Autumn of 1991 as a Prelude to the “Black October” of 1993 and the “Wild ’90s” in Russia

This autumn marks a sombre anniversary – 30 years since the bloody events of autumn 1993, which cemented Russia’s fate for the next 7 years and set the stage for the “Wild ’90s” and the “Desolation of Yeltsin” that almost destroyed Russia. I had several posts on the pages of this blog about the “Wild ’90s”, which are easiest accessed through the corresponding tag. Some of these posts are:

This is the first in a series of three articles I have planned for this autumn to remember the events of 1993. In this material I want to start by looking at August of 1991 through a series of short video materials – a time when the USSR was still around, and when it all really began.

First, let’s watch one aspect of the president of the USA G.W.Bush visit to the USSR – his speech before the congress of deputies of the Ukrainian SSR. Pay attention to the wording that Bush used in his speech, what emotions it played on.

(Original publication on Putinger’s Cat Telegram channel)

Three weeks after Bush’s visit, the USSR was engulfed in a coup d’etat, the so-called SCSE – The State Committee on the State of Emergency, or GKChP as it is known in Russian. I remember it as a highly-chaotic time, trying to tune in on some radio stations in Moscow and the “enemy voices” – Voice of America and Radio Svoboda, trying to make sense of what is happening. The information was very conflicting, and it was presented as if SCSE grabbed the power in the USSR, trying to depose Gorbachev.

Watching the next video, it becomes apparent that not only Gorbachev was never restricted, but that Gorbachev was in on the preparations for the SCSE pitch.

(Original publication on Putinger’s Cat Telegram channel)

In retrospect, SCSE was trying to save the Union, to avoid the catastrophic and lawless dissolution that Gorbachev and Yeltsin were leading the country to. Within the RSFSR, Yeltsin was already working on the fragmentation of the Russian Republic, with his famous «Take as much sovereignty as you can swallow» in August of 1990, while being the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR.

It is only in hindsight that we can say that the SCSE was trying to preserve to Constitutional order, as can be seen from the wording of its First Executive Order:

(Original publication on Putinger’s Cat Telegram channel)

It was Yeltsin, who proclaimed that the SCSE was illegal, and, climbing on a tank, read an address to the people of the USSR. On the historic picture below (the caption is from AP, highlighting is mine – it shows how a lie, repeated many enough times, becomes truth), the only person of integrity, is the unknown tank driver covering his face in embarrassment at what is transpiring, and what fate awaits the country after this.

Yeltsin on the tank

FILE – Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation, makes a speech from atop a tank in front of the Russian Parliament building in Moscow, Russia on Monday, Aug. 19, 1991. The Soviet prime minister, defence minister, KGB head and other top officials, alarmed growing separatism and economic troubles, on August 19, 1991, put the first Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest at his vacation dacha and ordered a halt to all political activities. Tanks and troops ground through the streets of Moscow, but crowds turned out to defy them. Boris Yeltsin clambered onto a tank outside the parliament building to denounce the coup plotters. (AP Photo/File)

Two years later, in 1993, the tables will turn, and it will be Yeltsin ordering to open fire on the Parliament from tanks. But in 1991, Yeltsin positioned himself as a defender of Gorbachev’s reforms and the “Perestroika” – “The Restructuring”. The only similarity between 1991 and 1993 is that Yeltsin acted as the destructive, disintegrating force, and – in the case of 1993 – fully backed financially and politically by the USA.

The SCSE lost after a few days, mainly due to their unwillingness to use force to uphold the Constitutional order. In this the situation carried some similarities to Yanukovich’s unwillingness to use force against Maidan to save Ukraine in 2014, but I digress. After that, Yeltsin became the point-man for the destruction of the USSR, Gorbachev becoming sidelined in all, but the name.

And the final act of that year did not let wait long for itself. On the 8th of December 1991, the heads of RSFSR, UkSSR and BSSR signed a “Belovezha agreement”. In reality it was an unconstitutional conspiracy among the President of the Russian SFSR Borsi Yeltsin, the President of the Ukrainian SSR Leonid Kravchuk, and the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Belorussian SSR Stanislav Shushkevich. The USSR had a clear procedure in its Constitution (Article 3) on the secession of the republics. It did not have a procedure for the dissolution (as far as I know), but that could have been worked out at the Supreme Council level with the participation of all of the republics.

Here is what one of the participants of the “Belovezha agreements”, Ukrainian Kravchuk had to say about those days, several years later.

(Original publication on Putinger’s Cat Telegram channel)

And after that, the first act of the “Wild ’90s” started to play out, with the wholesale plunder of Russia, a handful of oligarchs picking whole branches of industry for cents, the impoverishment of the remaining 99.9% of the population. There was still a chance to turn the tide, though…

2 thoughts on “Autumn of 1991 as a Prelude to the “Black October” of 1993 and the “Wild ’90s” in Russia

  1. Pingback: The Bloody October of 1993. Retrospect. The Last Interview with Ruslan Hasbulatov | Nemo's Realms

  2. Pingback: Newspaper “Pravda” commemorating the 30th anniversary of the “Black October” of 1993 | Nemo's Realms

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