Final Days: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Soviet Union

By Andrei S. Grachev; Margo Milne | Go to book overview

Mending the Breach

Toward mid-September, Gorbachev became a real president again. Once again he seemed to have accomplished the impossible: He had lived through the most dramatic events that any statesman is likely to confront in the course of his career, and he was back on his feet.

The putsch, the tense days and nights in Foros, and the threat that had hung over him and his family were only an unpleasant memory now. The bitterness of betrayal by his closest comrades-in-arms had abated. His attitude toward them had faded to one of mingled contempt and vague satisfaction: Although they had seized the entire arsenal of coercion and all the levers of power, they had accomplished nothing. Moreover, he had warned them that they would fail. He had been right again. His dignity and self-esteem had taken a beating at the hands of a triumphant Boris Yeltsin and the members of the Russian parliament whom Yeltsin had set on him after the putsch, but these wounds were now beginning to heal.

Also behind him was the faint-hearted Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR--as frightened of the putschists and their ridiculous, blundering tanks as they were of the more realistic threat posed by the mob that had surged into the streets of Moscow. Tens of thousands of people, encouraged by the sudden power vacuum and drunk with the utter permissiveness that resulted, were ready to express their hatred and take revenge for the accumulated insults of decades of indigence, lashing out against anything that came to hand: the district committee buildings, whose windows were shattered, the Central Committee headquarters, monuments, party functionaries, government chauffeurs, and even the Union Parliament, which had caved in to the putschists' manifestos in such cowardly fashion.

In the days following the failure of the coup d'état, the risk that this uncontrolled human ebb and flow would degenerate into bloody chaos was greater than one might think today. True, there were no casualties during the expulsion of the officials of the CPSUs' Central Committee and the sealing up of the building on Old Square. Nevertheless, at any time the excited crowd could have generated an explosion of violence comparable to that which occurred in Budapest in 1956.

Oddly enough, Gorbachev's presence at the funerals of the three victims of the putsch helped to allay the tension. People saw that the head of state was in his place--relegated to a secondary role, certainly, but restored to the privileges of of-

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Final Days: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Soviet Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword - ARCHIE BROWN ix
  • Preface xv
  • Mending the Breach 1
  • Reinforcements From The Second Front 13
  • On a Crumbling Verge 33
  • A President Without a Country 47
  • One Last Mission For the Union 59
  • On the Eve Of the Seventy-Fourth Anniversary Of the October Revolution 85
  • The Mirage Of a Confederal State 97
  • A Free Man With Nothing to Fear 113
  • A Cloud in Trousers 119
  • Fight to the Finish 127
  • Final Hours 145
  • Checking the Pulse 153
  • Last Rites 159
  • Burying a Time Capsule 169
  • Departure 175
  • Afterword: - A Mythical Kingdom Vanishes--Again 195
  • Appendix: Resignation Speech of Mikhail Gorbachev - Delivered at 7:00 P.M. on December 25, 1991 203
  • Notes 207
  • About the Book and Author 214
  • Index 215
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