Russia's Struggling Democracy
Marking the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the USSR
August 25, 2011
As Muammar Gaddafi's rule crumbles in Libya, the anniversary of another revolution is passing by almost unnoticed. In August 1991, a cabal of Kremlin hardliners moved against Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms they saw as weakening state power and giving too much autonomy to the Soviet Union's constituent republics. Gorbachev was detained on a Crimean vacation and officially declared to be taking a health-related leave of absence, with an eight-man State of Emergency Committee taking the reins of power. After three tense days that saw tanks in Moscow's streets and a deadly clash between Soviet troops and pro-democracy protesters, the coup failed, and the fallout helped hasten the end of the communist regime and the Soviet empire.
The defeat of the coup was seen as a stirring victory of freedom over tyranny. The magnitude of this triumph became clear on Aug. 24, when television audiences worldwide watched the statue of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky in front of KGB headquarters being taken down to cheers and applause from a massive, jubilant crowd. [Read the rest]