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

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

1 To the Barricades

GREGORY FREIDIN

When the August coup took place, Gregory Freidin, a professor of Russian literature at Stanford University, was making his fourth visit to Moscow since emigrating to the United States in 1971. He has written extensively about Soviet literature and culture as well as contemporary affairs. He produced this piece originally for The New Republic.

As she stuck her hand through a police barrier, a heavy-set middle- aged woman whispered to a pimply young sentry guarding a bevy of mean-looking armored personnel carriers (APCs) lined up near Red Square: "Sonny, hey sonny, here's a candy bar, go ahead, take it, please."

"Against regulations," he muttered, shaking his head, his hands gripping a Kalashnikov, and then added almost inaudibly, "Stick it in my pocket, fast."

The hand lunged forward--and a tiny chocolate bar disappeared into the pants pocket of the soldier's fatigues. Further on, more of the same: chocolates, cigarettes, sandwiches sliding into the pockets of the young soldiers standing guard before their APCs, as their officers looked the other way, both embarrassed by the soldiers' mendicancy and moved by the crowd's consideration and warmth. An occasional latecomer to the revolution, anxious to show his militant resolve, elbows his way to the barrier and begins to berate the soldiers, exhorting them to come over to the people's side, to join Yeltsin and Russia. The soldiers, mostly Slavic-looking, wink and smile at him indulgently from under their rain hoods.

On Monday morning, having deposed--and possibly disposed of-- the country's President, the self-appointed Emergency Committee de-

-71-

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