tv [untitled] August 19, 2011 7:30am-8:00am EDT
the true. church a lot. more to say to the. very warm welcome back it's home. to the world's financial markets in the polls by a fresh wave of selling amid fears the world economy is declining experts put a bleak for calls on american and european growth saying both all dangerously close to recession. the u.s. and russia has to harness part instead this is the will to have played a pivotal role in the arab uprisings but critics say while spending millions remote online and freedom of broad washington's out to gain a more control over events. russia remembers the attempted coup
twenty years ago that it would simply say to the breakup of the soviet union and all should in a reborn country that's failure of the over three board series of collapse of the communist institutions in the soffit states. now was the soviet union already on the path to extinction despite a failed coup all could have been reformed people of el debates with his guest next on our. and you can see.
below in the welcome to cross talk i'm peter lavelle the coup that failed that changed everything twenty years ago communist party hardliners attempted to derail me helped out of a child's efforts to reform the soviet union in the coups aftermath the communist party was banned to be followed by the end of the u.s.s.r. could history of played out differently. you can. still see. the cross-talk the events of august one thousand nine hundred one i'm joined by geoffrey hosking in london he is america's professor of russian history at the university college london in oxford we have archie brown he's america's professor of politics at the university of oxford and if you know the god we go to because i petro he is professor of politics at the university of rhode island all right gentlemen this is crosstalk that means you can jump in anytime you want but first let's have a look at the failed coup of ninety ninety one. on
august nineteenth one thousand nine hundred one instead of tuning into the soviet national anthem citizens across the u.s.s.r. woke up to a radio announcement that would start a sequence of events leading to the eventual collapse of the soviet union issued by the self-proclaimed hard line state of emergency committee the announcement stated that mikhail gorbachev's efforts to reform the soviet union have gone into blind alley it also declared a six month state of emergency in various regions of the country by that time or which of had already been removed and detained in his villa in the crimea with motivated the plotters to overthrow the existing order was the new union treaty designed to decentralize political power within the u.s.s.r. and indirectly within the position of that all powerful communist party little did they know however who attempt would encounter strong resistance from many in the
military as well as the general public by that time have begun to save or change as often happens in russia's history when the when these reforms start accumulating from the top. there's a sense of this into society there's obviously the sense there's no way things are going to go back to the way they used to be in order to some control of the russian parliament building committee ordering tanks to roll into moscow. and then considered a political maverick and reformist led russian parliamentarians in opposition to the coup and that's what declaring legal all the decisions in decreased by the state of emergency committee. shortly most of the troops either decided to return to their barracks or join the resistance and just like that the committee's actions found parliament surrounded by armed and unarmed civilians the plotters of the coup found little support either within the political elite or the constituent republics
that made up the soviet union as a result the coup collapsed with a minor loss of life on august twenty first. and returned to moscow but you would never be to see all the new. state committee for the state of emergency people all they knew they wanted to do was stop whatever was happening in its tracks but they didn't have an alternative vision they didn't have really anything else to propose in its place other than status quo ante let's go back to we had before nonstarter didn't go anywhere got no traction in society at all and the second thing was simple planning bad planning ironically instead of curbing the child's performance project and reinvigorating the power of the communist party the coup plotters he sent their own political demise real political power shifted to yeltsin quickly moved to ban party and a few months later the soviet union ceased to exist. for cross-tab party.
fine go to you first century local go international later twenty years ago there was this coup what does it mean now twenty years after the fact is a brand new russia it's unrecognisable from what happened twenty years ago when you teach your students when you talk to people about it what does it mean to you today sadly too little i think it's a more significant historical event that is often recognized in contemporary russia and especially as well as in the courses that we came to it was a singular moment because it revealed in the. precise moment in a beautifully tied up way. how in impotent the communist party had become and of course just the significantly it launched the political fortunes of
boris yeltsin. ok jeffrey i mean would you would you agree with that i mean one of the interesting things is that you know i think all of us when we study in the soviet union is that the communist party being all power for very very powerful security forces a very powerful army the plotters hallow all the tools they needed to told after it was utter utter failure how do you account for that i mean it wasn't because they lacked resources know it wasn't i would say absolutely decisive fact was that to the generals were reluctant to fire on peaceful civilians they've been through that experience in georgia a couple of years previously and got into serious trouble they wanted to be absolutely certain that if they did fire on civilians the order to do so was legal definitely legal whereas now we had two powers confronting each other the soviet union in the person of the emergency committee and russia and the person of yeltsin with corporate off somewhere in between so the generals didn't know how to react
archie what do you think about i mean. you know when you look at got a bunch of for me at the moment you know he was he was put into the crimea he was there for a few days he looks like he'd been there he was he was basically put out of business and then he comes back the coup fails but he ends up being the ultimate victim of the coup they try to overthrow him. well that's true but i think very important part of the beginning was to go a bunch of refuse to be intimidated by the people who visited him they wanted him to give him from matter of legitimacy to what they were doing but in fact you know as general but in a cough complaint letter he got which of us on parliamentary expressions to them so he told them where to go and that was important what was also crucially important was that yeltsin had the legitimacy of having to be the elected president of russia just a couple of months earlier if they wanted to cool
a year earlier it might have more chance of success what do you think about that nickel i mean the timing of it all here because i mean the reform efforts weren't really yielding i mean maybe there was hope but the only facts on the ground the economy wasn't going it was going down there was shortages there was a there was debate but was it healthy debate was it really changing anything what about the timing if it had been a year before or six months later do you think it would've made any difference. on the one hand i i don't think it would have made any crucial difference to the prospects of the communist party to reassert itself i think it's the world already over and simply. demonstrated that it had no future in society but one of the myths that has lingered with us is this idea that if only
a more reformist course had been chosen and adopted that the u.s.s.r. could have been preserved in some way. perhaps under the leadership of the communist party i think. it's unlikely that that would have succeeded and even before the coup itself all these events the disintegration of the union accelerated nevertheless there was already a considerable hesitation of several states several republics to join the reform union treaty so i think it would have been a slow gradual dissolution and perhaps there wouldn't even have been as much impetus in favor of reforms as there was in the immediate aftermath of the coup which he also tried to seize but didn't actually parlay into political and economic
success let me tell you brianna to go to jeff around this because i think you bring up a point today i think is still very much argued in i wish we had stephen cohen on the program because he is a very strong position on this jeff it was the soviet union reformable first let's take the communist party let's talk about the territorial integrity waiter could it was a problem communist party reform will you be able to lead the popular be legitimate in the eyes of the population i left a rich and you do i don't know and actually create create a future a better future because they were the good and go ahead. no i don't think it was reformable and that's it seems to me proved by the fact that gorbachev who was a very constructive and intelligent reformer did his utmost to reform it and failed the club it union collapsed as a result i mean there were there were at least two major problems one of course was the economy gorbachev's reforms gave more scope to private enterprise but that merely sucked goods out of the state enterprises and so caused shortages even worse
shortages everywhere and the other of course was the nationality problem called which often tended to give the national republic somewhat greater freedom and they took much more than he wanted. but there's one aspect of this which i think hasn't been mentioned is very important and that is the unexpected strength of the russian republic gorbachev's nationality reforms inside the communist party gave new strength to russia and the the coup and the conflict which followed from it was a confrontation between russia and the soviet union yeltsin when he got on that tank warned people that if they're paid the emergency committee they would be dealt with under the laws of russia when you think about that archie the whole reformatory of the communist party slash the soviet union we'll talk about later in the program if a country could have stayed together but what about the communist party with a spent force i think it. i don't think it could have been reformed but i think it could have been transformed into
a multi-party system but actually the communist party had already lost its monopoly of power the politburo by ninety ninety ninety one was meeting all these months and months not once a week and power had moved elsewhere with god which often he went there because you know he was exercising power through the presidency and through his own entourage but were less ignoring the politburo what gorbachev wanted to do was to split on this party lead its social democratic component here turn it into that in developer like you know if you want if it actually caught the congress but the split never took place because there was no longer. party to split. but that i think was a possible reform the other thing i think could have happened was the creation of a different kind of union certainly without the baltic republics are going to jump in right here to go to a break and after that short break we'll continue our discussion on the one thousand nine hundred one coup would have stayed party.
the events of august ninety ninety one. can. start. if i go to you i mean archie brown brought up a very interesting point before we went to the break about what got a bunch of garbage jobs plans to split the communist party into competing factions me but isn't that still kind of a an old style mentality reform from the top down i mean because we saw during the coup a lot of spontaneous spontaneity and we're people are saying no we're not going to go back to the old days and actually you know civil society became very very fertile with ideas ok i mean got a bunch of by then was already out of step with the changes in society. i tend to i tend to agree with that point of view the converse articulated. i think. if good bye to all had somehow managed to push through his version of reforms the
net result would not have been progressive change over time it would have been a dead weight on society for even longer sadly what happened in the aftermath of the coup was that the impetus for reform that yeltsin attempted to seize was not thoroughly promulgated by strongly as it could have been although there were some very notable steps taken such as the abolition of the communist party of the soviet union and on the day immediately after the coup the raising of the try of the tri color flag as russia's national flag these were all symbolic events and there was a great deal of thurber in the air at the time as a lot of recall but sadly that got dissipated and i don't think you know even the communist party in its in its much weak in the form has managed
or managed i should say that time to throttle significant changes especially regionally so i think if if there had been an attempt to. to undergo a gradual transition the results would have been even less impressive you know you didn't really have that jeffrey it's interesting i mean we we've been talking about the russia the new russia emerging versus the soviet union it's really good but it was really about going to charge in yeltsin after the coup in a lot of people will blame both political figures for making it very personal it was very about ambition is well and it are lofty ideas kind of got lost to the side because it was just a power struggle between two men. well that is partly true but there was a great years going on as well one has to remember that the communist party of the soviet union was not just it wasn't an ordinary political party it was the administrative executive backbone of the soviet union and therefore splitting the party up was never likely to work it seems to me it could not have been transformed
into a normal political party so change had to be very radical guilt sin used the new car of russia the russian federation or is it was called in the russian soviet republic as a weapon against god much of the irony was that gorbachev conservative opponents did the same they set up the russian communist party in one thousand nine hundred that being a russian communist party for a month should remember that the present communist party in russia is the inheritor of the russian communist party not the communist party of the solute union it's much more like a normal political party and it's been a kind of permanent opposition ever since the collapse of the soviet union archie what do you think about when we look at the power struggle between is the soviet union was. quickly going into dissolution it was about the ambitions of two men i better go back to my original question i mean because we we see that they were very close at one point and then they had a huge following out and it was very interesting when people ask me about that
period and you know and both of them for a lot of people in russia today twenty years out a factor extremely unpopular political figures. yes it was partly that but nevertheless coverage of laterally was prepared to give up office in order to preserve some kind of union i mean i think he had certain convictions and to go back to what we're talking about a moment ago it wasn't a question of having factions within the party it was actually splitting the party into several different parties the communist party the soviet union had nationalist stalinist liberal social democrats conservatives it could have turned into a member of different parties and so that would have been a fundamental change transformational change but of course that could hasten the transfer of power from gorbachev to yeltsin which was not what they who thought of sort of ten years of course they greatly hastened the dissolution of the soviet union which was also the opposite of what they intended you know nikolai it was but i go ahead bill but it's really interesting you say you know what jeff had to say
is that you know we have this communist party because the administrative apparatus of the state is well how do you separate the two go ahead. well. my sense of the communist party at the time was although technically yes what we have today is the russian communist party is the inheritor of a of another organisation but for all practical purposes the leadership at the time desired in defacto to reconstitute the congress party of the soviet union and i think that inheritance weighed heavily continues to sadly to weigh. too heavily on the political leadership of the communist party with prevents them from becoming for making that final transition to social democracy which every leftist meaningful leftist political party in europe that emerged from marxism has undergone it's very interesting jeffrey when you think about that because it.
reflected upon that when you we have the communist party of russia we still hear ring out let it in they talk about marx and all that and it is it you know twenty years out of the fact you to appeal to most russians young russians is zero. they are serious but i don't think this is the clearest analogy well these are gonna yeah sorry exactly terry jeffrey go ahead. well i don't think this is really about communism at all communism wasn't involved in the coup remember the coup plotters in their declaration never mention marks all end in or communism they talk about the integrity of the soviet union and one has to remember that whilst many other non russian nations welcome to liberation from the soviet union the russians saw it as a deprivation and the russian communist party really represents two strands in russians thinking about their own country it represents of course soviet imperialism but it also represents the russian orthodox church and the promise loving understanding
of russia's history and it's an uneasy combination of the two and that's one reason why it hasn't really been all that effective it's trying to bring together two incompatible narratives about russia and persuade ordinary people that they should vote for that party ok you are to find out who you are twenty years on who who was the winner and who was who really winner from the coup twenty years ago. will you answer one he was to be in beneficiary though i agree with what was said earlier by the collide that he didn't make the most of his opportunities in the ninety nineties to the transfer of property and knock down prices to pre-selected buyers that helped to discredit the very idea of democracy when you think that nikolai what do you think about that i mean other than yeltsin was anyone else a beneficiary from the failed coup. i believe that in the longer term perspective of history this was a good thing in the same sense that going through
a feverish light and breaking through the fever allows one even though you know one is that one is weakened by the illness one gradually becomes better i believe that it would it was indeed better to have gone through this feverish episode than to drag out the illness and i'm not sure what the ultimate result would have been what we have now is preferable to that continued uncertainty. but another benefit the non russian republic or no one in africa way and form their own nation states jeffrey what do you think about that maybe minus the baltic republics is what was there any possibility that union could have stayed together under any circumstances . well i think what drove the union apart was the very determination and radical nature of corporate reforms if he had not undertaken those reforms the soviet union would do for it seems to be survived possibly for a long time even including the baltic republics after gorbachev started one can
imagine a union treaty which would have created a more de centralised union probably as you say without the baltic republics. but without the backbone which it had in the communist party of the soviet union would have been a very unstable place so i think probably not in in the long run archie what do you think about how the noncommunist soviet union could have come into existence again could it be viable. i think it could have been viable without a number of republics certainly without the baltic states but something closer to the european union today and into the old soviet union because the show went through several stages first of all trying to get a shoot a federation into a genuine federation but latterly he was prepared for a much looser kind of union something much more like the e.u. and that i think would have been possible and possibly preferable for russians to what has happened because it was clearly yeltsin's interest to get himself into the current government your thought to deprive russia of its centuries old links with
the other countries and to have russians stranded in other countries where they were no longer. equal citizens who many cases was hardly in the interests of russia because when you think about i mean and then this is something to do russians are meant to live in russians implemented this for twenty years as they did so many russians were found and found themselves on an on the wrong side of a border and not only russians the sentiments are sufficiently widespread in crane in kazakhstan with. probably given the emotions running at the time running high of the time it's difficult to imagine another outcome particularly because local elites were very busy taking advantage of the situation at the same time there is a considerable frustration with the way things turned out because there's
a sense that what they wanted was the separation that came about was produced under false pretenses in other words people wanted some sort of freedom and autonomy and they didn't want it to be difficult to visit their uncles and relatives across the border they don't understand why one has to go along with the other so i think that's sort of ambivalence continues. although now things have become so entrenched that it's hard to think of a clearer way to reintegrate again but i do think arties point about the model of a closer association along the lines of the e.u. ease of viable one and seems to be the model that the new customs union between russia kazakhstan billet was perhaps some day ukraine it is moving along those lines it's interesting twenty years later we might get to that many thanks to my guest today in oxford london in thanks to our viewers for watching us here if you