Russia at the Barricades: Eyewitness Accounts of the August 1991 Coup

By Victoria E. Bonnell; Ann Cooper et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

On August 19, 1991, eight high-ranking Soviet officials took over the government of the USSR by force and proclaimed themselves the country's new rulers. Less than seventy-two hours later, their attempt to seize power had collapsed. Though short-lived, the coup produced consequences few could have foreseen. Soon afterward, the Communist Party that had ruled Russia since 1917 was suspended and dispossessed. Five months after the coup, the Soviet Union itself had ceased to exist.

The editors of this volume had the good fortune to witness at close range the monumental events that shook Russia and the world in August 1991. Ann Cooper, the National Public Radio bureau chief in Moscow since 1986, was covering a story in Vilnius, Lithuania, when the coup began. By the end of the day she was back in Moscow. Victoria E. Bonnell, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Gregory Freidin, a former Muscovite who teaches Russian literature at Stanford University, arrived in Moscow on August 15 to do research and visit friends and family.

Experienced though we all were in observing and writing about Soviet affairs, we found ourselves overwhelmed and astonished by the tremendous power of the events. With millions of others in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and throughout the Soviet Union and the world, we watched with horror and fascination as the junta sought to turn back the clock to a time--a mere six years earlier!--when a corrupt and brutal Communist party-state had ruled Russia.

Several months after the event, the three editors reunited in Berkeley, California. Despite the time that had passed, we still felt the magnetism of the August days, when democratic reforms were suddenly in

-xiii-

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