Staunton, August 18 – The memoirs of those who took part in the attempted coup in August 1991 strongly suggest that they were animated more by a commitment to preserving the unity of the USSR and its status as a great power than retaining the nominal power of the CPSU and a state-dominated economy, Konstantin von Eggert says.
That set of preferences, the Russian commentator who writes a column for the Russian service of Deutsche Welle argues, is “close to the ideals if not the [specific] views” of Vladimir Putin and his regime (dw.com/ru/kommentarij-rossija-putina-strana-o-kotoroj-mechtali-putchisty-1991-goda/a-58897852).
Indeed, von Eggert says, three decades after the putsch, Putin’s Russia “if not in everything than to a large extend reminds one of the state which the coup plotters would have created had not thousands and thousands of Moscovites and Petersburgers risen up to block their path.”
Little remains of the Russian those Muscovites and Petersburgers dreamed of then except “full shelves and (still) free travel abroad at least for the majority of citizens,” the commentator says. And those survive “only because the regime, unique in human history in that the special services do not serve the supreme power but form it learned two lessons” from Soviet times.
First of all, for an authoritarian regime to survive, the people’s stomachs must be full and those who are unhappy with the regime must have the option to leave lest they form an ever larger internal opposition. That Putin understands this makes a repetition of a coup against him less likely.
“The Russian regime as done everything it can to reduce the number of potential ‘agents of change,’ as sociologists call them, by prompting them to leave the country.” No one knows exactly how large this flow is but “it obviously is gigantic in comparison with Soviet times,” von Eggert says.
In short, what we see, he says, is that “today the Kremlin is using two remaining achievements of the anti-communist and anti-authoritarian revolution of 1991 as an instrument for preserving an authoritarian regime which literally before our eyes is being transformed into an open dictatorship.”
According to the commentator, “Russia’s movement toward freedom and dignity going according to the format ‘two steps forward, one step back, pause, two steps forward and one back again.’ At some point this will lead to irreversible changes in the country and in society. And only then will the 1991 revolution occupy a place in Russian history befitting it.”
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