The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
HTA Home Page | Articles | Europe | Aborted Soviet Coup--1991, The

Email to a friend
Printer friendly

Aborted Soviet Coup--1991, The

The following texts are posted with permission of the authors. - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - -- -- - - -- - - - - - DARRELL P. HAMMER--INDIANA UNIVERSITY

Received: from INDYCMS.IUPUI.EDU (MAILER@INDYCMS) by INDYVAX.IUPUI.EDU (PMDF #12264) id <01GA2J0UQXAO0006TT@INDYVAX.IUPUI.EDU>; Sun, 1 Sep 1991 13:56 -0500 Received: from INDYCMS.BITNET by INDYCMS.IUPUI.EDU (Mailer R2.07) with BSMTP id 4559; Sun, 01 Sep 91 13:56:56 EST Date: Sun, 1 Sep 91 13:54 EST From: "Darrell P. Hammer (Political Science)" Subject: Day 1 of the coup - a memoir To: russia@indycms.BITNET Message-id: <01GA2J0UQXAO0006TT@INDYVAX.IUPUI.EDU> Original_To: BITNET%"russia@indycms" Original_cc: HAMMER

I spent Sunday, Aug. 18, at a dacha outside Moscow. About 6 p.m. we returned to the city by car and we were overtaken by a long column of military vehicles. The soldiers were dressed in camoflouge outfits and carried weapons. Surely this was not the beginning of a military coup? I put the thought out of my mind.

On Aug. 19 I was to meet with a RSFSR deputy at the white house (headquarters of the RSFSR government and parliament). I called at about 8 a.m. to confirm our arrangement. Had I heard the news? He told me that Gorbachev was retired, and the KGB and military had taken control. He excused himself because he wanted to rush to the white house - which (he had heard) was still open. I turned on the news. Neither TV nor radio had anything to say but only central TV was broadcasting - a symphony orchestra. It looked as if some political figure had died. Finally, at 9 a.m. the radio began to broadcast the news. But only the official statemements - no commentary.

It was all very logical and seemed to comply with the law and the constitution. Yanaev issued a decree announcing that Gorbachev, for reasons of health, was unable to exercise the functions of his office. So he, Yanaev, was assuming the office of president. Next Yanaev, in his new capacity, proclaimed a state of emergency. But only in selected parts of the USSR - not specified. Finally, a decree creating a State Committee for the Emergency Situation (G.K.Ch.P.). The State Committee assumed full powers and all agencies of government were subordinate to its orders. Members included Khryuchkov from the KGB, Pugo of the MVD, Yazov of MO, the prime minister Pavlov, Yanaev, and some unknown figures.

Nothing on the TV yet but they started broadcasting a performance of Swan Lake. (Later Soviet friends would tell me that they could never watch this ballet again. The association was too painful.)

I tried reaching my friend at the white house. No answer. I called another deputy, also at the white house, and managed to get through. He told me that the building was ringed with tanks and no one could enter or leave the building. Eltsin had issued an appeal and he read the entire document to me over the telephone. I recorded it but it proved to be unnecessary - it was soon generally available.

I tried calling Alksnis but reached only his secretary. She promised to tell him that I had called.

There were lots of questions without answers. I recalled that the law on emergency powers required informing the legislature of any republic affected. Also the USSR Supreme Soviet. No mention of this in the decrees as read over the radio. What precise powers did the State Committee have? Where, exactly, did the emergency situation apply?

I decided to go to the center and see for myself. But first I took a walk of several blocks. I was living in Otradnoe, on the north edge of Moscow. Here there was no evidence of any emergency. At the Kirov market the Azeri farmers were in their usual place, selling fresh fruit and defending their high prices (30 rubles a kilo for melons) to outraged housewives. There was a long line outside a foodstore and I asked what for. The last man in line said he had heard that the store had fresh fish - but maybe it was only a rumor. Next to the store a commercial kiosk was selling imported (Belgian) beer at 20 kopeks a can - about 20 times the price of Soviet beer. No visible takers.

There were plenty of people shopping or at least looking for goods to buy. No signs of panic buying, however.

I got a cab who agreed to take me to the center for 25 rubles. (I should mention that no one can get a cab at the official fare on the meter. All prices are subject to negotiation and may be 10 to 20 times the meter fare.) The driver had not yet been in the center, and had seen no evidence of an emergency. He had heard the announcements over the radio but seemed unperturbed by the news. On a 25-minute drive, no evidence of an emergency, of soldiers, or panic. On the car radio - an announcement by GKChP banning political meetings and demonstrations. There was a crowd gathering in front of the Moscow Soviet and two or three groups of people clustering about individual speakers. They had not heard about the ban on meetings. We got to the Menage (the huge square bounded by the Kremlin, the Moscow Hotel, and the National Hotel) and found that Red Square, which lies beyond, was closed off. I paid off the cab and walked through the pedestrian tunnel toward Red Square. Here the police were in evidence in force. The passage to GUM (the department store opposite Red Square) was open and the store was doing business but the police would not let anyone enter the square. There were several armored personnel carriers but not a large force.

I walked on toward Kuibyshev street, which connects the Kremlin and CPSU headquarters about a block away. This street is always heavily patrolled and cars make frequent runs back and forth between the Kremlin and the party. It seemed no busier and no more protected than usual. Then it occured to me that the party played no visible role in the coup - if that was what it was. Ivashko, the deputy gen. sec., was the top-ranking party leader after Gorbachev. He was not a member of GKChP.

I walked another block to the Hotel Rossiia and asked a cab to take me to the white house. He said it was blockaded. But he agreed to take me to the US embassy, which is only two blocks from the white house. The Sadovy ring road on which the embassy is located was thick with traffic - the driver explained that this was because of the blockade. All the traffic was being rerouted. On the way we passed the foreign ministry - no sign of anything special here.

The embassy had the usual line of visa-seekers and Soviet police trying to maintain order. The visa section was working as usual, issuing its limited quota of visitors' and immigrant visas. In the cultural office (which oversees the IREX exchange) they had no information, and no special advice to give Americans. >From the embassy I called the Panam office (I had a flight booked two weeks later) and asked if there had been any change in schedules. The response was that the rumors about Panam's death due to bankruptcy were not true and all flights in and out of Moscow were running on schedule. I answered that I was not concerned about bankruptcy but about the state of emergency. The Panam official (an American) had not heard about the state of emergency.

From the embassy I walked down a side street to the white house. There was no sign of tanks or troops but tank barricades were being erected. Approaches to the building were protected by several buses and heavy trucks, and citizens were hauling in any material they could find (including the steel fence around the building) to construct an improvised obstacle. There were probably 10,000 people milling around. Some were in small groups listening to impassioned speakers. I quickly realized that if any opposition to the junta appeared, it would center here and not in Red Square. Suddenly a window on the second floor opened up, and a hand threw out a bundle of documents. There was a mad rush for copies - luckily no one was trampled to death.

I made my way to entrance 2, which I had used before, and the policeman let me call a deputy. He sent his assistant to escort me to the office. Here I got a briefing on the situation. Eltsin was firmly opposed to the junta and determined to use his powers to thwart them. He had issued his appeal (I was given a printed copy) and would issue instructions to all agencies of the RSFSR to disregard the junta totally. The people would support the legally elected government of the RSFSR and the junta would collapse. If they tried to use force, there would be civil war.

I asked how the people could support the government if they didn't have information. The junta apparently controlled all the media. I mentioned that Russian TV was off the air. Now I learned that the offices of the democratic newspapers had been occupied. Later in the day the junta issued a decree closing down all the central newspapers except the most reliable (like Pravda, Izvestiia, Sovetskaia Rossiia). No answer to my question but an aide appeared with a copy of Eltsin's decree proclaiming the junta illegal. The RSFSR was about to meet in special session.

I visited the offices of the RSFSR constitutional commission, also in the white house. The previous week these offices had been bustling with workers preparing a new constitution for the republic. Now it all seemed irrelevant.

Someone turned on a radio. The junta was holding a collective news conference. I managed to hear only a part of it.

I now heard the first rumors that the army might storm the building, and the people were surrounding the building (as the people of Vilnius had surrounded the Lithuanian parliament) to protect it. It was clear that the crowd had grown in size. Barricades were being erected across the Kutuzov bridge, near the white house.

Later I heard that snipers had been stationed in the Ukraina hotel, across the river from the white house, and that they might start shooting. It seemed to me, however, that the hotel was too far aware for snipers. It would be a good location, however, for mortars or other weaponry to attack the building.

I left the building with a friend of mine from the constitutional commission and we walked the two blocks to the International Hotel. Here everything seemed normal - far removed from a major political crisis. We passed an hour in the bar discussing the situation (my friend seemed enormously optimistic) and - of all things - watching CNN. CNN had a camera on the white house which caught the action. It was another, characteristically Russian, paradox - we were sitting in an air conditioned bar having sandwiches and beer, and watching an American broadcast of a potential revolution two blocks away. Events that Russian television was not allowed to show.

We went back to the white house. I learned that Eltsin had made an appearance before the crowd. But it was now raining heavily and many in the crowd had sought shelter or were huddled close to the building.

Rumors were spreading. One was that the patriarch had pronounced an anathema again the junta (not true - not yet anyway). Gorbachev had been arrested at the airport on his arrivel in Moscow (also not true) and was now being controlled by drugs. Tanks were converging on Moscow from all directions and tomorrow the city would be occupied (which turned out to be true).

I went home to take a hot shower and find some dry clothes. Once again, away from the center of the city, there was no sign of anything unusual.

It was now time for Vremya, and it was devoted entirely to the coup. But no news - only official announcements which had already been broadcast over the radio. A military commander had been appointed for Moscow (General Kalinin) but there was still no official, formal announcement that the state of emergency extended to Moscow. Following Vremya there was a repeat broadcast of the news conference. The first thing I noticed was Yanaev's shaking hands. Obviously he was very nervous. Certainly he was not the leader of this coup. But if not Yanaev - then who?

Aside from the nervous acting president, the other members of the panel made little impression. There was no leader, certainly no one who could match Eltsin in popular appeal. For the first time I felt a slight optimism about the situation. Again there was no CPSU presence in the coup leadership. Pavlov was reported ill - was this a diplomatic presence? Lukyanov had issued a pronouncement about the union treaty - scheduled for signature tomorrow. It was incomplete and in need of major revision. This put Lukyanov on the side of the junta.

Most of the answers were evasive. Would there be a curfew? No - at least not immediately. Where, exactly, did the state of emergency apply? That would be clear later. What about the newspapers that had been suppressed? The newspapers, we were told, bore the primary responsibility for the chaos that had seized the country and needed to be shut down. But in fact (the answer went on) they had not been suppressed. They were simply being required to re-register. When re-registered, they would be allowed to resume publication. How long would this re-registration take? Uncertain.

Most of the suppressed newspapers were represented at the press conference, and were not sparing in their questions.

A friend called and asked to come over. We discussed the situation at great length. He was fearful of mass arrests but so far nothing like this had happened. Gorbachev's status was unclear. Gldyan had reportedly be arrested but my friend told me that he had been released. I received a call from Leningrad (apparently the long-distance lines were open) and learned that the situation there was basically normal. A general strike was beginning and some plants (Kirov, for example) were already closing down. Sobchak had been in Moscow but immediately returned to Leningrad and denounced the coup. Leningrad TV was now operating normally. Nevzorov (who could be expected to support the junta) was in Sweden preparing to get married.

The Lensoviet was in session.An emergency committee had been appointed in Leningrad - among the members was Gidaspov. But it remained invisible - no pronouncements, no curfew, no troops in the city. I was told that the Baltic Fleet at Kronstadt had pledged to defend the city if necessary.

3-SEP-1991 10:54:40.40 Subj: Memoir of the coup - continued

Date: Mon, 2 Sep 91 10:22 EST From: "Darrell P. Hammer (Political Science)"

Aug. 20-second day of the coup. I received a phone call to tell me about a mass meeting being organized in front of the Mossoviet. I decided to take a look but again I started the day by looking at the neighborhood. In the courtyard children were playing.

People were going about their normal business. Lines were forming in front of the stores. The only thing out of the ordinary: the newspaper kiosk was closed. At the Otradnoe metro stop, where I regularly bought Nezavisimaia gazeta, it wasn't on sale. But you could buy flowers, books, and horoscopes.

I took a cab to the center and for the first time encountered troops - but not in force. At scattered points along the route there were clusters of two or three tanks and their crews lounging around. They did not look battle ready. The people seemed to ignore them.

The cab got me as far as Pushkin square. There was indeed a meeting in front of the Mossoviet. But there were far fewer people than yesterday at the white house. Some men were speaking from the balcony but no one that I recognized. In particular Popov was not there. There were plenty of people in the crowd listening to individual speakers - all opposed to the junta. Several people were carrying the Russian (white-blue-red) flag. It was becoming the symbol of resistance. There were police around but not active. They made no effort to disburse the crowd, although it appeared to violate the junta's orders.

A block down Tverskaia st. the atmosphere changed. At the central telegraph office there was a thick line of soldiers who blocked further movement. They were backed up by armored personnel carriers. There were plenty of people beyond the barrier - they had assembled near Red Square or in the Menage before the soldiers arrived. People were allowed to leave the area - the soldiers let them through without question. But no one could pass the other way. The idea, obviously, was to empty the area around the Kremlin.

The soldiers carried automatic weapons. Were they ready to shoot?

I made my way to the Moscow Hotel by a roundabout way. The area near the hotel was also blocked by soldiers but not the hotel entrance. I went to the seventh floor, headquarters of the Liberal Democratic party. Zhavrinskii, the party's leader, supported the junta though there is no evidence he was involved in planning it. I talked to a couple of his people. They were enthusiastic about the coup but uninformed about the details. Not much information here. I went upstairs to Alksnis's office. A. himself was not there but I was told he would be in later because he was committed to giving an interview to an American TV crew. I was shown a statement he had made denouncing the coup. I tried to get a copy but only one was available. The Moscow has no public xerox facilities. The statement was clear and unambiguous - Alksnis still believed that the country needed strong power, but not illegality. The coup was in violation of the law and the constitution. The result would be to speed up the very process of chaos and disintegration that the coup was trying to prevent. This latter was remarkably prophetic.

From a public phone I reached my deputy friend at the white house. He had alarming news. All the women were leaving the building, and an armed attack was expected at any minute. I decided to see for myself.

There were no taxis at the Moscow Hotel so I went around the corner to the Metropole and rented an Express Taxi (for hard currency). This turned out to be a good move. The taxi had the license plate of a joint enterprise - the police passed us through several barricades without question. The driver chose an indirect route which took me past the KGB (heavily guarded by police, but no soldiers in evidence) and out to the Sadovy ring. At three points there were road blocks but we were waved through. Past Mayakovsky Square traffic became very thick and seemed to be moving in only one direction. Again I got out at the embassy and went the rest of the way on foot. There were a couple of armored personnel carriers in front of the white house but I was told that these were troops loyal to Eltsin. This was good news - but it seemed hardly enough force to repel a serious attack. With some difficulty I talked my way into the building. All seemed confusion. There were armed men here and there but in civilian clothes - no soldiers. Some carried gas masks. I was told that an armored column was on its way via the Sadovy ring - but I had just come that way, and seen no column. More details - the tanks had arrived by train at the Belorusskii station and were making their way down Tverskaia, and thence via Sadovy.

The Sadovy was an immense traffic mess. Had this situation been created by the traffic police to thwart the tank attack?

Echo Moskvy was back on the air. The announcer said that it had returned yesterday and then gone off again - while it was off a false station had broadcast claiming to be Echo Moskvy. Somewhere in the building a radio center had been set up and was broadcasting over Echo Moskvy. At last some anti-junta information was going out to the public.

The junta, incidentally, had disappeared from view. After the press conference of Monday, as far as I know, no member of the junta again appeared in public.

Rumors and confusion. Several divisions had come over to the side of Russia and Eltsin and were on their way to defend the white house. (Did this include the mysterious tank column?) No tanks had entered Leningrad. The real mastermind of the coup was Alksnis - I really regretted that I had not be able to get a copy of his statement. Or, alternatively, Ivashko. The Soviet border was closed and no one was allowed to enter or leave. (The latter point I was able to check out later. Several countries - not including the US - had stopped issuing visas to Soviet citizens. But the borders were not actually closed - on either side.)

When I left the building it was dark. Much to my surprise I enountered a familiar face - a priest I knew who had arrived to give spiritual counsel. He told me that the Patriarch has issued a statement calling for access to Gorbachev, support for Eltsin, and by implication denouncing the coup. But the patriarch (so I was told) was alone - the rest of the hieararchy supported the coup. In particular he denounced the metropolitans Yuvenalii and Boris. He then returned to the task of hearing confessions from the troops and giving communion.

The priest invited me to go visiting and I accepted the invitation. It was a hard decision - if there was really to be an attack I would like to witness it, but was it worth the risk? With the priest I returned along the Sadovy - the traffic was nearlt normal but there was still no sign of a tank column.

With the priest's friends I found that the political crisis had not dampened Russian hospitality - they quickly laid out a table of salami, tomatoes and cucumbers, and Armenian cognac. They had the radio tuned to Radio Liberty, which came in loud and clear. The news was mostly about the expected attack on the white house but I got some other news - still no troops in Leningrad, where there was a mass demonstration in Palace Square, Gorbachev was interned at his summer home inthe Crimea, several military units were supporting Eltsin and the Russian government. I heard an interview with Yuri Afanas'ev, who happened to be in the west at the time of the coup.

Someone came in with news that a curfew had been announced. We turned on the local radio - no news. But after about half an hour there was an announcement of a curfew proclaimed by General Kalinin. No one was to be on the streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. It was now 10:30. Could the curfew be taken seriously? (Later I learned that no one took it seriously - perhaps half of Moscow never even heard of it. The next day it was revoked.). I was invited to spend the night, on the chance that the curfew might actually be enforced. We talked until 3 a.m., when I vaguely remember falling asleep.

Aug. 21 - Day 3. I awoke at 8, had a cup of coffee, and decided to make my way home. I waved down a "private" taxi who agreed to drive me home for five dollars. I asked if there would be any troops in the way. The driver told me that the troops had left. There were no more tanks in the city.

I got home, cleaned up, and called the white house. They confirmed that all the military had left the area and there appeared to be a "major redeployment" of troops. The atmosphere in the building, I was told, was calm. I called Alksnis and was able to talk to him. He agreed to see me that afternoon.

I treated myself to a couple of hours of sleep and called friends again. The news was startling. A delegation from the Russian government, headed by Rutskoi, was to go to the Crimea to see Gorbachev. There were rumors that Eltsin had talked to him. Also that Gorbachev was being released and would soon return to Moscow. Later I heard a rumor that Yanaev had tried to flee abroad but had been arrested at Vnukovo airport.

There were still no newspapers on sale but otherwise the neighborhood appeared to be normal.

When I arrived downtown Marx prospect was closed from the Lyubanka to Menage - closed, that is, to traffic. A huge demonstration was underway. As I got closer it was clear that this was a victory demonstration. The crowds were gleeful, and the Russian flag was much in evidence.

In the Moscow hotel I checked first with the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic party. It was closed and empty. Alksnis was engaged in a strategy conference but he invited me to sit down and wait. They were discussing the upcoming Supreme Soviet meeting (of the USSR - scheduled for Monday). There were several phone calls - including the information that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was about to meet - without Lukyanov in the chair - and would annul all the acts of the junta.

I heard reports that some members of the junta were on their way to the Crimea to see Gorbachev - perhaps to appeal for mercy. Also a rumor that Yazov had committed suicide. (This, it turned out, was Pugo and not Yazov.)

At last the advisers left and I had a one-on-one conversation with Alksnis. I will write a separate report on this meeting but let me sum it up by saying that I was convinced that A. was not the brains behind the plot and has no responsibility for it. His main goals were to restore the central government, and remove the plotters while avoiding a witch hunt.

What led to the collapse of the junta? On Monday it looked as if they held all the cards. In retrospect we can see that the coup was an act of desperation - not well planned or well prepared. They had no leader, and when Eltsin emerged as the leader of the resistance, this proved to be a fatal shortcoming. It was a catastrophic mistake not to have isolated Eltsin just as they isolated Gorbachev. A better planned strategy would have foreseen this. Although they moved troops into Moscow, the troops seemed to have no plan other than to isolate the Kremlin and protect a few strategic points. But the center of popular resistance turned out to be the white house, for which the plotters, apparently, had no plans. If they really planned to storm the building, why did they hesitate?

In retrospect the coup was worse than a failure. It has speeded up the very process of disintegration which it was intended to stop. As a result of the coup, the democrats in the USSR may now accomplish in days what otherwise might have taken years.

------------------------------------------- SAM LANFRANCO, YORK UNIVERSITY, CANADA

Date: Mon, 09 Sep 91 21:43:58 EDT From: Sam Lanfranco Subject: Reflections on Moscow

While I work through my impressions of being in Moscow ten days after the coup attempt I will post a couple of "impression" pieces to try to give a sense of what I saw and felt. Here is the first:

I spend past week in Moscow trying to make sense out of what is going on after the coup attempt. I watched the Congress sessions on Moscow TV and have read the western press. My first impression is that the political analysis of what is going on in the (ex)USSR is probably better on Moscow TV than it is on most western TV. There are "gems" in the western analysis but too much of it seems more about western "experts" (academic and press) trying to protect their expert status while facing changes they really do not understand. Sorting through the western comment yields slim pickings. On the politics of Gorbachev and Yelstin, our press seems to treat events as a horse race with bets and odds, as a personality race, or as a boxing match.

Through the eyes of people in Moscow (which is NOT all the Soviets) one sees Gorbachev, Yeltsin, the Deputies in the Congress, and the leaders of the various republics all as players in a process of redefining the Soviet Union as some sort of federation of sovereign states. Underlying this process is a dual respect for democracy and for the rule of law. The new must be produced in an orderly fashion out of the old. I listened to the Tuesday, September speech by Yeltsin in which he first blamed Gorbachev for setting up the coup attempt by his appointments and then saying that the two of them could (must) work together. In a sense, each understands his historic role. Gorbachev's to build the new federal structure and Yeltsin's is to both protect the interests of the Russian state while not looking like the "Big Brother" in the new federation. Both are not all that popular, Gorbachev less popular than Yeltsin - but there is no popularity contest. One is reminded that both came up under the communist system and neither is fully trusted. I think the lack of trust is a strategic tactic on the part of the public and not so much a pathological distrust. Yeltsin is democratically elected that has that to his credit. Gorbachev is not and has to carry that burden. The Congress's 2300 or so Deputies are duly elected and change has to respect this if change is to occur according to due process.

I was told by Gorbechev and Yeltsin supporters that there was a risk that the Congress Deputies would carry out a "legal coup" in the meetings following the coup attempt, i.e., remove Gorbachev as head of the Soviet Union. All sides did not want the new structures (federation of presidents) imposed by fiat. To do so would be seen as extra-legal and raise fears of extra legal moves a la Stalin et. al. I could develop this further but reverence for democracy and due process are what stick in my memory from a week of discussions, Moscow TV etc. As an example I offer the following episodes.

As the coup attempt began to crumble, there was anger toward the Communist Party since the leadership had supported the coup attempt. Apparently Popov, the very popular Russian-Greek mayor of Moscow, and Yeltsin asked Gorbachev to sign papers allowing them to seal the offices of the Federal Communist Party and the Russian (or Moscow?) Communist Party. Gorbachev said he wanted think about it and they said there was no time since angry citizens would soon storm the offices and much damage and lose of documents would occur -as did in East Germany. He agreed, Popov assure the public that the offices would be sealed and there were no attacks on the buildings.

I walked to the party offices, several blocks long and "guarded" by a total of three of four unarmed police. I walked up to the doors and examined the "security" applied to keep people out of the buildings. The doors were -of course- locked as usual but the additional security consisted of a piece of paper tape (1 inch by 8 inches) taped across the two doors, with a notice and two rubber stamped seals on it, and a little piece of wire/string passed through two nail heads and sealed with a little lead seal the size of a pill. For the public it was enough for Popov to say, we will handle it. For me it safe to put my nose and finger six inches away to read the fine print.

Not far away were the offices of the KGB. The statue of the founder was removed earlier in the week, by the city to make sure that people would not hurt themselves trying to pull it down themselves. People walked by the KGB as if to say, it is ordinary, it no longer has its power. When asked if it meant that the KGB would go away, the reply was usually no, it would be around but it would just be ordinary, not without its problems but with the sorts of problems that we might have with our CIA and FBI. Over and over again I was told - we would be happy to live with your (my) problems in these areas.

Just as small groups of people walked by the KGB building, and gathered around the base that had held the KGB founder's statue, large groups walked around the Russian Parliament (White House) building quietly reaffirming that this is our building with our democratically elected representatives. When the crack KGB trained attack troups were told to go get Yeltsin, and instead voted not to do it, they were most likely weighing the effect that the attack would have on democracy. They were certain that their attack would succeed and they get Yeltsin. They were also certain that the attack would either end the march toward democracy or delay it at the cost of a very bloody civil war.

Later I hope to write more clearly on these points, and some on the political economy of the economic mess and prospects for the future. For now I hope these reflections are not seem as too personal. At the academic level I will say that those of us who are worried about how our respective ideological "horses" are playing in the scenario are more likely than not to misunderstand what is going on and - much worse- offer well meaning but ill designed advice.

Sam Lanfranco, York U. CANADA --------------------------------------------------

Organization: Small Venture Platan From: (Igor Yastrzhembsky) Date: Sun, 1 Sep 91 19:31:12 +0300 (MSD) Subject: After watching CNN SPECIAL (Interview with Michael Gorbachev)

I am writing this message right after watching CNN SPECIAL featuring live interview with Gorbachev and a short discussion afterwards. Gorbachev was interviewed by the CNN Moscow bureau chief and a chairman of Gosteleradio Egor Yakovlev.

This is my first day off during last month and I decided to give my rather loose thoughts about recent events in my country.

I received something about 800 posting via TPS-L in the last two weeks. I read them all through and my impression was that everything (or nearly everything) that can be said about the whole issue had been already said. But human nature (mine included) is illogical. I just can help myself from expressing some of my ideas, black-and-white as usual.

First, the events leading to the coup and after it made me think once again that drastic difference between views if a government and views of people in a country is also true for the US. I have many friends in the US. Also I read soviet-related news groups and discussion list and have some concept of what normal people in the States think about soviet matters. It is really uncomprehensible how different is the views of American bureaucracy from that of normal intelligent american people.

Let me say, that in my opinion the attitude of American state to the events in the SU is extremely selfish and hypocritical. In all his talks on the coup matters president Bush was keep on saying that is very much concerned about Mr. Gorbachev about his health about his fate, etc. Sad to say, this is true also for other western politicians. Bush did not say a word about his concern, or just a mere interest, in the fate of common people in the SU about what they will do and they will live under possible rule of GKCHP. He did not say that he is worried about the fate of Boris Yeltsin who was really in danger. Of course, I understand that a politician should first be practical and only then moral. Bearing this in mind I would say that american policy towards us is too practical. My mysterious russian soul protests against it! For example, recently US presidents national security advisor cynically said that the US government would prefer that a central soviet government stay in power. And I want to say that me myself and other russian people prefer that the soviet central government go to hell, and this is much more important that what Gorbachev say. On one hand US government praise freedom and democracy and on the other hand it does not recpect Boris Yeltsin who is FREELY and DEMOCRATICALLY elected leader. What amazes me is that some people from this list also think that, as one of this Sovietologist said on CNN just half an hour ago, Boris Yeltsin is extremely dangerous man. I remember that even VMS said wrote that Yeltsin is ambitious, heavy-drinking and not very clever guy. Those who say such things should understand that they insult those who voted for Yeltsin.

Another idea I want to briefly mention is that some time ago I predicted that we would follow a Polish option, i.e. first martial law and then complete breakdown of a communist system. In a rather comical way it proved to right! Valentine, what do you think?

Finally let me give you one example of the way american bureaucracy behaves towards the soviets.

Our Space Research Institute maintains two computer links to the West. We are purely academic establishment and use this link only for our scientific and information purposes and e-mailing. Recently we organized a third link to our partner in the States to NASA. Physically it was a VAX installed in GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center). We were able to log on into this VAX read messages and live our messages and access several data sets on this machine. There were no real connection between this machine and any other computer. I must say it was very difficult to organize even such a simple 'connection'. People from NASA international department were very cautious about it. The whole think were debated and coordinated over nearly a year. Finally it was installed in July.

Now, the first think NASA has done when they learned about the coup was to cut off this link. This is something I cannot understand. We are a scientific organization. We have nothing to do with military. There is no danger that can come from us, not to say that a coup cannot be transferred via computer links. This is a good example that bureaucrats do not want any cooperation between us and the States. During the coup they were not interested in what is going on here in Moscow. NASA was not interested at all about what will happen to the soviet scientists, etc. They simply cut off the link and were quite satisfied with this.

BTW, the link is still down.

OK. This was a rather emotional posting. Thanks God, I know that my friends in the States are good, friendly, honest and sincere people. I want to express my gratitude to them for their support.

Friendly regards,


PS. If anybody decides to reply to me privately, please, use my BITNET E-mail address: IYASTRZH@ESOC1.BITnet.