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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Michael Schneider: “In 1991, we went to the White House as going to war”

Current opposition leader Michael Schneider in 1991 was the adviser of the mayor of Moscow, quietly preparing for a trip to Japan, but the morning of the fatal August 19, dashed these plans. Phone woke present MP from the ruling party, and opposition democratic activist Lyudmila Stebenkova. “A coup in the country, do something,” she blurted out. It was six hours and fifteen minutes.

Michael Schneider leads to the White House Eduard Shevardnadze

I rushed over to city hall, there were our comrades in the “Democratic Russia”, and we made an appeal to the people. Began to send his Fax in all imaginable and unimaginable locations – says “MK” Michael Schneider. – Wrote bid for the one hundred thousandth the rally at the Manege, which immediately signed Luzhkov, acting mayor while he was on vacation. This seemingly bureaucratic solution that gave at least some ground under the feet of the participants antipathidae protest. And the protests were spontaneous across the center. It was necessary to end the chaos and gather somewhere together. Decided — near the White House. Moreover, Yeltsin had already made his appeal to the people and condemnation of the coup. But how to gather people? Communication was then developed bad: the Internet and mobile communications were not. All existing communication channels were knocked out. We are in huge numbers began to multiply and to distribute leaflets, but to sense from them was not much. 16.00 to the White House more than a thousand people. And then comes to a head the saving thought: we will announce the collection in the subway cars. Activists rushed into the subway and soon drivers began to read our call to gather at the White house.

– You have no guilt for what you drive people to a place where they could be shot? And himself was not afraid to go to the White House?

I don’t know what feelings people experience in war, but I think similar. Personally, I had a feeling that the fighting began, and I do what’s right — not running from the battlefield. I think that the emotions were all about the same: people have taken hope, and everyone fought really for her. My personal motivation was: I want to take what I was doing, at least the last five years: so that our country and our citizens become free, not afraid to Express their opinions boldly and optimistically looked to the future. I was one of those who participated in the democratic transition of the country. And all this on 19 August, the coup can turn to dust. I was going to protect the country’s achievements, and your personal contribution to them, and their hope for the future.

I believe that these emotions were the main people who went to the White House, realizing that they could even shoot. Who shot feared more than the loss of our acquired values— the ones left at home. Out people who have a thirst for free land overcame the instinct of self-preservation.

Going to the White House, you already know that it are the tanks?

– Of course. But scary it was not. Frightened when in the middle of the day I realized that the people the White House didn’t come. Our efforts were not crowned with success. We expected that immediately come hundreds of thousands, as they came out on Manezhnaya square a year earlier, before the elections of the Congress of people’s deputies of the RSFSR. And then we saw not hundreds of thousands, but literally hundreds. This of course was a shock, the mood is terrible. But you need to explain that continued day, the people worked, and did not know what was happening. And our thought about ads in the subway was, as it turned out, very sensible: returning from work, people will hear the appeal from the lips of the driver, was not home, and to the White House. By the evening of 19 August were those tens of thousands whom we waited.

– When you’ve gathered people knew that on the one hand small arms and mortar weapons of armed people in the White house, and on the other the military coming from outside? And those tens or hundreds of thousands, finding the square between these two forces can become cannon fodder in the crossfire of “good and evil”?

I was in the midst of this “cannon fodder”. We have firearms was not, I knew that the provocations will not. But I saw that inside the White House there are people with guns…

– And any accident could lead to violence on both sides, and in the middle — you…

– It is now possible to think about it and then rate it seemed more than a personal risk. In addition, the armored vehicles that could storm the White House approached him in the night of August 20. By the time people here already was not enough. By midnight, most went home, to return tomorrow.

– Some day, from your point of view, was decisive at the moment of opposition to the coup, and citizens who came to defend the White House, symbolizing the democratic transformation?

– If you do not discuss the events that occurred in the relationship between politicians and look at them from the space in front of the White House, every day was decisive. If by the evening of August 19 there gathered tens of thousands of people — the story would have gone a completely different way.

And if August 20, people are not gathered there again, and if in the night of 20 August killed three guys, naively trying to block the path of armored vehicles — again, a lot could be different.

Policy was engaged in his struggle, but every hour of our civil conflict played a role.


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