Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Lesson for Today: August 1991 Coup Failed because KGB Didn’t Support It, Gennady Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 20 – Force structures have invariably played a key role in all revolutions, revolts, or palace coups, either by supporting the incumbent regime or supporting its challengers, Gennady Gudkov says; and August 1991 was no exception because in his view, the attempted coup failed because it did not have the backing of the Soviet KGB.

            That fact carries with it an important message to those who want to change the Russian political system now, the opposition politician says. They must stop viewing the FSB and the other siloviki as invariable props of the existing regime and recognize that many in this group are as radical or more so than they themselves (

            Gudkov says that he is “certain that the 1991 putsch failed to a significant degree because 26 years ago, the KGB, the most politicized Soviet special service, did not support the actions of the GKChP.”  And there was no other force on whom those seeking to seize power could rely with confidence.

            The Moscow section which included “more than 5,000 officers” and in which Gudkov served “more than ten years,” was combat ready and could have acted successfully if its commanders had agreed to follow the orders of the coup plotters. But those commanders, sensitive to the views of their own staffs, refused; and the coup failed as a result.

            “Why didn’t the KGB support the restoration of the CPSU regime?” the Russian opposition politician asks rhetorically. Because “within the special services long before the August 19, 1991 putsch,” the officers of that security service had a clear “understanding of the ideological, moral and professional degradation of the leadership of the country.”

            Many KGB officers recognized that “the CPSU Politburo had led the country into a dead end and that serious changes in the SYSTEM of power and deep reforms of the economy of the country were needed.”  And despite what many might think, they “absolutely freely” discussed this reality among themselves.

            “Paradoxically,” Gudkov continues, those who were repressing people for the system had “real freedom” as to their views about it and were in fact “at times much more ‘anti-Soviet’ than the expressions of many dissidents.” And that “ideological split” was responsible for “the relatively bloodless revolution of 1991.”

            Opponents of the current Putin regime should take note of this reality,” he says, because “a change in power in present-day Russia will also become possible only when the ideas of change come to dominate part of the office corps of the country and become a real force on which the future ‘revolutionaries’ will be able to act.”

            Up to now, Gudkov says, he doesn’t see any evidence that the opposition understands this; but there is plenty that those in power understand the risks to themselves of such a development, especially since the siloviki organizations on which they rely know very well that they are being forced “to defend not the interests of Russia and its people” but of their rulers.

            Anyone who is serious about struggling for power, he continues, who wants “a democratic and free Russia must consider the importance of this aspect of work” and seek to spread the influence of democratic forces “within the force structures. Without that, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve victory over the regime.”

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