The fall of the Berlin Wall is probably the thing people remember most, but the Soviet empire, truncated and divided, limped on for another two years. It was the August coup, 20 years ago today, that really finished it off.
Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev had dragged his country as far and as fast as he could towards openness and reform (“glasnost” and “perestroika”). But he was always looking over his shoulder, aware that most of his Communist Party colleagues were at best lukewarm about the idea and could move to stop him at any time. A BBC report this morning records him saying to the then US ambassador, “I’m going to have to zig and zag”.