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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

“Ordinary people can do everything”: a chronicle of the last days of the August coup

On August 21-22, 1991, decided the fate of the country. Participants in the events describe the last days of the coup as extremely tense, some admit that there was a complete mess. Politician Alexander Osovtsov, who was then the Deputy of Moscow city Council, and human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, who was then the Deputy of the Supreme Council, participated in the defense of the White house. “MK” asked them to recall the main events of those days and asked how the defenders of the White house managed to defeat the putsch.

photo: ru.wikipedia.org

August 21, 1991

00.00. Clash army patrol with the demonstrators, the soldiers fired over their heads. “No one in the crowd or inside the building did not understand what was happening. It got to the point that the White house came out man, I went into the main offices and said something, and soon came another man and said opposite things, — says Alexander Osovtsov. — These days was tense. The feeling that the assault could begin at any moment, we were concentrated and prepared for him.”

00.30. In the area of the White house began the movement of troops. The demonstrators tried to stop a convoy of armored vehicles in the tunnel at the intersection of the Garden ring and Novy Arbat street. Killed three defenders of the White house — Dmitry Komar, Vladimir Usov and Ilya Krichevsky.

“My personal reaction was: they started to bleed and now it will not stop,” — says Osovtsov.

Around the same time, a group of Marines entered the building of radio station “Echo of Moscow” and forced the journalists to stop transmission. “This 19th numbers it was difficult to perceive a column of tanks coming to the White house — says the politician. — And to the 21-th number of events such as the attack on “Echo of Moscow”, was perceived already as part of the coup, and no shock was. It is understandable why we created the “Echo of Moscow” and how it is broadcast. And it is clear that they wanted the broadcast to stop”.

“I was in the building of the Supreme Council, in my office we have created the headquarters of the movement “Democratic Russia” and coordinated from below: working the phones, distributing documents, — says Lev Ponomarev. — As soon as we learned that the “Echo of Moscow” was captured by the Marines, we sent dozens of people who helped to repel the assault”.

02.30–04.30. The Lubyanka held a meeting with participation of Chairman of the KGB Vladimir Kryuchkov, Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU Oleg Shenin, Deputy defense Minister of the USSR Valentine., General Boris Gromov and about 20 senior officers of the KGB. Gromov announced that the internal troops in the storming of the White house would not participate.

The commander of the Soviet air force, Yevgeni Shaposhnikov suggested that the Soviet defense Minister Dmitry Yazov withdraw troops from Moscow and the putsch “to declare illegal and to disperse”.

“I think that the refusal of the army from storming the White house we should thank those three victims,” said Lev Ponomarev. — Then everyone realized that the blood was shed and if it is not stopped, blood will flow on and on. They their lives have prevented the bloodshed.”

“When 2-3 hours later after people died in the assault began, I had the feeling that he has and will not start — says Alexander Osovtsov. — But about the decisions we only found out after 2 hours”.

05.00. At the Board meeting Yazov gave the order to withdraw troops from Moscow. The troops began to move away from the White house.

10.00. The Supreme Soviet, chaired by Ruslan Khasbulatov appealed to the Vice-President of the USSR and head of the emergency Committee, Gennady Yanayev with the requirement to cancel all decisions of the emergency Committee and the emergency Committee to recognize an illegal formation.

17.00. Yanayev signed the decree which declared the emergency Committee dissolved, and its decisions invalid.

22.00. The General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation Valentin Stepankov ordered the arrest of former members of the emergency Committee.

“Maybe I was in the crowd of supporters of tougher action, says Osovtsov. But the arrest was clearly correct, it was necessary to carry out the investigation and there were no differences.”

22 Aug 1991

00.04. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev returned to Moscow. “At this point it became clear that the coup is suppressed,” says Osovtsov.

11.00. The first interrogations of the arrested members of the emergency Committee. Yazov and Kryuchkov repented of his actions.

12.00. In front of the White house passed two hundred thousandth the rally victory. Yeltsin declared that the decision to announce the new tricolor national flag of Russia. The memory of the victims observed a minute of silence. The festivities lasted until the evening. Night was removed from the pedestal monument to Dzerzhinsky on Lubyanka square. According to Alexander Osovtsov, in the removal of the monument had several meanings. “Many of the marchers wanted to go to the building of the KGB — says the politician. But many of us believed that this needs to be done, somebody that will set fire to, burn the archives, and we hoped that will be a major consequence will be the next victim. Thus it was found the option to encourage everyone to remove the monument to Dzerzhinsky. At the same time and it looked like a very interesting character: it was clear that this is one of the main pillars of the regime, which was overthrown. It was clear that standing at the head of the KGB Kryuchkov is one of the main participants in the coup.”

Assessment of events

Alexander OSOVTSOV:

“Insights for the country, I do not dare but for myself, I formulate the following conclusions. Ordinary people, if they have enough will and courage, can do almost everything. Such cases, when people come to the area and everything changes in 3 days does not happen often in history, in Russia they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. But they are. And, as experience shows, to predict when this will happen is impossible. And no one should forget that, nor those, who, as then, the emergency Committee, thinks that will make history, nor to those who are able to go out at the right time to change history.”


“The main conclusion is defeated organized people. By the time a significant part of Muscovites have been politicized, and it turned out that she did not want the Communists, and wants democratic reforms. After people went outside, Gorbachev ceased to use the weapon to prevent withdrawal of the Republic of Lithuania from the USSR. People used then to ensure that they are not objects but subjects of history, to the fact that mass action can affect the course of history.”

Watch the video on “mistakes of the emergency Committee 25 years later: how not to do a coup”


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