Wednesday, August 23, 2023

August 1991 Coup Attempt had No Chance of Success as It Came after Russians Elected Yeltsin President, Kobrinsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 19 – The situation in the USSR had become so dire by the start of 1991 that it was obvious that the country could be held together either by a return to harsh repression or radical economic and political reforms, Aleksandr Kobrinsky says. Mikhail Gorbachev vacillated, and so it is no surprise that some tried to overthrow him.

            Indeed, the opposition politician says, that outcome was “practically inevitable” given that those around him recognized that “time was working against them.” But they made a critical mistake that made their failure inevitable: they did not act before the people of the RSFSR elected their own president (

            Had the coup plotters acted in May 1991, they would have had some chance of success, Kobrinsky says. But “in August, there weren’t any.” The union republics then stood ready to leave, and the Russian people were prepared to rally around a new and legitimate center of power, that of the Russian presidency.

            The victory over the coup plotters in August 1991 was “of course, a popular victory: people risked their lives for their dreams of a free life in a free and lawful state, in which the chief principle would be respect for the human person.” That desire and that striving was so great that in December 1991, “not a single person came out in defense” of the USSR.

            “It is not the fault” of the Russian people that “their hopes were destroyed, that the hyperinflation of 1992 overshadowed the Pavlovian reforms, and that the heroes who defeated the attempted putsch soon began to fight with one another for power, money and influence,” Kobrinsky concludes.

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