Shortly after midnight on 19 August 1991, Soviet vice president Gennady Yanayev signed off on the creation of the ‘State Committee for the State of Emergency’, placing Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest in his presidential villa in Crimea and ordering a series of measures aimed at reversing his reforms.
On Thursday, Russia and other countries of the former USSR marked the 30th anniversary of the August crisis of 1991, more commonly known as the August 1991 ‘coup attempt’, an event which sought to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, but ultimately ended up accelerating it.
On the night of 18 August, high-ranking officials from Gorbachev’s cabinet, including the vice president, the prime minister, and the ministers of security, the KGB and defence, created the State Committee for the State of Emergency, Russian acronym GKChP. The following morning, images of troops and tanks deployed to Moscow to ‘maintain order’ in the wake of Gorbachev’s apparent ouster spread like wildfire across the world, with Moscow’s Western partners expressing concerns that the new authorities would reverse Gorbachev’s reforms and bring an end to his pro-Western foreign policy.
In an ‘Appeal to the Soviet people’ widely broadcast on radio and television in the first hours after the state of emergency was declared, conspirators claimed that the president had become unable to perform his duties “for health reasons.”
The plotters insisted that their actions were…