Subject: Day 1 of the coup - a memoir
I spent Sunday, Aug. 18, at a dacha outside Moscow.
About 6 p.m. we returned to the city by car and we were
overtaken by a long column of military vehicles. The soldiers
were dressed in camoflouge outfits and carried weapons. Surely
this was not the beginning of a military coup? I put the thought
out of my mind.
On Aug. 19 I was to meet with a RSFSR deputy at the white
house (headquarters of the RSFSR government and parliament). I
called at about 8 a.m. to confirm our arrangement. Had I heard
the news? He told me that Gorbachev was retired, and the KGB and
military had taken control. He excused himself because he wanted
to rush to the white house - which (he had heard) was still open.
I turned on the news. Neither TV nor radio had anything to say
but only central TV was broadcasting - a symphony orchestra. It
looked as if some political figure had died. Finally, at 9 a.m.
the radio began to broadcast the news. But only the official
statemements - no commentary.
It was all very logical and seemed to comply with the law
and the constitution. Yanaev issued a decree announcing that
Gorbachev, for reasons of health, was unable to exercise the
functions of his office. So he, Yanaev, was assuming the office
of president. Next Yanaev, in his new capacity, proclaimed a
state of emergency. But only in selected parts of the USSR - not
specified. Finally, a decree creating a State Committee for the
Emergency Situation (G.K.Ch.P.). The State Committee assumed
full powers and all agencies of government were subordinate to
its orders. Members included Khryuchkov from the KGB, Pugo of
the MVD, Yazov of MO, the prime minister Pavlov, Yanaev, and
some unknown figures.
Nothing on the TV yet but they started broadcasting a
performance of Swan Lake. (Later Soviet friends would tell me
that they could never watch this ballet again. The association
was too painful.)
I tried reaching my friend at the white house. No
answer. I called another deputy, also at the white house, and
managed to get through. He told me that the building was ringed
with tanks and no one could enter or leave the building. Eltsin
had issued an appeal and he read the entire document to me over
the telephone. I recorded it but it proved to be unnecessary -
it was soon generally available.
I tried calling Alksnis but reached only his secretary.
She promised to tell him that I had called.
There were lots of questions without answers. I recalled
that the law on emergency powers required informing the
legislature of any republic affected. Also the USSR Supreme
Soviet. No mention of this in the decrees as read over the
radio. What precise powers did the State Committee have? Where,
exactly, did the emergency situation apply?
I decided to go to the center and see for myself. But
first I took a walk of several blocks. I was living in Otradnoe,
on the north edge of Moscow. Here there was no evidence of any
emergency. At the Kirov market the Azeri farmers were in their
usual place, selling fresh fruit and defending their high prices
(30 rubles a kilo for melons) to outraged housewives. There
was a long line outside a foodstore and I asked what for. The
last man in line said he had heard that the store had fresh fish
- but maybe it was only a rumor. Next to the store a commercial
kiosk was selling imported (Belgian) beer at 20 kopeks a can -
about 20 times the price of Soviet beer. No visible takers.
There were plenty of people shopping or at least looking
for goods to buy. No signs of panic buying, however.
I got a cab who agreed to take me to the center for 25
rubles. (I should mention that no one can get a cab at the
official fare on the meter. All prices are subject to
negotiation and may be 10 to 20 times the meter fare.) The
driver had not yet been in the center, and had seen no evidence
of an emergency. He had heard the announcements over the radio
but seemed unperturbed by the news. On a 25-minute drive, no
evidence of an emergency, of soldiers, or panic. On the car
radio - an announcement by GKChP banning political meetings and
demonstrations. There was a crowd gathering in front of the
Moscow Soviet and two or three groups of people clustering about
individual speakers. They had not heard about the ban on
meetings. We got to the Menage (the huge square bounded by the
Kremlin, the Moscow Hotel, and the National Hotel) and found that
Red Square, which lies beyond, was closed off. I paid off the
cab and walked through the pedestrian tunnel toward Red Square.
Here the police were in evidence in force. The passage to GUM
(the department store opposite Red Square) was open and the store
was doing business but the police would not let anyone enter the
square. There were several armored personnel carriers but not a
I walked on toward Kuibyshev street, which connects the
Kremlin and CPSU headquarters about a block away. This street is
always heavily patrolled and cars make frequent runs back and
forth between the Kremlin and the party. It seemed no busier and
no more protected than usual. Then it occured to me that the
party played no visible role in the coup - if that was what it
was. Ivashko, the deputy gen. sec., was the top-ranking party
leader after Gorbachev. He was not a member of GKChP.
I walked another block to the Hotel Rossiia and asked a
cab to take me to the white house. He said it was blockaded.
But he agreed to take me to the US embassy, which is only two
blocks from the white house. The Sadovy ring road on which the
embassy is located was thick with traffic - the driver explained
that this was because of the blockade. All the traffic was being
rerouted. On the way we passed the foreign ministry - no sign of
anything special here.
The embassy had the usual line of visa-seekers and Soviet
police trying to maintain order. The visa section was working as
usual, issuing its limited quota of visitors' and immigrant
visas. In the cultural office (which oversees the IREX exchange)
they had no information, and no special advice to give Americans.
>From the embassy I called the Panam office (I had a flight
booked two weeks later) and asked if there had been any change in
schedules. The response was that the rumors about Panam's death
due to bankruptcy were not true and all flights in and out of
Moscow were running on schedule. I answered that I was not
concerned about bankruptcy but about the state of emergency. The
Panam official (an American) had not heard about the state of
From the embassy I walked down a side street to the white
house. There was no sign of tanks or troops but tank barricades
were being erected. Approaches to the building were protected by
several buses and heavy trucks, and citizens were hauling in any
material they could find (including the steel fence around the
building) to construct an improvised obstacle. There were
probably 10,000 people milling around. Some were in small groups
listening to impassioned speakers. I quickly realized that if
any opposition to the junta appeared, it would center here and
not in Red Square. Suddenly a window on the second floor opened
up, and a hand threw out a bundle of documents. There was a
mad rush for copies - luckily no one was trampled to death.
I made my way to entrance 2, which I had used before, and
the policeman let me call a deputy. He sent his assistant to
escort me to the office. Here I got a briefing on the situation.
Eltsin was firmly opposed to the junta and determined to use his
powers to thwart them. He had issued his appeal (I was given a
printed copy) and would issue instructions to all agencies of the
RSFSR to disregard the junta totally. The people would support
the legally elected government of the RSFSR and the junta would
collapse. If they tried to use force, there would be civil war.
I asked how the people could support the government if
they didn't have information. The junta apparently controlled
all the media. I mentioned that Russian TV was off the air. Now
I learned that the offices of the democratic newspapers had been
occupied. Later in the day the junta issued a decree closing
down all the central newspapers except the most reliable (like
Pravda, Izvestiia, Sovetskaia Rossiia). No answer to my question
but an aide appeared with a copy of Eltsin's decree proclaiming
the junta illegal. The RSFSR was about to meet in special
I visited the offices of the RSFSR constitutional
commission, also in the white house. The previous week these
offices had been bustling with workers preparing a new
constitution for the republic. Now it all seemed irrelevant.
Someone turned on a radio. The junta was holding a
collective news conference. I managed to hear only a part of
I now heard the first rumors that the army might storm
the building, and the people were surrounding the building (as
the people of Vilnius had surrounded the Lithuanian parliament)
to protect it. It was clear that the crowd had grown in size.
Barricades were being erected across the Kutuzov bridge, near the
Later I heard that snipers had been stationed in the
Ukraina hotel, across the river from the white house, and that
they might start shooting. It seemed to me, however, that the
hotel was too far aware for snipers. It would be a good
location, however, for mortars or other weaponry to attack the
I left the building with a friend of mine from the
constitutional commission and we walked the two blocks to the
International Hotel. Here everything seemed normal - far removed
from a major political crisis. We passed an hour in the bar
discussing the situation (my friend seemed enormously optimistic)
and - of all things - watching CNN. CNN had a camera on the
white house which caught the action. It was another,
characteristically Russian, paradox - we were sitting in an air
conditioned bar having sandwiches and beer, and watching an
American broadcast of a potential revolution two blocks away.
Events that Russian television was not allowed to show.
We went back to the white house. I learned that Eltsin
had made an appearance before the crowd. But it was now raining
heavily and many in the crowd had sought shelter or were huddled
close to the building.
Rumors were spreading. One was that the patriarch had
pronounced an anathema again the junta (not true - not yet
anyway). Gorbachev had been arrested at the airport on his
arrivel in Moscow (also not true) and was now being controlled by
drugs. Tanks were converging on Moscow from all directions and
tomorrow the city would be occupied (which turned out to be
I went home to take a hot shower and find some dry
clothes. Once again, away from the center of the city, there was
no sign of anything unusual.
It was now time for Vremya, and it was devoted entirely
to the coup. But no news - only official announcements which had
already been broadcast over the radio. A military commander had
been appointed for Moscow (General Kalinin) but there was still
no official, formal announcement that the state of emergency
extended to Moscow. Following Vremya there was a repeat
broadcast of the news conference. The first thing I noticed was
Yanaev's shaking hands. Obviously he was very nervous.
Certainly he was not the leader of this coup. But if not Yanaev
- then who?
Aside from the nervous acting president, the other
members of the panel made little impression. There was no
leader, certainly no one who could match Eltsin in popular
appeal. For the first time I felt a slight optimism about the
situation. Again there was no CPSU presence in the coup
leadership. Pavlov was reported ill - was this a diplomatic
presence? Lukyanov had issued a pronouncement about the union
treaty - scheduled for signature tomorrow. It was incomplete and
in need of major revision. This put Lukyanov on the side of the
Most of the answers were evasive. Would there be a
curfew? No - at least not immediately. Where, exactly, did the
state of emergency apply? That would be clear later. What about
the newspapers that had been suppressed? The newspapers, we were
told, bore the primary responsibility for the chaos that had
seized the country and needed to be shut down. But in fact (the
answer went on) they had not been suppressed. They were simply
being required to re-register. When re-registered, they would be
allowed to resume publication. How long would this
re-registration take? Uncertain.
Most of the suppressed newspapers were represented at the
press conference, and were not sparing in their questions.
A friend called and asked to come over. We discussed
the situation at great length. He was fearful of mass arrests
but so far nothing like this had happened. Gorbachev's status
was unclear. Gldyan had reportedly be arrested but my friend
told me that he had been released. I received a call from
Leningrad (apparently the long-distance lines were open) and
learned that the situation there was basically normal. A general
strike was beginning and some plants (Kirov, for example) were
already closing down. Sobchak had been in Moscow but immediately
returned to Leningrad and denounced the coup. Leningrad TV was
now operating normally. Nevzorov (who could be expected to
support the junta) was in Sweden preparing to get married.
The Lensoviet was in session.An emergency committee had
been appointed in Leningrad - among the members was Gidaspov.
But it remained invisible - no pronouncements, no curfew, no
troops in the city. I was told that the Baltic Fleet at
Kronstadt had pledged to defend the city if necessary.
Subj: Memoir of the coup - continued
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 91 10:22 EST
From: "Darrell P. Hammer (Political Science)"
Aug. 20-second day of the coup. I received a phone call
to tell me about a mass meeting being organized in front of the
Mossoviet. I decided to take a look but again I started the day
by looking at the neighborhood. In the courtyard children were
People were going about their normal business. Lines
were forming in front of the stores. The only thing out of the
ordinary: the newspaper kiosk was closed. At the Otradnoe metro
stop, where I regularly bought Nezavisimaia gazeta, it wasn't on
sale. But you could buy flowers, books, and horoscopes.
I took a cab to the center and for the first time
encountered troops - but not in force. At scattered points along
the route there were clusters of two or three tanks and their
crews lounging around. They did not look battle ready. The
people seemed to ignore them.
The cab got me as far as Pushkin square. There was
indeed a meeting in front of the Mossoviet. But there were far
fewer people than yesterday at the white house. Some men were
speaking from the balcony but no one that I recognized. In
particular Popov was not there. There were plenty of people in
the crowd listening to individual speakers - all opposed to the
junta. Several people were carrying the Russian (white-blue-red)
flag. It was becoming the symbol of resistance. There were
police around but not active. They made no effort to disburse
the crowd, although it appeared to violate the junta's orders.
A block down Tverskaia st. the atmosphere changed. At
the central telegraph office there was a thick line of soldiers
who blocked further movement. They were backed up by armored
personnel carriers. There were plenty of people beyond the
barrier - they had assembled near Red Square or in the Menage
before the soldiers arrived. People were allowed to leave the
area - the soldiers let them through without question. But no
one could pass the other way. The idea, obviously, was to empty
the area around the Kremlin.
The soldiers carried automatic weapons. Were they ready
I made my way to the Moscow Hotel by a roundabout way.
The area near the hotel was also blocked by soldiers but not the
hotel entrance. I went to the seventh floor, headquarters of the
Liberal Democratic party. Zhavrinskii, the party's leader,
supported the junta though there is no evidence he was involved
in planning it. I talked to a couple of his people. They were
enthusiastic about the coup but uninformed about the details.
Not much information here. I went upstairs to Alksnis's office.
A. himself was not there but I was told he would be in later
because he was committed to giving an interview to an American TV
crew. I was shown a statement he had made denouncing the coup.
I tried to get a copy but only one was available. The Moscow has
no public xerox facilities. The statement was clear and
unambiguous - Alksnis still believed that the country needed
strong power, but not illegality. The coup was in violation of
the law and the constitution. The result would be to speed up
the very process of chaos and disintegration that the coup was
trying to prevent. This latter was remarkably prophetic.
From a public phone I reached my deputy friend at the
white house. He had alarming news. All the women were leaving
the building, and an armed attack was expected at any minute. I
decided to see for myself.
There were no taxis at the Moscow Hotel so I went around
the corner to the Metropole and rented an Express Taxi (for hard
currency). This turned out to be a good move. The taxi had the
license plate of a joint enterprise - the police passed us
through several barricades without question. The driver chose an
indirect route which took me past the KGB (heavily guarded by
police, but no soldiers in evidence) and out to the Sadovy ring.
At three points there were road blocks but we were waved through.
Past Mayakovsky Square traffic became very thick and seemed to be
moving in only one direction. Again I got out at the embassy and
went the rest of the way on foot. There were a couple of armored
personnel carriers in front of the white house but I was told
that these were troops loyal to Eltsin. This was good news - but
it seemed hardly enough force to repel a serious attack. With
some difficulty I talked my way into the building. All seemed
confusion. There were armed men here and there but in civilian
clothes - no soldiers. Some carried gas masks. I was told that
an armored column was on its way via the Sadovy ring - but I had
just come that way, and seen no column. More details - the tanks
had arrived by train at the Belorusskii station and were making
their way down Tverskaia, and thence via Sadovy.
The Sadovy was an immense traffic mess. Had this
situation been created by the traffic police to thwart the tank
Echo Moskvy was back on the air. The announcer said that
it had returned yesterday and then gone off again - while it was
off a false station had broadcast claiming to be Echo Moskvy.
Somewhere in the building a radio center had been set up and was
broadcasting over Echo Moskvy. At last some anti-junta
information was going out to the public.
The junta, incidentally, had disappeared from view.
After the press conference of Monday, as far as I know, no member
of the junta again appeared in public.
Rumors and confusion. Several divisions had come over to
the side of Russia and Eltsin and were on their way to defend the
white house. (Did this include the mysterious tank column?) No
tanks had entered Leningrad. The real mastermind of the coup was
Alksnis - I really regretted that I had not be able to get a copy
of his statement. Or, alternatively, Ivashko. The Soviet border
was closed and no one was allowed to enter or leave. (The latter
point I was able to check out later. Several countries - not
including the US - had stopped issuing visas to Soviet citizens.
But the borders were not actually closed - on either side.)
When I left the building it was dark. Much to my
surprise I enountered a familiar face - a priest I knew who had
arrived to give spiritual counsel. He told me that the
Patriarch has issued a statement calling for access to Gorbachev,
support for Eltsin, and by implication denouncing the coup. But
the patriarch (so I was told) was alone - the rest of the
hieararchy supported the coup. In particular he denounced the
metropolitans Yuvenalii and Boris. He then returned to the task
of hearing confessions from the troops and giving communion.
The priest invited me to go visiting and I accepted the
invitation. It was a hard decision - if there was really to be an
attack I would like to witness it, but was it worth the risk?
With the priest I returned along the Sadovy - the traffic was
nearlt normal but there was still no sign of a tank column.
With the priest's friends I found that the political
crisis had not dampened Russian hospitality - they quickly laid
out a table of salami, tomatoes and cucumbers, and Armenian
cognac. They had the radio tuned to Radio Liberty, which came in
loud and clear. The news was mostly about the expected attack on
the white house but I got some other news - still no troops in
Leningrad, where there was a mass demonstration in Palace Square,
Gorbachev was interned at his summer home inthe Crimea, several
military units were supporting Eltsin and the Russian government.
I heard an interview with Yuri Afanas'ev, who happened to be in
the west at the time of the coup.
Someone came in with news that a curfew had been
announced. We turned on the local radio - no news. But after
about half an hour there was an announcement of a curfew
proclaimed by General Kalinin. No one was to be on the streets
between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. It was now 10:30. Could the curfew
be taken seriously? (Later I learned that no one took it
seriously - perhaps half of Moscow never even heard of it. The
next day it was revoked.). I was invited to spend the night, on
the chance that the curfew might actually be enforced. We talked
until 3 a.m., when I vaguely remember falling asleep.
Aug. 21 - Day 3. I awoke at 8, had a cup of coffee, and
decided to make my way home. I waved down a "private" taxi who
agreed to drive me home for five dollars. I asked if there would
be any troops in the way. The driver told me that the troops had
left. There were no more tanks in the city.
I got home, cleaned up, and called the white house. They
confirmed that all the military had left the area and there
appeared to be a "major redeployment" of troops. The atmosphere
in the building, I was told, was calm. I called Alksnis and was
able to talk to him. He agreed to see me that afternoon.
I treated myself to a couple of hours of sleep and called
friends again. The news was startling. A delegation from the
Russian government, headed by Rutskoi, was to go to the Crimea to
see Gorbachev. There were rumors that Eltsin had talked to him.
Also that Gorbachev was being released and would soon return to
Moscow. Later I heard a rumor that Yanaev had tried to flee
abroad but had been arrested at Vnukovo airport.
There were still no newspapers on sale but otherwise the
neighborhood appeared to be normal.
When I arrived downtown Marx prospect was closed from the
Lyubanka to Menage - closed, that is, to traffic. A huge
demonstration was underway. As I got closer it was clear that
this was a victory demonstration. The crowds were gleeful, and
the Russian flag was much in evidence.
In the Moscow hotel I checked first with the headquarters
of the Liberal Democratic party. It was closed and empty.
Alksnis was engaged in a strategy conference but he invited me to
sit down and wait. They were discussing the upcoming Supreme
Soviet meeting (of the USSR - scheduled for Monday). There were
several phone calls - including the information that the
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was about to meet - without
Lukyanov in the chair - and would annul all the acts of the
I heard reports that some members of the junta were on
their way to the Crimea to see Gorbachev - perhaps to appeal for
mercy. Also a rumor that Yazov had committed suicide. (This, it
turned out, was Pugo and not Yazov.)
At last the advisers left and I had a one-on-one
conversation with Alksnis. I will write a separate report on
this meeting but let me sum it up by saying that I was convinced
that A. was not the brains behind the plot and has no
responsibility for it. His main goals were to restore the
central government, and remove the plotters while avoiding a
What led to the collapse of the junta? On Monday it
looked as if they held all the cards. In retrospect we can see
that the coup was an act of desperation - not well planned or
well prepared. They had no leader, and when Eltsin emerged as
the leader of the resistance, this proved to be a fatal
shortcoming. It was a catastrophic mistake not to have isolated
Eltsin just as they isolated Gorbachev. A better planned
strategy would have foreseen this. Although they moved troops
into Moscow, the troops seemed to have no plan other than to
isolate the Kremlin and protect a few strategic points. But the
center of popular resistance turned out to be the white house,
for which the plotters, apparently, had no plans. If they really
planned to storm the building, why did they hesitate?
In retrospect the coup was worse than a failure. It has
speeded up the very process of disintegration which it was
intended to stop. As a result of the coup, the democrats in the
USSR may now accomplish in days what otherwise might have taken
SAM LANFRANCO, YORK UNIVERSITY, CANADA
Date: Mon, 09 Sep 91 21:43:58 EDT
From: Sam Lanfranco
Subject: Reflections on Moscow
While I work through my impressions of being in Moscow ten days
after the coup attempt I will post a couple of "impression"
pieces to try to give a sense of what I saw and felt. Here is
I spend past week in Moscow trying to make sense out of what is
going on after the coup attempt. I watched the Congress sessions
on Moscow TV and have read the western press. My first
impression is that the political analysis of what is going on in
the (ex)USSR is probably better on Moscow TV than it is on most
western TV. There are "gems" in the western analysis
but too much of it seems more about western "experts" (academic
and press) trying to protect their expert status while facing
changes they really do not understand. Sorting through the
western comment yields slim pickings.
On the politics of Gorbachev and Yelstin, our press seems to
treat events as a horse race with bets and odds, as a personality
race, or as a boxing match.
Through the eyes of people in Moscow (which is NOT all the
Soviets) one sees Gorbachev, Yeltsin, the Deputies in the
Congress, and the leaders of the various republics all as players
in a process of redefining the Soviet Union as some sort of
federation of sovereign states. Underlying this process is a
dual respect for democracy and for the rule of law. The new
must be produced in an orderly fashion out of the old. I
listened to the Tuesday, September speech by Yeltsin in which he
first blamed Gorbachev for setting up the coup attempt by his
appointments and then saying that the two of them could (must)
work together. In a sense, each understands his historic
role. Gorbachev's to build the new federal structure and
Yeltsin's is to both protect the interests of the Russian state
while not looking like the "Big Brother" in the new federation.
Both are not all that popular, Gorbachev less popular than
Yeltsin - but there is no popularity contest. One is reminded
that both came up under the communist system and neither is fully
trusted. I think the lack of trust is a strategic tactic on the
part of the public and not so much a pathological distrust.
Yeltsin is democratically elected that has that to his credit.
Gorbachev is not and has to carry that burden. The Congress's
2300 or so Deputies are duly elected and change has to respect
this if change is to occur according to due process.
I was told by Gorbechev and Yeltsin supporters that there was a
risk that the Congress Deputies would carry out a "legal coup" in
the meetings following the coup attempt, i.e., remove Gorbachev
as head of the Soviet Union. All sides did not want the new
structures (federation of presidents) imposed by fiat. To
do so would be seen as extra-legal and raise fears of extra legal
moves a la Stalin et. al. I could develop this further but
reverence for democracy and due process are what stick in my
memory from a week of discussions, Moscow TV etc. As an example
I offer the following episodes.
As the coup attempt began to crumble, there was anger toward the
Communist Party since the leadership had supported the coup
attempt. Apparently Popov, the very popular Russian-Greek mayor
of Moscow, and Yeltsin asked Gorbachev to sign papers allowing
them to seal the offices of the Federal Communist Party and the
Russian (or Moscow?) Communist Party. Gorbachev said he wanted
think about it and they said there was no time since angry
citizens would soon storm the offices and much damage and lose of
documents would occur -as did in East Germany. He agreed, Popov
assure the public that the offices would be sealed and there were
no attacks on the buildings.
I walked to the party offices, several blocks long and "guarded"
by a total of three of four unarmed police. I walked up to the
doors and examined the "security" applied to keep people out of
the buildings. The doors were -of course- locked as usual but
the additional security consisted of a piece of paper tape (1
inch by 8 inches) taped across the two doors, with a notice and
two rubber stamped seals on it, and a little piece of wire/string
passed through two nail heads and sealed with a little lead seal
the size of a pill. For the public it was enough for Popov to
say, we will handle it. For me it safe to put my nose and finger
six inches away to read the fine print.
Not far away were the offices of the KGB. The statue of the
founder was removed earlier in the week, by the city to make sure
that people would not hurt themselves trying to pull it down
themselves. People walked by the KGB as if to say, it is
ordinary, it no longer has its power. When asked if it
meant that the KGB would go away, the reply was usually no, it
would be around but it would just be ordinary, not without its
problems but with the sorts of problems that we might have with
our CIA and FBI. Over and over again I was told - we would be
happy to live with your (my) problems in these areas.
Just as small groups of people walked by the KGB building, and
gathered around the base that had held the KGB founder's statue,
large groups walked around the Russian Parliament (White House)
building quietly reaffirming that this is our building with our
democratically elected representatives. When the crack KGB
trained attack troups were told to go get Yeltsin, and instead
voted not to do it, they were most likely weighing the effect
that the attack would have on democracy. They were certain that
their attack would succeed and they get Yeltsin. They were also
certain that the attack would either end the march toward
democracy or delay it at the cost of a very bloody civil war.
Later I hope to write more clearly on these points, and some on
the political economy of the economic mess and prospects for the
future. For now I hope these reflections are not seem as too
personal. At the academic level I will say that those of us who
are worried about how our respective ideological "horses" are
playing in the scenario are more likely than not to misunderstand
what is going on and - much worse- offer well meaning but ill
Sam Lanfranco, York U. CANADA
Organization: Small Venture Platan
From: email@example.com (Igor Yastrzhembsky)
Date: Sun, 1 Sep 91 19:31:12 +0300 (MSD)
Subject: After watching CNN SPECIAL (Interview with Michael
I am writing this message right after watching CNN SPECIAL
featuring live interview with Gorbachev and a short discussion
afterwards. Gorbachev was interviewed by the CNN Moscow bureau
chief and a chairman of Gosteleradio Egor Yakovlev.
This is my first day off during last month and I decided to give
my rather loose thoughts about recent events in my country.
I received something about 800 posting via TPS-L in the last two
weeks. I read them all through and my impression was that
everything (or nearly everything) that can be said about the
whole issue had been already said. But human nature (mine
included) is illogical. I just can help myself from expressing
some of my ideas, black-and-white as usual.
First, the events leading to the coup and after it made me think
once again that drastic difference between views if a government
and views of people in a country is also true for the US. I have
many friends in the US. Also I read soviet-related news groups
and discussion list and have some concept of what normal people
in the States think about soviet matters. It is really
uncomprehensible how different is the views of American
bureaucracy from that of normal intelligent american people.
Let me say, that in my opinion the attitude of American state to
the events in the SU is extremely selfish and hypocritical. In
all his talks on the coup matters president Bush was keep on
saying that is very much concerned about Mr. Gorbachev about his
health about his fate, etc. Sad to say, this is true also for
other western politicians. Bush did not say a word about his
concern, or just a mere interest, in the fate of common people in
the SU about what they will do and they will live under possible
rule of GKCHP. He did not say that he is worried about the fate
of Boris Yeltsin who was really in danger. Of course, I
understand that a politician should first be practical and only
then moral. Bearing this in mind I would say that american policy
towards us is too practical. My mysterious russian soul protests
against it! For example, recently US presidents national security
advisor cynically said that the US government would prefer that a
central soviet government stay in power. And I want to say that
me myself and other russian people prefer that the soviet central
government go to hell, and this is much more important that what
Gorbachev say. On one hand US government praise freedom and
democracy and on the other hand it does not recpect Boris Yeltsin
who is FREELY and DEMOCRATICALLY elected leader. What amazes me
is that some people from this list also think that, as one of
this Sovietologist said on CNN just half an hour ago, Boris
Yeltsin is extremely dangerous man. I remember that even VMS said
wrote that Yeltsin is ambitious, heavy-drinking and not very
clever guy. Those who say such things should understand that they
insult those who voted for Yeltsin.
Another idea I want to briefly mention is that some time ago I
predicted that we would follow a Polish option, i.e. first
martial law and then complete breakdown of a communist system. In
a rather comical way it proved to right! Valentine, what do you
Finally let me give you one example of the way american
bureaucracy behaves towards the soviets.
Our Space Research Institute maintains two computer links to the
West. We are purely academic establishment and use this link only
for our scientific and information purposes and e-mailing.
Recently we organized a third link to our partner in the States
to NASA. Physically it was a VAX installed in GSFC (Goddard Space
Flight Center). We were able to log on into this VAX read
messages and live our messages and access several data sets on
this machine. There were no real connection between this machine
and any other computer. I must say it was very difficult to
organize even such a simple 'connection'. People from NASA
international department were very cautious about it. The whole
think were debated and coordinated over nearly a year. Finally it
was installed in July.
Now, the first think NASA has done when they learned about
the coup was to cut off this link. This is something I cannot
understand. We are a scientific organization. We have nothing to
do with military. There is no danger that can come from us, not
to say that a coup cannot be transferred via computer links. This
is a good example that bureaucrats do not want any cooperation
between us and the States. During the coup they were not
interested in what is going on here in Moscow. NASA was not
interested at all about what will happen to the soviet
scientists, etc. They simply cut off the link and were quite
satisfied with this.
BTW, the link is still down.
OK. This was a rather emotional posting. Thanks God, I know that
my friends in the States are good, friendly, honest and sincere
people. I want to express my gratitude to them for their support.
PS. If anybody decides to reply to me privately, please, use my
BITNET E-mail address: IYASTRZH@ESOC1.BITnet.