right fist pointing at West and standing on a tank, was the moment when the Bolshevik history of Russia ended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *