Dramatic events which went down in history as August Putsch unfolded in Moscow on August 19-21, 1991. Today is the 25th anniversary of the events.
In the official narrative the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP), which was created by high-ranking officials, including the Vice-President, the Premier, the Defense Minister and the Soviet Defense Council Deputy Chief, the Defense Minister, Interior Minister, and KGB Chairman tried to take control of the country from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev who was having holiday in the Crimea. Troops moved in Moscow.
The Committee was opposed by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov organized the defence of the White House. They were supported by hundreds of thousands of Muscovites.
Contrary to the expectations of the defenders, troops loyal to the Committee refrained from storming the White House. Three days later it was all over, with the Committee conspirators behind bars, Mikhail Gorbachev coming back from Foros and declaring the dissolution of the Communist Party which backed the coup, and Boris Yeltsin in the driving seat.
It was a couple of months before the Soviet Union collapsed, it was less a year before the conflict between Yeltsin and Khasbulatov flared up, and it was a little more than two years before the White House was stormed during the October 1993 political stand-off.
The Istorick magazine [“Historian”] invited the live witnesses of the August events, including Oleg Baklanov, one of the few surviving State Committee members, the then CPSU Central Committee Secretary and Soviet Defense Council Deputy Chief, and his opponent Ruslan Khasbulatov, the then Supreme Soviet Chairman. We were interested in their vision of the events which occurred 25 years ago.
WE WERE TOO SOFT
“The Soviet power ultimately fell prey to its benevolence. We should have disregarded everything and arrested 20-30 people in violation of the Constitution. Initially it would have caused a big hue and cry, but it would have petered out later. And we would have preserved the country”, claims Oleg Baklanov, former Soviet Defense Council Deputy Chief.
PUTSCH MEANS COLLAPSE OF SYSTEM
– The events of 19-21 August 1991 are called a putsch [a coup]. Do you agree with the definition?
– The definition of “putsch” was suggested by Gorbachev, and it was wrong. In an interview Anatoly Lukyanov [the last chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. – Istorick] summed up the essence of what Gorbachev referred to as a putsch 25 years ago and the events that followed: “Have you actually seen a coup after which every government agency remains intact? A putsch means a collapse of the system. And it this case, everything weathered the storm, including the Supreme Soviet and the government. Have you ever seen a revolution that aims to preserve the regime rather than topple it? The coup to protect Soviet power. What a curious revolution! But the August events were followed by three real coups: an anti-Communist one in September 1991, an anti-Union one in December 1991, and an anti-Soviet one in September-October 1993.” I totally agree with this approach. It is likely that we fell victim to a particularly sophisticated, satanic scenario developed by Gorbachev and his closest associates, Alexander Yakovlev and Eduard Shevardnadze, as well as Boris Yeltsin. The plan they masterminded targeted the Party and the people. It is good that many people are now pondering over it.
– Was USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev putsch involved in the GKChP conspiracy?
– On 18 August, we met with Gorbachev in Foros. We agreed on everything, everything was clear. We talked about imposing a state of emergency. And then … Then he called us traitors. Instead of trying to preserve the state, Gorbachev preferred to hide, shirk and kept a low profile.
Then we told Gorbachev that before signing the treaty, we needed to either gather in Foros or go to Moscow to discuss it. And Gorbachev straddled the issue. On the one hand, he seemed to have agreed with our arguments and have given us a free hand. On the other hand, he entertained an opinion of his own and refused to side with us. Gorbachev publicly admitted it and wrote about it in the book and in articles.
It was Gorbachev who initiated the State of Emergency Act, which was discussed and passed by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR a few months earlier. The document provided for the protection of the constitutional order. It was long overdue at that moment. There had been riots in Tbilisi and Baku, the Baltic republics had seen popular unrest. The Act’s relevance was apparent and it had already been tested. But later Gorbachev happened to betray the ideals which he believed in when he came to power. He failed to do much of what the Constitution stipulated. The President should not have gone on vacation at that critical moment. He should have summoned everyone to consider the proposed treaty. He never did. He shunned responsibility as usual.
Gorbachev avoided details when deliberating the solutions. For example, he did say in Foros, “To hell with you! Do whatever you want!” On August 3, two weeks before the Committee was set up, he said nearly ad verbum to the Council of Ministers: we must work in the emergency as if we were in the mountains. Otherwise the avalanche will kill us all. And he added, “I’m going away on vacation, and you stay here to straighten it all out.” The next day Gorbachev’s closest subordinates, including me, escorted him to the airport. There he reiterated his order to stay to Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, Politburo member Oleg Shenin and some others. “Stay here and monitor the situation.”
– The New Union Treaty which was due to be signed on August 20, 1991, prompted the USSR leaders to set up the State Committee on the State of Emergency. What was so dangerous about it?
– The Treaty meant the collapse of the state. Let’s consider the results of the referendum. In March 1991 the people clearly supported the Union. By signing the agreement on August 20, Gorbachev would have blatantly violated the USSR Constitution. It was tantamount to dissolving the Union! They did not show the draft treaty to me. I read the stripped-down text published in the press on the eve of the official ceremony. The vital aspect of this matter is that the issue had never been considered by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, to say nothing of the Party convention. The draft was to have been approved by the legislative body; it was to be amended professionally. Deputies contacted me to ask what was going on. How come that the main legislative body of the country had been bypassed? Gorbachev’s agreement destroyed the USSR as a union, a single state. It gave the members of the Committee impetus to stand up to the danger and resolve to save the country and protect the people.
– With hindsight, how do you currently assess the Committee’s program to defuse the crisis?
– Look objectively at the documents which were signed by me among others and published August 20, 1991. The analysis made so far seems to me accurate. We were concerned about the stalled perestroika, international conflicts, and the increasing flow of refugees. We warned about climbing crime rates and possible onslaughts, the dramatically escalating violence, lawlessness, outright immorality and corruption. We were alarmed by the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union. We raised the alarm when the threat of unbridled and unrestrained personal dictatorship was real and imminent. The assessment of the critical state and the treatment we intended to administer seem largely appropriate and even obvious from today’s perspective.
We did not oppose change, as it is often claimed. Long before perestroika was proclaimed, it had been clear the system needed reform. And the country underwent gradual transformation. But it was necessary to transit to a mixed economy without undermining the country’s enormous potential reached by 1985.
What happened instead? By 1991, the country’s overall index of economic activity fell by 80% compared to the previous low, and annual conversion exceeded 30% owing to the President of the USSR. This undermined the work of military enterprises. The arms exports decreased from 12-13 to 3-4 billion rubles, while in the US they rose from 14-15 to 22-23 billion dollars. Unilateral concessions advantaged the United States and NATO, but upset the geopolitical balance of power in the world. That is what the situation was like back then. And we had to take steps. The government needed practitioners – CEOs and directors, new blood. We had to stem popular discontent. The private sector was unable to make up for the losses in manufacturing and sales. Every worker, pensioner, schoolchild, and student could sense the impending economic disaster. Ethnic conflicts broke out.
I often felt ashamed to look people straight in the eye. My trips to the regions were torturous. The word “perestroika” turned into a mockery. Further economic decline and the deterioration of the situation in the army were forecast. Wedges were everywhere. What solution could we have offered?
The Soviet Union had immense opportunities. On the one hand, it was necessary to declare private property sacred and inviolable, that is, to give economic guarantees. Naturally, there were some limits to prevent, say, huge reserves of oil, gas, or coal, from falling into private hands or being managed by foreign tycoons. On the other hand, it was vital to preserve the existing forms of public sector management.
Despite our age and working experience we were naive. We believed that we live in a single state. We were unable to engage the media and explain. If the Soviet Union had not collapsed, we would be having lower crime rates and more justice…
“Bloodshed was completely out of the question…”
– Did the Committee plan the murder of Boris Yeltsin and Ruslan Khasbulatov?
– No, we never pondered over it. On the contrary, we focused on preventing bloodshed. We were not afraid of anything, but we did not seek direct confrontation. We realized that there would be people shouting: “They have arrested our Boris!” And there would be victims, like those guys who died under the bridge [three men – Vladimir Usov, Dmitry Komar’, and Ilya Krichevsky – were killed on August 21, at night, in a tunnel under Kalinin Prospekt (now Novy Arbat). They were the only casualties among GKChP opponents. Later they were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. – Istorick]. We did not want mayhem.
Now we understand that these sacrifices are not commensurate with those that, for example, the October 1993 events caused. How many people were killed through Yeltsin’s fault? Official figures only say about that one hundred and fifty people died …
We did consider Yeltsin’s arrest. Army General Valentin Varennikov sent us telegrams from Kiev persistently demanding his arrest. However, naturally it was the security forces’ task. Instead, these forces let Yeltsin leave the official residence in the countryside on 19 August rather than arrested him. In fact, Yeltsin was entitled to have security guards. When he returned from his visit to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, he went to the White House unrestrictedly instead of being locked up and left in isolation. Should one have done it?
– Did you plan the storming of the White House? If so, why did it not take place?
– Had we planned it, we would have carried it out. We did not even consider it. You cannot fight your own people. How can you draw up a plan within two or three days? Our task was primarily to avoid bloodshed. But Yeltsin and his entourage turned out to be surprisingly aggressive; they were very overly excited and nervous. It is undeniable that on August 19 tanks entered into Moscow, but bloodshed was completely out of the question. Yeltsin’s inner circle is to be blamed for the three deaths. Yeltsin’s people needed blood to successfully perpetrate their dirty deed to seize power and destroy the USSR.
– Did any Committee members somehow contact Yeltsin back then?
– Once Shenin and I went to Kryuchkov and witnessed his conversation with Yeltsin over the phone. The former said, “Enough is enough”. The latter replied, “I guarantee there won’t be any incidents.” They both seemed to understand the need to avoid provocations. During that conversation they agreed on a future joint visit to Gorbachev. However, for Yeltsin it was mere talk.
We realized there could be provocations. We did not duck our responsibility to avoid them. When we saw that Yeltsin just carried on and heard the speculations that the Committee would soon begin arrests, Yazov – and I supported him – withdrew the troops. I understand it. He did not want his troops to be involved in the massacre. Personally, I did not want that either. Therefore, I contacted the regions and explained that “the main thing was not to spill someone’s blood.” Had several Moscow “hot spots” witnessed the Arbat bridge tragedy, there would have been a lot of bloodshed and someone would have been forced to take the fall.
“WE SHOULD NOT HAVE CARED SO MUCH”
– Do you agree that GKChP precipitated the collapse of the USSR?
– If the New Union Treaty had been signed, on August 20, 1991 we would be having “cloud in trousers” instead of the country. It happened later as we know. It we touch upon the draft treaty, I would like to reiterate that it was drawn up at closed-doors sessions. We first got familiarized with it in the Moscow News newspaper on August 17. Had we not learnt about it, they may have been no putsch … After all, none of us was present at the Novo-Ogarevo meetings where the project was concocted. To us, it was a bolt from the blue. Therefore, we did not devise a detailed plan of creating GKChP. We did have meetings, but it was more talk than planning. That’s it. It was spontaneous. Then suddenly it became clear that the Treaty contradicted the March 1991 referendum results, that it did not mention socialism and created a federation of independent states. Meanwhile, the Union Council of Ministers opposed the Treaty and the Supreme Soviet had not even considered it. And it was against the law. I read the text in the Moscow News newspaper. First Kryuchkov phoned me, then Yazov. We began discussing it. We all realized that for Gorbachev and Yeltsin we were lambs due to be slaughtered on August 20.
– Do you regret that you acted this way back in August 1991?
– We were too soft. The Soviet power ultimately fell prey to its benevolence. Our only goal was to prevent a New Union Treaty from being signed and to bring the situation into conformity with the Constitution. We believed that afterwards everything would work out on its own. It was unforgivable naivety on our part! We should have disregarded everything and arrested 20-30 people in violation of the Constitution. But it was essential to avoid bloodshed! We should have summoned the Supreme Soviet to discuss the situation. Then those detained would have faced the trial. It would have been the correct course of action. Initially, it would have caused a big hue and cry, but it would have petered out. And we would have preserved the country.
The undecidedness of the head of state also had a negative impact on the situation. We realized that Gorbachev’s policy was no longer relevant and was actually destructive. But we did not openly criticize his policies; we shelved our plans for the time being. We did not struggle for power. Our powers were sufficient. Gorbachev did not lend a helping hand to those who sought to preserve the Soviet state.
Yes, it was an attempt to save the country. But the means were poor, because we lacked increased vigilance. And we failed to prevent the disintegration of the Soviet Union. This is a tragedy of our people and the peoples who live in the former USSR.
“The coup brought the state to discredit”
“The group of people fantasized themselves into “the motherland’s saviors”. They toppled the country’s president and put other governmental bodies in a predicament”, as Ruslan Khasbulatov, former Supreme Soviet Chairman, puts it.
“What did the Union Treaty have to do with the situation?”
-The 1991 August developments are referred to as a “putsch”. Do you agree with this definition?
-A putsch, or a coup d’état, means secretly planned activities of particular military and political forces, which contravene the country’s Constitution and aim at taking control of the government suddenly or unexpectedly. It is better to call the events of August 19-21 the 1991 failed coup attempt as the plot did not pan out. Nevertheless, at that time, as Russian leaders we regarded these developments as a putsch or a real coup d’état aimed at overthrowing Mikhail Gorbachev, then President of the Soviet Union, and the leaders of the Russian Federation.
– Are you sure that President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev was not implicated in the plot or had links to GKChP?
– I do not consider him involved in this plot. Yet Gorbachev’s opponents keep telling us the opposite. Later I held a conversation with him and numerous high-ranking officials who were fully aware of those events. Moreover, I examined many documents. Thus, I concluded that Gorbachev had not been directly enmeshed in the putsch and he had not approved of it. When the GKChP delegation flew to Foros to persuade him to impose a state of emergency, he heard them out and expressed disagreement. In the end, the Soviet President said in the heat of the moment: “To hell with you, do whatever you want!” This statement can be interpreted as an approval for a state of emergency. At the same time, this interpretation is extremely artificial. Where is the written permission for such actions? Even under Stalin key decisions were finalized. From my perspective, it is somewhat absurd to refer to “verbal arrangements”.
KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov was the putsch’ orchestrator. He exerted a profound influence on Soviet Prime-Minister Valentin Pavlov, who was weak and poorly-trained for this senior post. Nonetheless, Krychkov was a good guy in general…
The Committee is believed to have been formed as a response to the signing of the Treaty of the Union of Sovereign States slated for August 20, 1991…
– It is true to a certain extent. The point was that Gorbachev’s draft treaty and its lengthy discussions predetermined the weakening of the USSR. According to the Treaty, Republics were granted generous rights and autonomous republics were equated with the Soviet Republics! Generally, the draft was poor and replete with controversies. Its preparation was known as the Novo-Ogarevo process involving numerous unsavory people from republics and autonomous regions, as well as from the ranks of “new democrats”. At that time, separatist and nationalist forces were unleashed along the Soviet borders, which impacted upon the document. But it could have been signed if the provisions regarding the legal relations between the USSR and its Soviet Republics, and between Russia with its entities had been excluded.
– And was there any sense in signing such a document?
– Actually, there was no point in doing it. However, amid inflamed public opinion, the refusal to sign the Treaty would seem improper. I believe that the Union Treaty itself constituted one of the major reasons for the Soviet Union’s disintegration. Let me recall that the 1922 Union Treaty was signed by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR), Ukraine, Belarus, and the Transcaucasian SFSR embracing Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It laid the groundwork for the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This Treaty was incorporated into the 1924 Soviet Constitution and ceased to exist. After a while, the Constitutions of 1936 and 1977 were adopted. They were followed by quite a democratic Constitution which represented Gorbachev’s edited version of Brezhnev’s set of basic laws and principles.
Thus, one could work on a new Constitution. What did the Union Treaty have to do with the situation? Why was it dusted off? When it was rescued from oblivion, heads of the Union Republics, especially those which did not conclude the Treaty in 1922 (above all, the Baltic Republics), felt a desire for more autonomy beyond the USSR Constitution. Basically, Gorbachev’s activities precipitated separatism. The idea of the Union Treaty was vicious and provocative.
“The group of people fantasized themselves into “the motherland’s saviors”
– Do you clearly remember the early hours of 19 August 1991?
-Of course, I do. I got up early in the morning and switched on TV. Like other Soviet citizens, I found out that some kind of a Committee had been set out. Then it was reported that Gorbachev was ill, and Vice President Gennadiy Yanaev had been appointed acting president. Moreover, a “new program of changes” was mentioned and so on. For me it was clear that a putsch had started.
— With hindsight, how do you now assess the Committee’s program to overcome the crisis?
– Actually, it did not so much constitute a program as a set of rather serious and useful measures. I had been on familiar terms with all the GKChP members: they were good people and good specialists. When they were serving time, I sympathized with them and recommended the prosecutor general against treating them as enemies. They were not betrayers, in the end. These people had just made a mistake. I had never been outspoken in the support of illicit methods. At the same time, I had never opposed these people and their proposals.
They suggested adequate measures for tackling the crisis, which, however, raised a range of particular questions. Why did GKChP members fail to submit these proposals to the Council of Ministers or the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union? Why did they fail to get these steps approved legally? What for did they resort to the coup? Actually, the putsch brought the state to discredit and generated the opinion that the USSR was weak. That dealt a devastating blow to the socialist ideal and system and cast a shadow over the country’s values shared by the majority. I would like to point out that the USSR witnessed a handful of people speaking out against the socialist makeup. Yet many people were dissatisfied with the regime and their well-being. And the government had given a handle to it. Nevertheless, all problems should have been resolved legally, as it is done in any state.
In this case, you see, the group of people fantasized themselves into “the motherland’s saviors”. Essentially, they toppled the country’s president and put the other governmental bodies in a predicament. They declared that Gorbachev was ill and ordered the army to put boots on Moscow’s ground. That is abnormal! It seems an absurd idea!
– In your opinion, did the Committee plan the murder of Boris Yeltsin and Ruslan Khasbulatov?
-The committee did not plan physical altercation, although on August 19 we did not know that for sure and considered worst-case scenarios. Of course, we were deeply afraid of the possible death and provocations. The situation seemed incredibly tense. It was not a game.
Shortly afterwards I found out that GKChP members had planned to escort us together with Yeltsin to the countryside to hold negotiations there. They seemed to want to offer Yeltsin a high position. However, I became aware of that later, when I had spoken to GKChP members and studied some documents at my disposal.
– What did the Committee count on?
-They knew Yeltsin quite well and believed that he would be scared. They also counted on the enmity between Gorbachev and Yeltsin and our inability to encourage the general public to confront the GKChP devilment. They turned out to be partly right since Boris Yeltsin was really frightened. When on August 19, 1991 I came to visit him at 7 am, I saw gloomy Alexandr Korzhakov, Yeltsin’s bodyguard, and confused Naina, Yeltsin’s wife, standing at the threshold. I rushed to his bedroom on the second floor and found him scantily dressed and untidy. He was still in bed. Being surprised I looked at him and asked: “Why are you not getting dressed?”. And suddenly I heard: “Ruslan Imranovich, everything is lost. Kryuchkov has outmaneuvered us!” Yeltsin had always feared both Kryuchkov and Gorbachev. In response I noticed: “What do you mean – he has outmaneuvered us? We must fight rather than give up”.
For the second time, Yeltsin got a fright somewhat later. At that night Moscow’s heads Gavriil Popov and Yuri Luzhkov with his young wife came to my office. At once, Korzhakov ran to me to say that Yeltsin wanted to see me and disappeared from view. I thought that something had happened and ran to him. I found Yeltsin in the garage. He saw me and said: “Ruslan Imranovich, the raid is due to take place in 30 minutes. We are to be killed. I have arranged everything with Americans, and they are waiting for us in the American embassy. We urgently need to go there”. And I replied: “Here I have 500 deputies. I won’t go to the American embassy with you”. I turned on my heel, went to the elevator and made my way into the cabinet through Yeltsin’s office.
My thoughts were disturbing. I was thinking of how I would tell people that Yeltsin had fled to the US embassy. Actually, he was like the flag or symbol for us! Within 15 minutes Yeltsin called me. I picked up the telephone and heard his voice: “Ruslan Imranovich, you refused to go to the US embassy. So did I. We will be fighting together. I am descending into the basement”. From this basement he was “leading” the anti-GKChP operation. (Laughing).
– From your perspective, why did the storming of the White House never happen?
They did not storm the building because our army officers were wise, decent and honest. May the memory of General Vladislav Achalov, Commander of the Soviet Airborne Forces, live forever. Back then as a Deputy Defense Minister he exerted a tremendous impact on Dmitry Yazov, the then Minister of Defence, and on the army in general.
In fact, ordinary Soviet people, including blue-collar workers, engineers, teachers and students, came out to defend the White House. Judging by their mood, it was evident that they would not cowardly run away. Instead, they would stand out against tanks if necessary. And Soviet soldiers themselves came from the Soviet public. They informed Yazov that the White House storming would lead to massive bloodshed. Together with Achalov, Yazov drove to the White House to see what was happening. Then he sent Achalov to the KGB board to report that the army would not engage in the raid. Achalov arrived and firmly told the session about it. Under such circumstances, GKChP members stopped short of issuing a command to storm the White House.
– And what would have happened if the Committee had ordered to attack the White House?
– If the Committee had ordered the Alpha Group, Vityaz and other special forces units to commit an assault on the White House, despite their honour they would have obeyed. And Alexander Lebed would have fulfilled the task, in spite of the fact that he was one of those officers who had reported to the Defense Minister that the storming would cause a lot of casualties. Eventually, Yazov realized that he could not give such an order. Actually, as a real war-horse and a sincere soldier who went through the Great Patriotic War he did not intend to spill blood. And when the military establishment refused to give such a command, Kruychkov decided against doing this.
On GKChP Role in the Collapse of the Soviet Union
– Do you share the opinion that the GKChP creation paved the way for the dissolution of the USSR?
– Of course, I do. The putsch brought about an extraordinary situation. There was no Soviet system of rule any more. The USSR Council of Ministers was dissolved. The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union was deprived of its head and abolished. It lacked people who were capable of taking power in their own hands, convening its members and electing a new leader instead of Anatoly Lukaynov who had been unlawfully arrested. Our glorified intelligence services turned out to be real “teddy bears” as they had failed to protect the state in times of need, with the KGB comprising almost 200 thousand officers! I can assure you that these statistics are reliable. And the Soviet public maintained this huge army whose living standards were two or three times higher than the quality of life in the entire country.
– And what about Yeltsin?
– One should note that Yeltsin was instrumental in dismantling the Soviet system of government. Russia’s president suddenly rose to power, started to feel empowered and virtually, took Gorbachev hostage.
In fact, the fate of the Soviet Union was placed in the hands of Yeltsin and his so-called “aides”! When Gorbachev was strong enough, Yeltsin had few supporters. Boris Yeltsin, Ivan Silayev and I considered all the key issues. And in the wake of the coup failure various “public figures” flooded the political landscape to offer their “recommendations”. Later it turned out that some members of our government had deliberately acted to the detriment of the country. They had attempted to disrupt the public supplies in order to blame Gorbachev for the Union’s mounting problems. For instance, they suspended production at 30 tobacco plants and various cotton mills given “the necessity to carry out renovations”. In that context, the key task was to prevent the collapse of the Russian Federation since the breakup of the Soviet Union spilled over into the RF by default.
– Who do you think dealt a fatal blow to the USSR: Gorbachev, Yeltsin or GKChP?
– As for the implosion of the Soviet Union, the first blow to the state was delivered by Armenian nationalists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in 1988. These developments revealed Gorbachev’s great weakness as the Soviet leader. Pushing forward a provocative idea about the necessity to draft and sign the Union treaty became a second blow. The State Committee on the State of Emergency and the 1991 coup attempt landed a third blow to the state. All the above listed factors are equally destructive. Boris Yeltsin’s meeting with Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk and Belorussian Parliament Chairman Stanislav Shushkevich at the Viskuli residence in Belovezhskaya Puscha dealt the final blow to the Soviet Union. On December 8, 1991, they broke the back of the USSR by dissolving the state. Actually, before that fateful day it was still possible to change the situation, elect other leaders and save the Soviet Union. But Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Shushkevich stripped everybody of the chance to strengthen the USSR.
– Do you regret that you acted this way back in August 1991? Have you ever thought that at that moment you were on the wrong side of the barricades?
– I am often asked this question but it seems somewhat pointless to me. Let me reiterate that GKChP members were not alien to me, and I did not treat them as my opponents. As Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR, I had cooperated with them before the putsch. They had always met me halfway when it came to resolving Russia-related issues. I spoke out against them as they employed conspiratorial and irregular methods rejected by our society. Under democratic transformations, such instruments are unacceptable. And at that time they raised my objection. Therefore, there is no scope for any regrets.
– And do you regret the collapse of the USSR?
– Undoubtedly, I do. Normal people cannot but be regretful about the demise of their country. The Soviet Union constituted a unique entity which had emerged as a result of a brilliant social experiment on the global scale. Scholars from all over the world should have nurtured and cherished this experiment which – albeit with all the familiar deviations from socialism – gave impetus to genuine personal development and the creation of a distinctive social system. All Soviet inconceivable achievements stemmed from this very fact. Actually, nowadays this greatest experiment should be thoroughly considered as future generations will need this knowledge. Pro-communist, socialist and collectivist ideas came into existence as far back as ancient times. The notions of equality and justice are found in the works of such ancient philosophers as Aristotle, Plato, and others. You should also remember the immortal books by Tommaso Campanella and Thomas More. The socialist principles are timeless, and both humankind and civilization will need them.
Photo by ТАСС