Soviet Coup, 1991 IV

Lead: With the world holding its breath, hard-line Communists led by the KGB, in late summer 1991 arrested Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and tried to take over the government. A man of courage climbed onto an armored vehicle and stopped them dead.

Intro. A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: As Muscovites headed to work on Monday August 19th, they had to deal with troops and tanks lining the streets. The coup leaders who called themselves the Extraordinary Commission had banned all demonstrations, political parties, and newspapers not associated with their movement, but did not have in custody all their opponents. The President of the Russian Republic, Boris Yeltsin, a former ally of Gorbachev who broke with him because his reforms did not go far enough, after initial hesitation, went to the Russian Parliament Building to oppose the coup. Finally, assured that at least some of the military units in the Moscow region would back him, just after noon he climbed onto an armored vehicle, pronounced the coup illegal and unconstitutional, and called for a general strike and for the return of Gorbachev. By the next morning 150,000 Russians stood outside the Parliament Building and several army units had joined the countercoup. By Tuesday evening it was clear that to succeed the Extraordinary Commission would need to use deadly force and this the leaders hesitated to do. That night, a small scuffle between protesters and a tank produced the only three deaths in their attempt to seize power. On Wednesday the coup collapsed. That night Gorbachev was back in Moscow.

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Soviet Coup, 1991 III

Lead: In the late summer of 1991, the KGB attempted to take over the Soviet government. For a time, it appeared it would succeed.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Frustrated with the reforms of President Mikhail Gorbachev which were undermining Communist control of Soviet national life and sensing his weakness in the face of deteriorating economic, social and political conditions, hard-line members of the KGB and the military began to plot to get rid of him. The catalyst for the attempted coup was a series of treaties between the various constituent republics of the Soviet Union. The republics were to have more independence which meant even less power and cohesion for the Soviet Union.

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Soviet Coup, 1991 II

Lead: Frustrated as reality and the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev dismantled their system of control, hard-line Communists led by the KGB attempted to hold back the march of events with a coup d'etat in the summer of 1991.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Since 1985 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had pressed the nation away from totalitarianism toward openness and democracy. He had been less successful in reforming the economy. Gorbachev had come to power through the ranks of the Communist Party and was reluctant to jettison the main outlines of the old regime. He was a temporizer who rejected the command economy and the Stalinism that was required to keep it operating but as it crumbled, he was unable or unwilling to create a free market to take its place.

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Soviet Coup 1991 I

Lead: In late summer 1991, conservative elements of the KGB and Communist Party tried to revive the collapsing Soviet system. For a breathless moment it looked as if they would succeed.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: For a dozen years prior to 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was the golden boy of Soviet politics. After law school at Moscow State University, in 1955 he returned to his native region of Stavropol near the Caspian Sea in southwestern Russia. He held a number of posts in the Communist Party organization and was named a member of the Central Committee of the national Party in 1971. Under the guidance of his patron, the party's chief ideologue, Mikhail Suslov, Gorbachev moved quickly up the ranks and by 1980 was a full member of the Politburo. When Konstantin Chernenko died in 1985, Gorbachev was his logical successor as General Secretary of the Soviet Party.

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Barbarossa II

Lead: By December 1940 Adolf Hitler had decided to attack Soviet Russia late the following spring. In March he compounded that blunder with a catastrophic error born of pure rage.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Before Hitler could attack Russia he had to clean up the deteriorating situation in the Balkans. He rescued the Italian Army which was being beaten up by Greeks, he dragooned the Bulgarians into the Tripartite Alliance with Germany and Italy, and he thought he had browbeaten the Yugoslav government into same fate, but the Yugoslavs were made of sterner stuff. A popular uprising in March overthrew the Yugoslav regime and let it be known that that little country would not be a puppet of Berlin. Hitler absolutely hit the ceiling, launching into a wild rage, and ordered his generals to level Belgrade with bombing and crush the Yugoslavs.

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Barbarossa I

Lead: In June 1941 Adolf Hitler launched what would become his greatest blunder. Like Napoleon before him, he attacked Russia and endured the same crushing, disastrous defeat.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The thieves had already begun to fall out. Hitler and Stalin were quite willing to carve up defenseless Poland in 1939, but with the collapse of France in the West, Hitler began cast his eyes to the East seeking Lebensraum, literally “living space,” a vital part of Nazi doctrine asserting that Germany had as its right possession of the land of those considered racially impure, mostly in the East. This brought Russia and Germany, the two great European military, political, and social superpowers, into fatal conflict.

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Grigory Rasputin III

Lead:  Because of his influence with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and the Tsarina Alexandria, the holy man Rasputin made many enemies and may have contributed to a revolution.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content:  In 1915 the Tsar left St. Petersburg to take personal command of the troops at the front.  This left Alexandra in virtual control of the government.  Because she felt Rasputin miraculously kept their son’s hemophilia under control, she trusted his advice on other matters, government policy and personnel.  As the months passed a bewildering, aimless and demoralizing succession of ministers were appointed and then fired.  Some were good, but most were incompetent, unqualified or openly corrupt.  Many were recommended by Rasputin.

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Grigory Rasputin II

Lead:  Having insinuated himself into the trust of the royal couple, Father Gregori Rasputin offended nearly everyone else in the pre-World War I Russian government and imperial family.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Rasputin, whose name in Russian described his voracious sexual appetite, was a starets, a holy man who supposedly possessed the power to heal and predict the future.  Because he seemed able to cure Alexis the Tsarevich, heir to the throne of Russia, the boy’s parents were devoted to Rasputin, trusting his advice on matters of policy and personnel.  When the prime minister brought evidence of the man’s character and sexual escapades to the Tsar the information was ignored.  After 1910 Rasputin for a price began to act a spokesman for business interests seeking influence with Nicholas and the German born Tsarina.  Rasputin also gained a measure of power in the church as he received promotions and as those who dared to criticize him were demoted or banished.

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