Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union

Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union

Conor O'Clery

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 1610391985

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The implosion of the Soviet Union was the culmination of a gripping game played out between two men who intensely disliked each other and had different concepts for the future. Mikhail Gorbachev, a sophisticated and urbane reformer, sought to modernize and preserve the USSR; Boris Yeltsin, a coarse and a hard drinking “bulldozer,” wished to destroy the union and create a capitalist Russia. The defeat of the August 1991 coup attempt, carried out by hardline communists, shook Gorbachev’s authority and was a triumph for Yeltsin. But it took four months of intrigue and double-dealing before the Soviet Union collapsed and the day arrived when Yeltsin could hustle Gorbachev out of the Kremlin, and move in as ruler of Russia.

Conor O’Clery has written a unique and truly suspenseful thriller of the day the Soviet Union died. The internal power plays, the shifting alliances, the betrayals, the mysterious three colonels carrying the briefcase with the nuclear codes, and the jockeying to exploit the future are worthy of John Le Carré or Alan Furst. The Cold War’s last act was a magnificent dark drama played out in the shadows of the Kremlin.

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just for show—to receive foreign guests and hold other official ceremonies.”5 Yeltsin is aware that to rule from the Kremlin will give the world reason to suspect his “great power” ambitions and that many of his colleagues will question whether a democratically elected leader should occupy the centuries-old citadel of imperial and totalitarian rule. Some regard the White House, the scene of Yeltsin’s heroic stand in August, to be the state symbol of Russia, rather than the fortress of the tsars

on Red Square. The Russian president has no patience, however, for suggestions that the Kremlin should be turned into a museum of history and culture after the departure of the last Soviet ruler. The Kremlin is an artistic gem, he acknowledges, but it is also the most important government compound in Russia. “The country’s entire defense system is hooked up to the Kremlin, the surveillance system, all the coded messages from all over the world are sent here, and there is a security apparatus for

peace among the nationalities, and that if there were hardships, they were shared by everyone. Despite his active opposition to the August putsch when he took to the streets to confront the putschists in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin claims that the events of 1991 tore his life apart. Today he judges Vladimir Kryuchkov, the hard-liner who organized the coup attempt and who tried to get the KGB Alpha Group to open fire on the defenders of the Russian White House in August 1991, to be a true

appointment books arranged as they were on his last working day. It was from here that the founder of the Soviet Union gave the order for the liquidation of the tsar and his family in Ipatiev House in Sverdlovsk. Stalin also lived and worked in the Kremlin, though having been discredited by Khrushchev for his reign of terror, no museum was ever established in his name. Stalin’s legacy is a series of five giant red stars made from stainless steel and ruby glass, which are located atop the Kremlin

had met first ladies, princesses and queens, but I had never seen anybody act this way.”10 Raisa developed a much warmer relationship with Barbara Bush, though George Bush had difficulty appreciating her deadpan humor. At a dinner in the Soviet embassy in Washington, the U.S. president joked to Raisa, as they were being entertained by a very overweight and unpretty Russian opera singer, “I think I’m falling in love.” “You’d better not,” she scolded him. “Remember Gary Hart!” Bush concluded that

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