More than Half of Russians Say Neither Side in August 1991 Putsch was in the Right

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 14, 2018)

Fifty-three percent of Russians say that neither those who launched the August 1991 putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev nor those who defended the legitimate government were in the right, a figure that has remained more or less constant over the last 12 years, the Levada Center reported today.

The polling agency said that fewer than 15 percent now support the position of either side and that only six percent of respondents say that the defeat of the putsch was a victory for a democratic revolution. Instead, a far larger number – 36 percent — say it was a struggle within the elite for power or to restore order in the country (

At the same time, more than a third — 38 percent – says that the event was a tragedy that had fateful consequences for the country leading ultimately to the disintegration of the USSR.

On the one hand, this set of reactions reflects the complexities of an event that became even more obvious with the passage of time. But on the other, it also provides perhaps a more accurate picture of how Russians see things as the Kremlin has not given an entirely clear signal in recent years as to how people should view things.

As the anniversary of the events approaches – August 19-22 – it will be interesting to see whether the Putin regime tries to come up with an official interpretation that fits this event within the Kremlin’s “single stream” of Russian history or whether this episode will be largely passed over in official silence, thereby allowing Russians to form their own views about it.

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