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Doc Type: 
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Full Title: 
The August Coup: The Truth and the Lessons
Language Type: 
Pub City: 
New York

Summary by Dana Leigh Geraghty, Harriman Institute, Columbia University

               Gorbachev, being sequestered in his dacha at Foros and cut off from the rest of the USSR, presents a very different perspective of the coup events than that presented in Yeltsin’s diary. Unlike Yeltsin, Gorbachev acknowledges from the very beginning of his description that he knew there was no way that the coup would succeed. Gorbachev writes that “I had always said that a coup d’etat in the present situation was impossible, that it was doomed to fail, and that only madmen could attempt it.” Gorbachev repeatedly states that he knew that the reforms that were carried out in perestroika and glasnost created an edge of democracy that would stop the coup plotters from being able to once again enact a form of totalitarianism and strengthen the center’s control over the regions. Whereas Yeltsin’s account was pervaded by hints of egoism and had the feel of a heroic epic, Gorbachev’s account of the coup is more somber and somewhat defensive. Gorbachev addresses the argument that he should have known a coup was coming and should have done more to stop it by writing in the very first paragraph that “consequently the coup did not come unexpectedly, like a bolt from the blue.”

               Gorbachev’s account of the coup events indicates that he and his family suffered greatly at the hands of their captors. Gorbachev attests that he refused to see the coup plotters and tried his best to reestablish communication with the center and the rest of the Union. Moreover, the Gorbachevs refused to accept any food or other supplies from the coup orchestrators for fear of it being poisoned or otherwise tampered with. Consequently, Gorbachev did not know what his fate or the fate of his family would be. The stress of not knowing whether their lives were in danger caused Gorbachev and his wife Raisa Maksimovna, to look haggard and unwell upon their return to Moscow. Gorbachev’s account of the coup, therefore, provides a different perspective on the events. In it, Gorbachev acknowledges and even praises the role that Yeltsin played in squashing the coup. Additionally, Gorbachev provides an account which shows that he was not just lying like a lame duck waiting out the coup in his dacha, but instead was trying to establish communications, thwart the coup leaders, and get word out about his good health.