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Doc Type: 
Historical Study
Davidow, Mike
Full Title: 
Perestroika: It’s Rise and Fall
Language Type: 
by International Publishers
Pub City: 
New York

Summary by Dana Leigh Geraghty, Harriman Institute, Columbia University

               In his book entitled “Perestroika: It’s Rise and Fall”, Mike Davidow devotes a chapter to analyzing the events of the August 1991 coup. Davidow’s assessment of the coup and its consequences is significantly different from the previously discussed accounts. Davidow analyzes the coup through the perspective of an active communist. The chapter devoted to the coup is entitled “Will Three Days in August Reverse 10 Days in October”. In this chapter, Davidow argues that the “democratically controlled” media had distorted the real character of the August coup, the actual participation in it, and its active support among the Soviet populace because it sensationalized and dramatized the events. Davidow’s interpretation of the coup, while not outright advocating for the intentions of the coup plotters, reads as defensive of their aims and intents. He argues that there wasn’t a real tangible threat of the plotters using the military actively against the people, but rather it was just an intimidation tactic. This is evidenced by the extraordinary lack of casualties that resulted from the coup—showing that the coup leaders did not want to shed blood.

               Davidow’s interpretation of the coup events is striking in its divergence from other accounts. Davidow downplays the scale of the strikes and acts of mass civil disobediences, arguing that instead opposition to the coup was not widespread and was limited mainly to Moscow, Leningrad, and Sverdlovsk, what he describes as the “strongholds of the ‘democrats’.” Obviously, Davidow’s interpretation is colored by his political views and his adherence to communist ideology. However, Davidow was more of a Gorbachevian communist as evidenced by his writings. He argues that the Stalinist and Socialist system perverted communism as it should have been institutionalized and that the USSR had gone astray prior to the 1985. Most interesting is that Davidow is convinced that even in spite of the coup, or perhaps because of the coup, the CPSU will rise again to power and greatness and win out over the Yeltsin’s democrats and nationalists. He goes so far to argue that the funeral for the casualties of the coup events was used as a tool to incite hysteria against the CPSU.

               While Davidow, to an extent, defends the motivations and implications of the coup plotters’ actions, he does have very harsh words for them and for Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Davidow writes on page 105, “History has rarely recorded such renegacy of members of a Party. Nor has it surpassed in cruel irony the spectacle of the leader of a party deserting it in its most critical hour and calling upon it to dissolve itself.” These words do not only imply the coup plotters and Yeltsin, but also the actions of the leadership after the coup in dissolving the Union and the Party.