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

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

VICTORIA E. BONNELL


3 August 19 and 20 in Moscow

Victoria E. Bonnell, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, made her first visit to the Soviet Union in 1970. She has written extensively about the Russian labor movement on the eve of the 1917 revolution, but never imagined she would witness personally a major upheaval in Russia. At the time of the coup, she was in Moscow completing the research for a study of Soviet political art.


DAY ONE

"Wake up, there's been a coup," were the first words I heard that Monday. I was blissfully asleep when my husband rushed into the bedroom to announce the news.

"So what?" I said, still half asleep, "What do you mean, a coup?" He was visibly agitated. "Gorbachev has been declared ill, and power is now in the hands of some emergency committee. Don't you understand, it's civil war now!"

The seriousness of the situation was beginning to sink in. Still, somehow the news did not quite fit with what I knew about the country. "Don't be so sure," I said, summoning what little remained of my American cool. "The Soviet Union is no banana republic."

He was not convinced.

My husband and I had met in Moscow in 1970, two years after Soviet tanks put an end to the Prague Spring. For the Russians of his generation and outlook (he was involved in the dissident movement), that was the harshest blow, and now, it seemed, he was destined to witness a replay of it all with a twenty-year delay.

We were visiting our in-laws in Moscow, and had brought our five- year-old daughter with us. Now the whole family gathered around the

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