August Coup in Moscow: what does it signify today?

Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the August Coup in the Soviet Union. Back then, members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for whom the economic restructuring initiated by glasnost and perestroika went too far tried to seize power and overthrow President Gorbachev. The coup failed when the population and armed forces refused to follow the putschists' lead, and it heralded the end of the crisis-ridden Soviet Union.

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Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

They didn't reckon with the people

Novaya Gazeta says the coup was a historical miscalculation:

“It seemed to the conspirators that the president's power was only fleeting: all they had to do was separate him from the state apparatus, take away his 'red nuclear button', and that was it, his power would be gone! But it wasn't like that. Gorbachev's power was preserved in the support of the people, in their solid self-image and in the feeling of political self-worth that had already developed. Even those who had until then been his harshest critics rallied behind the slogan 'Freedom for Gorbachev'. People felt degraded. Gorbachev came back to Moscow. But he had gone on holiday leaving behind the capital of the Soviet Union, and now Russia was welcoming him back.”

Delfi (LT) /

Historical role model

For Delfi the model of the August Coup still holds out hope today:

“All in all, 1991 was the most favourable opportunity to introduce democracy and a free society in Russia. It was probably the most opportune time in the entire history of this country - from Muscovy's capture of Novgorod until today. ... If there is the slightest hope that Russia will try to democratise again, there is only one model: 1991.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Too many Russians don't want freedom

The defeat of the coup did not bring totalitarianism to an end, political scientist Nina Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, concludes in the Irish Examiner:

“Today, Russians enjoy relative prosperity and comfort. Many have never had it so good. So, why do so many remain convinced that a strongman is needed to lead them? ... Thirty years ago, Gorbachev freed Russians from the prison of communism. Navalny has bravely tried to light the way out of Putinism, but so far, too many have kept their eyes tightly shut. The lesson of this misremembered anniversary is clear: a free society cannot be made by people who are content to allow their minds to be held captive.”