26 August 2010

Memory of August 1991 Coup in Russian Politics

Commemorating the anniversary of the August 1991 failed hardliner coup was a key focus of an opposition demonstration in Moscow on 22 August. The rally was held at the site of the deaths of the White House defenders killed during the August days.

Opposition figures Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Shneider were detained after they raised the Russian state flag at the site.

Issues surrounding the public commemoration of the August days and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the question of continuity between the Soviet regime and the current Russian government, were central to Radio Liberty's commentary on these events.

Nemtsov described the current government as 'the heirs of the GKChP [the State Committee for the State of Emergency, which led the attempted coup]. For them the Russian flag is a symbol of freedom, a symbol of human dignity, a symbol of democracy. They hate freedom, despise dignity, and consider democracy the main threat to their power... being mentally the heirs of Yanaev, Starodubtsev and others, they don't want symbols of freedom to continue to have any active political life in the country.'

Andrei Piontkovskii from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Systemic Analysis commented that 'In the philosophical sense, metaphysically, the people standing at the head of our state consider themselves the heirs of GKChP, in terms of the whole architecture of the system which they've built, in terms of the whole manner of their actions.'

Mikhail Shneider also stated: 'In my view, these people are worthy continuators of the cause of the GKChP... in general I call this regime GKChP-3... [They] are simply the spiritual heirs of those times.'

Lev Ponomarev ('For Human Rights') has claimed the Day of the Russian Flag (22 August) as a date belonging to the opposition in Russia. He noted that this official date was born at the initiative of defenders of the White House in August 1991.

Shneider said that this holiday had been commemorated for nineteen years. By tradition, a mourning rally was held on 20 August at the site of the deaths of the defenders of the White House; on the morning of 21 August, wreaths were laid at their graves at Vagan'kovskoe Cemetery; and on 22 August, the Russian flag was raised. He complained that 'United Russia' wanted to 'privatise, to create a vertical of holidays, to regiment holidays... This is my holiday, this is the holiday of those people who 19 years ago defended the White House, defended freedom in our country'.

Former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovskii commented: 'In general today everything related to the end of the Soviet Union is evaluated by the Kremlin as a negative phenomenon. In general they consider the collapse of the Soviet empire itself, according to Putin's words, as the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century. And the first years of the '90s have been defamed very strongly. They've blamed everything on those who found themselves in power at the time, even though the devastation and other phenomena were prepared by 70 years of Soviet power.'

Vladimir Kara-Murza noted that the twentieth anniversary of the August events will take place next year. Shneider said that preparations for the 20th jubilee in August 2011 would begin in early September.

The full article is available here.

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