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

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

Last Rites

The countdown began. Gorbachev and Yeltsin had originally agreed that the transition period, during which the Union would be laid to rest, would last for one month. But every time Yeltsin and his aides made a public statement they shortened the time frame.

The parliaments of the three republics ratified the Belovezhskaya accord with a unanimity worthy of the Brezhnev era. De facto, the Union was no more. It was decided to dispense with the funeral rites that would ordinarily be considered appropriate to the age and status of the deceased. The new tenants were anxious to move in and were pressing the relatives of the departed to vacate the premises.

The representatives to the USSR Supreme Soviet, who had come through the trial by fire of the first free elections in Soviet--if not Russian--history, received word that the Supreme Soviet was being dissolved, as the majority of the representatives of republics had been recalled to their respective parliaments.

Gorbachev was exasperated by the manner in which the parliament that he had worked so hard to create had been so quick to wave the white flag again, just as it had after the putsch. In commenting on the situation during a December 13 interview with Time magazine correspondents Strobe Talbott and John Kohan, he could not conceal his bitterness: "I urged Yeltsin not to break up the Union Parliament because this would be a sin that would weigh on him, as it did the Bolsheviks who dissolved the Constituent Assembly in 1918. Give them the chance to hold one last meeting. They understand everything and will make the necessary resolutions themselves, since the representatives of the republics are in the majority. Think of our reputation in the world."

Talbott began the meeting by asking bluntly, "Will you still be president next Monday? You've already talked about resigning so many times." This was a reference to Gorbachev's meeting with the Soviet journalists. At that point, however, Gorbachev still considered the possibility of his resignation a purely internal matter, a domestic problem that should be settled en famille. He felt that he should remain the president of the USSR in the eyes of the outside world to the very end. And he played the role that had fallen to him, that of the host welcoming his guests on the front steps while his house burns down behind him, with confidence and ease.

He even chided the members of the American administration (he probably had James Baker in mind) who were already saying "the Union no longer exists"

-159-

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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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