The World

Aug 19, 2011

It was 20 years ago today — remembering the Soviet coup

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.

Charles Richardson — Editor of The World is not Enough

Charles Richardson

Editor of The World is not Enough

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”.

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One thought on “It was 20 years ago today — remembering the Soviet coup

  1. Peter Evans

    It was a fascinating time. I was in eastern Czechoslovakia (near the Ukrainian) border at the time, and I recall meeting some people at a pizza restaurant – I was unaware what was going on. This guy said, “Today, Gorbachev kaput!”. I’ll never forget that. And people were genuinely fearful of the Bear across the way. All night troop trains rattled to the boarder as the Czech army got itself organised in case some rogue Red Army general went a little nuts. A couple of days later I was caught up in a massive march to the Russian consulate in Bratislava, and man were people pissed off. There was widespread relief (not jubilation) when the coup collapsed.

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