tv [untitled] August 19, 2011 11:30am-12:00pm EDT
same of you are going to go right to the last thirty or so these were the stages of sleep the three changed everything twenty years ago communist party hardliners attempt to keep the real me hope the cold stare for to reform the soviet union. and the hour here in moscow this is our last friday of the market the world's financial stocks i hate by a fresh wave of selling it may be is the world economies in decline it comes as a suggest the u.s. and europe are dangerously close to recession. let's go cautions against international calls for a change in syria saying president asked suddenly it's time to implement a promised changes. it's twenty years to the day since the tensions coupe i can recall of like climbing if against then president mikhail gorbachev while claiming
to topple the government to help bring about the eventually end of the soviet union . and swimmers in russia's far east of grits plights hair off to two people with salvaged by shoulder in two days it's time for the never been seen before because the hunt has begun for the shah responsible. and he's now here in less than thirty minutes time with today's main stories about a while guest on cross talk debates whether the soviet union was already on the park to extinction despite the failed coup or whether it could have been reform that's next on our city. keep the story.
hello and welcome across our computer all about the food that failed but changed everything twenty years ago communist party hardliners attempted to derail me help out of a child's efforts to reform the soviet union and 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. taken the stewards. to 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 indeed we know the girl who go to the clyde petro he is professor of politics at the university of rhode island all right gentlemen this is cross talk i mean you can jump in anytime you want but first let's have a look at the failed coup of nine hundred 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 hardline state of emergency committee a nelson stated that mikail gorbachev's efforts to reform the soviet union have gone into a blind alley and also declared a six month state of emergency in various regions of the country by that time gorbachev had already been removed and detained in his militia in the crimea with motivated the plotters to overthrow the existing order was the new union treaty designed decentralized political power within the u.s.s.r.
and indirectly weaken the position of all powerful communist party little did they know however the coup attempt would encounter strong resistance from many in the military as was the general public by that time had begun to see a change as often happens in russia's history when the when these reforms start accumulating from the top. there's a sense of. 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 assume control of the russian parliament building the committee ordered tanks to roll into moscow maurice yeltsin then considered a political maverick and reformist led russian parliamentarian's in opposition to the coup and that's what people are illegal all the decisions energy crazed 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 committees actions found parliament surrounded by armed and unarmed civilians but partners of the coup
found little support either within the political elite or the constituent republics that made up the soviet union as a result collapsed with a minor loss of life on august twenty first. and returned to moscow and the soviet union would never be able 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 we had before nonstarter didn't go into or got no traction in society and the second thing was simple planning planning ironically instead of curbing war of a child's performance project and reinvigorating the power of the communist party the coup plotters he sent their own political to my real political power shifted to yeltsin quickly moved to ban the party and a few months later the soviet union ceased to exist much attorney for cross-town
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 or 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 than is often recognized in contemporary russia and especially as well as in the courses that we think it was a singular moment because it revealed in the. precise moment and i have beautifully tied up way. how in important the
communist party had become and of course just the significantly it launched the political fortunes of boris yeltsin. ok jeffrey i mean we do agree with that i mean one of the interesting things is they do know i think all of us when we study in the soviet union is that the communist party being all powerful very very powerful security forces a very powerful army the plotters had all all the tools they needed to pull it off but it was an utter utter failure how do you account for that i mean it wasn't because they lacked resources no it wasn't i would say absolutely decisive factor 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 in 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 gorbachev somewhere in between so the generals didn't know how to react archie what do you think about that i mean. you know when you look at got to charge for me at the moment you know he was he was put into the crimea he was there for a few days he looked like he'd been there 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 tried to overthrow him. well that's true but i think very important fact to the beginning was the gorbachev refused to be intimidated by the people who visited him they wanted him to give imprimatur of legitimacy to what they were doing but in fact you know as general but in a cough complain glittery got a bunch of years on parliamentary expressions to them so he told them where to go and that was important but what was also crucially important was that yeltsin had the legitimacy of having to let the president of russia just
a couple of months earlier if they wanted to cool or you know earlier it might have had 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 all the facts on the ground the economy wasn't going it was going down there were shortages there was some it was a 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 would have made any difference. on the one hand i don't think it would have made any crucial difference to the prospects of the communist party to reassert itself i think its days were 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 have 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 would itself all these events the this integration of the union accelerate it 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 but gradual dissolution and perhaps there wouldn't even 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 it may call you if you were to jeff around this because i think you bring up a point i think is still very much argued and i mean 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 and let's talk about the territorial integrity later could it was upon communist party reform bill to be able to lead. popular be legitimate in the eyes of the population i left originally to do that no you know and actually create create a future a better future because they were going to get in and go ahead. no i don't think it was reformable and that's seems to be proved by the fact that chopper was a very constructive and intelligent reformer did his utmost to reform it and failed the 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 called shortages even worse shortages everywhere and the other of course was the nationality problem. intended 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 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 their r g the whole reform ability of the communist party to slash the soviet union we'll talk about later in the program if the country could have stayed together but what about the communist party with
a spent force either. 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 per the politburo by ninety ninety ninety one it was meeting all the once a month not once a week and power had moved elsewhere with god which often he won't dare because you know he was exercising power through the presidency and through his own long to large and were less ignoring the politburo what gorbachev wanted to do was to split the communist party and lead its social democratic component here tended to do that in developer like you know he won it actually party congress but the split never took place because there was no longer. just quit. but that's how i think was a possible reform the other thing i think could have happened was the creation of a different kind of union so it without the baltic republics are just going to jump in right here to go to a break and after that short break we'll continue our discussion on the one nine hundred ninety one coup with our state party.
can. start. on the. wealthy british style. market why not. come to. find out what's really happening to the global economy with mike's cause or run no holds barred look at the global financial headlines tune into a report on our feet in some places but counties available in grand hotel europe grand hotel emerald marco polo club small hotel so close hotel in the big old
hotel. craziness steepness s.a.'s roy came in scheme way code switching to plug in punch in. now so. he can start. welcome back to cross talk i'm peter lavelle to remind you we're discussing the events of august ninety nine you want. to keep. ok nickel if i can if i go to you i mean archie brown brought up a very interesting point before we went to the break about got about got a bunch of supplants to split up the communist party into competing factions me but isn't that still kind of a an old style mentality of reform from the top down i mean because we saw during
the coup a lot of spontaneous spontaneity and where 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 that you just articulated. i think. if good by talk 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 probably gated as strongly as it could have been although there were
some very notable steps taken such as the abolition of the commies mordy of the soviet union and on the day mediately 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 fervor in the year at the time as as will all 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 at 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 the difference we had jeffrey it's interesting i mean we we've been talking about the russia the new russia emerging versus the soviet union salut roosted 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 that i lost the 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 deals 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 power of russia the russian federation or is it was called in the russian soviet republic as a weapon against gorbachev the irony was that got a chance conservative opponents to the same they set up the russian communist party in one thousand nine hundred that being a russian communist party before and one should remember that the present communist
party in russia is the inheritor of the russian communist party not the communist party of the soviet 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 or is the soviet union was. quickly going into dissolution it was about to the ambitions of two men and i to 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's very interesting when people ask me about that creed and you know and both of them for a lot of people in russia today twenty years out of like are extremely unpopular political figures. yes it was partly that but novelist 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 be hastened the transfer of power from god which after yeltsin which was not what they who thought or said intended of course it really hastened the dissolution of the soviet union which was also the opposite of what they intended in a nickel i got i know had they were but it's really interesting as they 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 could 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 organization but for all practical purposes the leadership at the time
desired. to reconstitute the communist party of the soviet union and i think that inheritance weighed heavily continues to sadly to weigh. 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 marx is another gone it's very interesting jeffrey what do you think about that because it. reflected upon that when you have a communist party of russia they still hear ring out let it in they talk about marx and all that and it uses it you know twenty years after the fact it's appeal to the most russians young russians is zero. may i say is but i don't think this is accurate analogy well if you're gonna yeah. exactly terry jeffrey go ahead well i don't think this is really about communism a tool communism wasn't involved in the coup remember the coup plotters in their
declaration never mention marx all-in in or communism they talked 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 get provision 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 the promise livening 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 r.t. if i go to you twenty years on who who was the winner and who was who did anyone win 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 de collide that he didn't
make the most of his opportunities in the nineteen nineties the transfer of property and knock down prices through 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 the history of this was a good thing in the same sense that going through a feverish night and breaking through the fever allows one even though you know one is 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 why when it has taken away and form their own nation state jeffrey what do you think about that maybe minus the baltic republics is what was there any possibility that the union could have stayed together under any circumstances. well i think what drove the union apart was the very determination and radical nature of god to trust reforms if he had not undertaken those reforms the soviet union would do for it seems to me survive possibly for a long time even including the baltic republics after gorbachev started one can imagine a union treaty which would have created an already 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 it would have been a very unstable place so i think probably not and in the long run archie what do you think about that a non communist soviet union could it that i probably 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 than to the old soviet union be governor of went through several stages first of all running a should a federation into a genuine federation collaterally he was prepared for a much looser kind of union something much more likely you and 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 kremlin gorbachev vote 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 and many cases was hardly in the interests of russia because when you think about i mean in that this is something they do russians have a mantra and russians have lamented this for twenty years as they did so many russians were found and found themselves on an on the wrong side of the border and not only russians in the sentiments are sufficiently widespread in the ukraine in
kazakhstan. probably given the emotions running at the time very high 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 another word people wanted some sort of freedom and autonomy 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 sort of ambivalence continues. although now things have become so entrenched that
it's hard to think of a clear way to reintegrate again but i do think arties point about the model of a closer association along the lines of the e.u. is a viable one and seems to be the model that the new customs union between russia kazakhstan bill it was perhaps some day ukraine is moving along with why it's interesting twenty years later we might get to that many thanks to my guest today in oxford london into cuba growth and thanks to our viewers for watching us here r.c.c. unix time and remember across time. you can.