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

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

VALERII ZAVOROTNYI


8 Letter from St. Petersburg

Born and raised in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), where he was trained as a computer scientist, Valerii Zavorotnyi has been actively involved in the city's democratic movement since 1988 as a participant, political observer, and commentator. Over the years he has tried his hand at various professions--filmmaker, computer scientist, sculptor, writer--before turning to public life. His writings on public affairs appeared in numerous Leningrad publications during the Gorbachev years.

I woke up on the 19th when my phone rang and a voice informed me: "Everything is going to hell. Gorbachev was arrested, emergency rule has been introduced." I mumbled something into the receiver and hung up. Let me tell you, it is a horrible thing to be awakened by a phone call like that.

What to do? I had to get up and turn on the TV. All I learned was that the same symphony orchestra was playing the same piece on all three channels. For a Soviet being, this represents a clear signal that a sharp turn in policy in the beloved country is in the offing. Ten minutes later, an announcer began to read with a stony face, first, Lukianov's statement, then the Appeal to the Soviet People, and Decree No. 1 of the Emergency Committee. . . . I had no more questions.

Now, hard as I try, I cannot recall what I felt in those moments. I guess it was some kind of temporary numbness of feeling. I washed, I dressed, I drank coffee, I tried to collect thoughts that I did not have. But this state did not last long. Gradually, my brain regained its agility. Under these circumstances I did not expect any more news, and, sure enough, the TV merely repeated the earlier statement, followed by more music.

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