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

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

Final Hours

On the evening of Sunday, December 8, my wife and I were returning from our dacha in Uspenskoye, west of Moscow. The previous week had been especially stressful from both a political and an emotional standpoint--as had every day since I had agreed to join Gorbachev's staff. So I was looking forward to spending the rest of the evening at the Pushkin Museum, where Svyatoslav Richter was giving a concert.

The cellular phone rang in the car. I knew it would be the President and asked the driver to stop so I could talk undisturbed. Gorbachev, who was clearly on edge, wanted to know when central television would be running his interview for viewers in Ukraine. I told him that it was to be broadcast that same evening, after Vremya, the main news program. This answer did not satisfy him: He wanted to know if the program was definitely going to be run, whether the tape would be shown uncut, and what the exact time would be. His voice bristled with impatience.

I called the television news editor's desk from the car. The interview had, in fact, been scheduled and was going to be run at eleven o'clock that night. I called Gorbachev back. "That's too late," he said through clenched teeth. "Tomorrow is a workday, people will be going to bed early, and it's important that they be able to see the interview before they find out the results of the meeting in Minsk."

It was obvious that he already knew what these results were, and that on that frigid Sunday evening, far from his office, his bank of telephones and his phalanx of aides, with whom he could have evaluated the situation and worked out a modus operandi, he was pacing like a bear in a cage. He wanted to respond to his rivals immediately with the only weapon he had to hand, his interview, and he believed that if it were broadcast one hour earlier, it would still not be too late.

He told me later that Shushkevich had called his dacha and had told him that the three leaders meeting in Belovezhskaya Forest "had reached an agreement," which he offered to read to him over the phone. He had also informed Gorbachev that the minister of defense, Shaposhnikov, was aware of the situation, and that Yeltsin had already spoken to Bush.

Gorbachev had exploded, "You talk to the president of the United States of America and your own president doesn't even know what's going on! That's a disgrace!" He asked for Yeltsin to come to the phone and summoned him to the Kremlin the next day to explain himself. Yeltsin said that he would be there and that he would speak for the "troika"--himself, Kravchuk, and Shushkevich.

-145-

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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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