Gorbachev and Yeltsin, Part IV
So, after 3 days, the coup plotters simply climbed into their
limousines and drove off. "The attempted coup proved beyond
doubt that the system was braindead." The Soviet Communists
were still in control of the world''s most formidable security
apparatus; but they could not bring it to perform the simplest of
The day the coup ended, and for days thereafter, the Communists
frantically (and futilely) tried to destroy the archives. Furious
demonstrators demanded the destruction of the Party and the
confiscation of its properties. The crowds who had defended the
White House now toppled the monuments of the regime. And
then the shredders began to jam and break. In their haste the
men of the Party had failed to remove the paper clips.
At Gorbachev''s first press conference he still spoke of his
allegiance to the "socialist choice" and the Party''s "renewal."
His closest adviser, Aleksandr Yakovlev told him "The Party is
dead. Why can''t you see that?"
Meanwhile, Boris Yeltsin did his part to humiliate Gorby in front
of the Russian parliament, forcing him to read aloud a transcript
of the August 19th meeting at which all but two of the ministers
whom Gorby himself had nominated pledged their hearty support
of the coup. On August 24th Gorby resigned as general secretary
of the Communist Party, dissolved its Central Committee and
declared, in essence, an end to the Bolshevik era.
And as the statues were toppled, Marshal Akhromoyev,
Gorbachev''s military adviser, was found dead in his office, his
neck in a noose, a series of suicide notes laid out neatly on his
desk. "The first attempt didn''t work. I''ll try again."
At the apartment of Boris Pugo, the Interior Minister, police
arrived to arrest him for his role in the coup. What they found
was gruesome. Pugo was dressed in a blue track suit with a
gaping bullet wound in his head; his wife was also shot, but half
alive. Pugo left a suicide note.
Nikolai Kruchina, a Communist Party official who administered
the finances of the Central Committee, jumped form his
apartment window to his death. There were at least 15 other
suicides of Party officials.
Finally, Gorbachev began to realize how he had played a
dangerous game with the Party for far too long. "I should have
forged a strong common front with the democrats," he said.
However, he still envisioned a new Union with Moscow
retaining key functions like the common defense and foreign
policy. Yeltsin said the Union president would be ceremonial,
"something like the Queen of England." And on December 26th,
1991, the Soviet Union was a half-remembered dream. Gorby
had resigned on Christmas Day as by then Ukraine decided to
pull out of the negotiations for a new Union, finally ending his
hopes for a place for himself as its president. Instead, the leaders
of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia patched together a new plan
for a commonwealth. When Gorby arrived at the Kremlin to
pack up, his nameplate had already been pried off the wall.
"Yeltsin, B.N." was in its place. Yeltsin himself was behind the
desk. Gorbachev was furious, apparently forgetting that in 1987
he had dragged Yeltsin from a hospital bed and made him stand
before the Moscow city Party organization for hour after hour of
denunciations. When Yeltsin was given the chance to humiliate
Gorby, he grabbed it.
Gorbachev returned from a "victory" tour of the U.S. and the
West in 1992 to face a hostile Russian people. The intellectuals
as well as the common folk and Communist Party faithful had
nothing kind to say, nor, in the words of David Remnick, could
they define what he had been all about.
Remnick writes, "Gorbachev was not a moral prophet or an
intellectual giant. He was not even a man of exceptional
goodness. Above all, he was a politician. He combined a rough
sense of decency with a preternatural ability to manipulate a
system that had seemed, from the outside, unbendable.
From March 1985, when he began, until June 1989, when he
presided over the first elected legislature of the Soviet Union,
Gorbachev chipped away at the totalitarian monolith. From
there, his personal story became tragic. He was dragged along
by events and never seemed able to decide how to maneuver
from one day to the next without losing himself entirely."
Yes friends, now you know all you ever need to know about
Mikhail Gorbachev. Just remember, when you''re at your next
cocktail party and the subject of Gorby comes up, mention this
site. Better yet, buy David Remnick''s book "Lenin''s Tomb" off
of the Borders link you can find to your left. I think I get about 2
or 3 cents off of each one sold. [Seriously].