25 years ago, an attempted takeover by communist hardliners led to the Soviet Union’s collapse. The reverberations still continue.
The death of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a reality, despite rumours that it didn’t happen at all. But it was a strange death, reflecting the strange life of the beast itself. A state that had survived the onslaught of Nazi armies and avoided overthrow by popular revolution ended as a result of the failure of the “State Committee for the State of Emergency” (GKChP in its Russian acronym), better known as “the failed coup in Moscow in August 1991”. A quarter of a century later, the aftershocks are still being felt, and by all of us.
It was a pathetic end for the former superpower. The coup was orchestrated by its top officials, the entire cast in power with one exception: the USSR’s first (and last) president, Mikhail Gorbachev, who was taking his summer vacation in Crimea. The “gang of eight” included Gennady Yanayev, the Soviet Union’s vice-president; Valentin Pavlov, its prime minister; Dmitri Yazov, defence minister; Boris Pugo, interior minister; Vladimir Kryuchkov, head of the KGB.