30 years from the date of the putsch: “Not only this idiotic junta will come to an end, but also the end of the system that we have had for so many years.”
On August 19, 1991, the State Emergency Committee announced the seizure of power – the next few days shocked the world. The Democrats won, but they were not ready for democracy. Residents of Finland, eyewitnesses of the events, recall the unique atmosphere of that era.
“ Money does not work. You can buy vodka only in exchange for an empty bottle … In the hotel buffet they complain – guests steal cutlery … The country is in ruins … ”
These are lines from the diary of a Finnish researcher Risto Alapuro , who was in Moscow before the putsch, studied sociology.
“Even then it was clear that the Soviet Union was on its last legs,” says Alapuro, author of the just-published book of memoirs Vallankumouksessa (In the Revolution ). – Almost everyone felt this: not only democrats, but also the communists themselves.
“Devastation is everywhere, on the streets, in elevators. People are embittered, push, do not apologize, everyone survives as best he can … Communists declare that one of the causes of the crisis is corruption within the party – a classic example of changes in the system: on the one hand, they propose reforms, on the other – they tighten the screws. ”
The country has preconditions for the exhaust of civil discontent. President Mikhail Gorbachev ceased to suit both the people thirsting for change and the party elite, who dreamed of reviving the old Soviet regime.
Tanks in the city
August 19 In 1991, the TASS correspondent Alexander Smelyakov was returning from his dacha to Moscow, when he suddenly saw a long column of armored vehicles at the intersection of the Moscow Ring Road and the Yaroslavl Highway. It was the Taman motorized rifle division – the elite units of the Soviet army.
“Well, why are you bothering with your questions. I feel sick as it is, you understand everything perfectly well. We are sent to rake again ”.
– They were also intended to restore order in the capital. It was not a secret for anyone, – says Alexander. – I drove up to one of the tanks, introduced myself as a journalist and began to ask questions to the captain, who was sitting on the armor. What struck me in the first place was his willingness to answer questions. It was a shock. The participant, as it turned out later, the coup responds to the correspondent. During the conversation, there was longing in the eyes of the interlocutor. He did not look like a gallant officer of the Guards Division. He said something like the following: “Well, why are you bothering with your questions. I feel sick as it is, you understand everything perfectly well. We are sent to rake again ”.
It was then, according to Alexander, that the first bell rang inside him. If an officer of an elite unit, going to carry out a criminal order, behaves in this way, then the leaders of the coup d’etat have serious problems. These thoughts were confirmed after Smelyakov saw what was happening on the streets of Moscow and how citizens who came out to defend democracy behave.
A farce-style coup
The whole world he remembers the shaking hands of the leader of the GKachepists Gennady Yanaev – he assured at a press conference that the situation was under control, but his fingers spoke of something else: “We seem to have gotten ourselves into trouble, we don’t know what.”
Finnish documentary filmmaker Reijo Nikkilä saw all the unpreparedness of the coup d’etat at Sheremetyevo international airport.
– I, one might say, flew straight from the shower to Moscow – the first Aeroflot flight. There were only four Finnish journalists on the plane and one Swedish businessman who did not understand anything at all. I was amazed that they practically did not inspect us at Sheremetyevo – this has never happened. This immediately seemed very strange.
Nikkilia was one of the few foreign journalists who got into the thick of things with a video camera. Images from his documentary Elokuun vallankumous (August Revolution) later scattered all over the world: the collapse of the monument to Dzerzhinsky, the outstanding musician Mstislav Rostropovich with a gun and, of course, the legendary interview with a journalist Artemy Troitsky , recorded on the first evening of the coup by the light of a kitchen lamp.
“These people who are there (Gekachepists) are not even some right-wing leaders, they are just some mediocre idiots. I give this regime, that is, not the one that was proclaimed today, but in general, I give a maximum of three days. When these few days pass, I think that not only this idiotic junta will come to an end, but also the end of the system that we have had for so many years. “ .
” Farce demonstrated all the insignificance of people trying to return the past. ”
– Risto Alapuro
Troitsky looked into the water. Researcher Risto Alapuro, in turn, calls the coup attempt not a coup, but a farce that hastened the historical process.
– Yes, it was a real farce, and it showed all the insignificance of people trying to return the past. On the other hand, he pushed perestroika to the abyss, dragged Gorbachev’s reformism into the grave, which, as it turned out, did not have a solid foundation under it. But the democratic movement also did not have sufficient strength to control the situation, despite the fact that everyone believed so much in the magic word “democracy.”
People are stronger than armored vehicles
Moscow seethed. Hundreds of thousands of citizens in one rush filled the streets and squares to prevent the return of the communist dictatorship. This predetermined the fate of the coup.
– During coups and revolutions, looters often hunt. They are even recruited to carry out various dirty deeds. But the people who came out to the square – you should have seen their faces. Normal citizens. Representatives of all walks of life: both students and hard workers in the literal sense of the word with dirty hands, just from the machine. It was obvious that no one wanted to go back. And this once again convinced me that the Gekachepists would not succeed, ”recalls journalist Alexander Smelyakov, who spent all three days on the streets of the city.
Of course, the fact that the army decided not to intervene played a huge role. into what is happening. Musician Vadim Shevkoplyas recalls the unique atmosphere of those events.
– We bought alcohol with the percussionist of the Mango Mango group Andrey Chicheryukin and went to fraternize with the soldiers, slowly pouring them. Later, some thugs in helmets were brought to the Bolshoi Theater, it was no longer possible to fraternize with them. I don’t remember how I got to the house on foot, but I lived nearby, at the corner of the Armenian and Krivokolenny lanes. The only thing that is remarkable was that there was such a mess at that time that no one asked for any documents, and one could decompose with a snack and have a picnic even on the steps of the main building on Lubyanka.
But it was not only Moscow that was seething. Mikhail Pärnianen, who was then living in Sverdlovsk , immediately after the announcement of the coup, woke up with a “reporter’s itch.”
– I grabbed a narrow-film Agat camera and went out into the city. I saw the first homemade leaflets that someone hung up and someone tore off. People went crazy without information. The main burden was taken by the “voices of the enemy”, the people did not just listen to them – at large meetings a megaphone was brought up to the receiver, and then dense crowds gathered, catching every word.
– I especially remember the main meeting, on the 1905 Square, in front of the administration building and the KGB headquarters. I have never seen such a thing before or since. The people stood head to head, the endless human sea. From time to time from the coordinator on the podium it was said: “Make way, the person is bad!” – and this amazing crowd neatly organized a corridor for the ambulance brigade that was on duty nearby.
– And there was also an absolutely fantastic feeling of freedom that came to everyone when the coup ended. It seemed to people that only good was ahead, and no one was afraid of anyone. For example, you are talking on a tram with friends, and suddenly another passenger, sitting with his back, turns to you, asks his question, complements and enters into a discussion. And you communicate further all together. Such an amazing feeling was only in the first days after the putsch. Then everything came to naught.
In those days, people boldly and openly expressed political sympathy and enthusiastically defended their beliefs. Politics filled the entire space. Sometimes it led to funny moments.
– I had a red badge covered with varnish. Nothing special, just a beautiful horse, recalls Pärnänen. – I then put it on a jumper for beauty. But I could not understand in any way why the people were looking at me. Finally, one of the people made up his mind. He asked, pointing to him: “Excuse me, what party do you have?” Freedom, brotherhood, prosperous life – everything that the people who came out against the putschists dreamed of was mired in an economic crisis, corruption, interethnic conflicts …
Boris Yeltsin and his entourage missed their chance, could not to carry out democratic reforms to the end, Alexander Smelyakov believes.
– They remained the people of the old system. Although now, assessing those events, I believe that Yeltsin was still better than the putschists, who tried to return the country to the Soviet past and wanted to return a system that was rotten.
Researcher Risto Alapuro notes that the current political order in Russia – this is largely the result of the events of the early nineties. Praising Western values, Russians were simultaneously in a deep depression.
“They were humiliated, put on their shoulder blades. Everything was taken away from the people. People feel that the victorious West is now exploiting Russia. But all the same, the country will get out of this hole, and one of the possible ways is nationalism, since liberal traditions are very weak … “
Alapuro, however, believes that now in Russia the situation is more favorable for carrying out democratic reforms than during the general joy on the ruins of the State Emergency Committee.
“If you want real changes, it is not enough to hold a meeting.”
– Risto Alapuro
– Then “democracy” was just a sound, a kind of magic spell. She was talked about a lot, but there was no driving force. But now, 30 years later, despite the installation of an authoritarian regime, one can imagine that a democratic community has formed. It may not be very noticeable, but it is already more organized and more clearly imagining the path of development. If you want real change, it is not enough to hold a meeting. We need a strong organization that would coordinate the work – cells, headquarters, network. All this did not happen during the putsch, so it was useless to expect real democratic reforms.