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

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

On a Crumbling Verge

The October 11 meeting of the State Council was approaching. As the first real working meeting after the political turmoil of August, it was intended to confirm the decisionmaking ability of the new governmental structure, even if this structure should prove to be only temporary.

The message that this meeting was supposed to send to the public was obvious: The disintegration of the USSR had been halted. In addition, since the meeting was called by and, naturally, placed under the chairmanship of Mikhail Gorbachev, it would show that two levels of power really existed in the USSR, the upper level being occupied by the president of the Union and the lower level by the leaders of the republics. Yeltsin, who had just come back from vacation, was to sit on the republics' bench--on Gorbachev's right but not at the head of the table.

During the next few days Gorbachev was seized by a kind of "meeting mania:" There was almost nobody he refused to see. It was as if he wanted to be in as many different places as possible and reach every audience at once (he was aided in this by television, where he was seen almost every evening)--in short, to fill up all of the political space with himself. These actions were more impulsive than considered. He failed to realize that his "omnivorous" choice of people to meet with and his constant presence on all the television news shows antagonized the public, devalued his image, and gave his increasingly implacable opponents the urge to "put him in his place."

It seems to me that Gorbachev had two reasons for wanting to see so many people. The first was rational: A propagandist and teacher by nature, he sincerely believed that he could convince everyone he spoke to, that he could persuade them to follow whatever course of action he felt was reasonable and sound. The second was irrational and subconscious and reflected the uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety to which he had fallen prey since the putsch. He was able to shed this inner weakness--which was something new for him--only when he was with other people, for whom he never ceased to be the President, the same as he had been before, though at the same time somehow changed and new.

On October 10 he received a group of leaders of the Moscow district soviets at the Kremlin. His advisers had tried in vain to dissuade him from meeting with these representatives of the old urban nomenklatura, who were clashing with the new authorities of the city (especially the mayor, Gavriil Popov), arguing that he

-33-

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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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