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Coup Leading To USSR Fall Recalled

MOSCOW, Aug. 19 (UPI) — A coup attempt by Communist hardliners 20 years ago to preserve the Soviet Union touched off instead a revolt for democracy.

Now, however, democracy has withered and the old ways of ruling by intimidation and favoritism have become entrenched, observers told The Washington Post in an article published Thursday.

The coup began Aug. 19, 1991, when the hardliners ousted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to try to end his perestroika program.

“The difference is this,” said Georgy Satarov, president of the INDEM Foundation and an aide to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. “Then, people had hope. Now, they are disappointed and frustrated.”

Yeltsin’s supporters wanted him to lead the country in a new direction, Satarov said.

“We saw the old train was taking us in the wrong direction,” he told the Post. “But we thought all we had to do was change the conductor and we would have comfortable seats and good food. Democracy would take us where we wanted to go, not our own effort. Sometimes you have to get off and push.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, with his protege Dmitry Medvedev installed as president, oversees the authoritarian government ruling Russia now, Satarov said.

Bribery is the norm in Russian government and Putin’s opponents say his United Russia Party is a party of crooks, the Post said. While people can speak their minds in private, the airwaves are state-controlled and any opposition is invisible.

Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house, said Friday the abortive coup was doomed, RIA Novosti reported.

Gryzlov said the coup, led by Former Soviet Vice President Gennady Yanayev, could not resolve the problems the USSR had been “accumulating for decades.”

“As a result, millions of people were affected. Economic ties were severed, social policies collapsed, new threats to national security emerged,” Gryzlov said. “All of these problems are still, 20 years on, being felt by countries across the post-Soviet space.”

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