Now from this morning's Houston Chronicle, an article showing the downfall of the Soviet Empire.
The END of the SOVIET UNION
BY CHARLES APPLE
In one corner: Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, who was trying to drag the U.S.S.R. out from behind the Iron Curtain using the twin strategies of perestroika and glasnost (translation: “restructuring” and “openness”). In the other corner: Soviet hardliners who were clinging to a failed system of government. The battle went down 25 years ago this week.
AUG. 4, 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev is in the process of finalizing what’s called the Union Treaty, which will loosen control the U.S.S.R. has over its member republics and decentralize government. It’s just the latest — and perhaps the largest — step in peeling back the Iron Curtain.
An exhausted Gorbachev leaves Moscow with his family and heads to their vacation villa on the shore of the Crimean Sea.
Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, Vice President Gennady Yanayev and the heads of the Interior Ministry and the KGB visit Gorbachev and demand he either kill the treaty or resign as leader of the Soviet Union. He defiantly refuses and warns his family there may be consequences. The Gorbachev family is placed under armed guard and their communications are cut off.
The leaders of the coup announce to the public that Gorbachev has been relieved of his duties for health reasons.
The president of the Russian Republic — former Gorbachev protégé Boris Yeltsin — denounces the coup as a “new reign of terror” and calls for all Russian citizens to leave their jobs and to protest in the streets. A crowd begins to gather outside the Russian parliament building. Yeltsin climbs atop a tank and urges citizens to resist. Later that day, the deputy mayor of Moscow joins in the resistance.
Unbelievably, the leaders of the coup have failed to seize control of the state-controlled TV station. That night, video is broadcast of Yeltsin’s speech. He becomes a hero overnight.
Tensions remain high. Yeltsin calls President George H.W. Bush, who assures him the U.S. will not recognize the coup government.
The Soviet Army, under control of the new government, prepares for an assault on the center of Moscow. Protesters dig in for the attack they know will be coming soon.
Not long after midnight, the assault begins. A column of military vehicles break through barricades set up around the parliament building. In the confusion, two protesters are shot dead and a third is crushed under a tank.
Protesters rush the vehicles. The armed personnel carrier is set afire. Young soldiers — unhappy about being ordered to assault their friends and neighbors — break off the attack. It’s clear the coup has failed. When daylight arrives, the “gang of eight” coup leaders are arrested. A large statue of the founder of the KGB in front of KGB headquarters is toppled.
Gorbachev is released from house arrest and returns to Moscow, but it’s clear his role in the reformation of the Soviet Union is done.
Mikhail Gorbachev is elected general secretary of the Communist Party. He is the fourth new Soviet leader in just over two years. The next month, the party adopts Gorbachev’s platform of moderate reform.
The Central Committee approves Gorbachev’s economic reform plan that defines profit as the driving economic force.
In a closed meeting of the Central Committee, Boris Yeltsin accuses Gorbachev of moving too slowly on economic reform. Yeltsin is dismissed from the Politburo.
Gorbachev frees human rights activist Andrei Sakharov from internal exile in Gorky.
Gorbachev closes the 19th Communist Party Conference with a call for the creation of a new parliament, a strengthened presidency and a market economy, and consideration of allowing republics greater control of economic affairs.
The new Congress of People’s Deputies is elected. Its opening session is characterized by open political debate.
Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe fall after Gorbachev says he will not use force to save them. On Nov. 9, East Germany opens the gates in the Berlin Wall.
Lithuania declares its independence. Its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, follow suit.
The new Russian republic elects Yeltsin president and declares “sovereignty,” claiming control of its natural resources. By year’s end, 15 Soviet republics declare some form of sovereignty.
Conservatives criticize Gorbachev at the 28th Communist Party Congress. Yeltsin and other radicals quit the party. Gorbachev purges several old guard members from the Politburo.
Fourteen people are killed when Soviet tanks attack a main television tower in Vilnius, Lithuania. Moscow News proclaims “Perestroika Is Over.”
Yeltsin accuses Gorbachev of pushing the country to dictatorship and demands his resignation.
Gorbachev’s Union Treaty, which gives greater power to the republics, wins approval in a nationwide referendum.
Former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and six other prominent Soviet reformers agree to create a new national political party aimed at rivaling the Communists.
Communist leaders overwhelmingly approve Gorbachev’s new party platform, abandoning decades of Marxist dogma.
Alexander Yakovlev, once Gorbachev’s top adviser, quits the party, warning of a coup by “Stalinists.”
Hardliners attempt to derail reform by placing Gorbachev under house arrest and seizing control of the government. The coup fails.
The Congress of People’s Deputies votes for dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev resigns as Soviet president. The U.S. recognizes the independence of the remaining Soviet republics.
Sources: The New York Times, The Associated Press, BBC, Radio Free Europe, Library of Congress, Office of the Historian of the Department of State, History.com, The Cold War Museum
No Mr Apple, this didn't just happen because Gorbachev didn't want the Soviet Union to dissolve. He wanted to bring greater prosperity to the people he ruled with the control. Difficult to do when you rule over multiple countries with various cultures, over 100 languages, and multiple religions opposing the rule of the Soviet Union. Also, the work of generations, led by great men like Ike, Kennedy, Reagan and John Paul II, plus great women like Thatcher, hemmed in the Soviet Union. How soon it accelerated the end, God only knows. But it was doomed to go to the "ash heap of history" in spite of all the efforts of Mr Gorbachev.