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

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

"A Cloud in Trousers"

The November 25 session of the State Council opened with the sensational announcement by Boris Yeltsin that due to new elements in the Russian position, it was impossible for him to sign the draft treaty in its present form. "Discussions within the committees of the Supreme Soviet indicate that the Russian parliament is not prepared to ratify the concept of a unified state, or even a confederal state. Defining the union as a confederation of democratic states would have suited our purposes better. Let's reopen the debate on this issue, or else note Russia's opinion in a separate official statement."

Gorbachev couldn't believe his ears. "But that would wipe out everything we've already agreed on. We debated all of this language for hours last time. Then we announced to the country what we had worked out together. It's irresponsible to start over again, not to mention the fact that we have a very specific mandate from the Congress."

Shushkevich rushed to Yeltsin's aid. He had originally proposed that the presidents sign the draft treaty to make sure that it would get through the various parliaments without any trouble, but now he took a different tack. "Since we haven't had time to show the draft treaty to the parliamentary committees, some of the committee members may be irritated. Let's postpone the proceedings and sign the draft later on."

Gorbachev finally realized that he was facing coordinated opposition from at least some of the republic leaders, and he decided to take up the challenge. "This little game of yours," he said to Shushkevich (although his words were intended for Yeltsin), "is not just a postponement. You are rejecting what we agreed on. You are destroying the very foundations of the future document."

Alliances formed around the two opposing positions. The first to voice his support for Gorbachev was Eric Assanbaev, vice president of Kazakhstan, who was attending the meeting in place of Nazarbaev. "We are in favor of the language that was decided on at the last meeting," he announced, "that is, a unified confederal state, and not 'a cloud in trousers.'"43

On the other side, in Yeltsin's camp, Uzbekistan's leader Islam Karimov made his allegiance known. "We cannot sign this text until it has been discussed by the parliamentary committees." It was amusing to see how quickly the former Party autocrats had learned to use the complex machinery of democracy to bolster their positions vis-à-vis the center.

-119-

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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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