News / Europe

Russians Mark 20th Anniversary of Men Killed Opposing Coup

A Russian Orthodox priest prays as Moscovites light candles at a memorial to three men killed in the August 1991 hard line Communist coup attempt during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the failure of the coup in downtown Moscow, Saturday, Aug.
A Russian Orthodox priest prays as Moscovites light candles at a memorial to three men killed in the August 1991 hard line Communist coup attempt during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the failure of the coup in downtown Moscow, Saturday, Aug.

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

Muscovites gathered Saturday night to recognize three virtually unknown men whose deaths 20 years ago changed the direction of world history.

In life, they stood unarmed, facing Soviet tanks that were clanking through a Moscow underpass to attack the democratically elected government of Boris Yeltsin. In death, they catalyzed a massive popular protest that broke the back of a military coup by communist hardliners.

On Saturday, standing above the underpass and a red smear of modern cars stretching into the Moscow night, Russian Orthodox Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin makes the sign of the cross:

He hails the three Moscow men for their role in helping to end nightmarish decades of communist control.

Rabbi Zinovii Levovich Kogan, recites the Kaddish , the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning for the three men.

The failed coup attempt backfired on the plotters. Within four months, the Soviet Union was formally and peacefully dissolved.

Rabbi Kogan says that the men’s sacrifice spared the Soviet Union from a blood civil war that could have cost millions of lives.

He says the men may be little known now. But eventually, people in the 15 nations that emerged from the Soviet Union will appreciate their actions.

Agreement came from Lyubova Komar, mother of one of the men, Dmitry Komar. He was a 22-year-old mechanic when he was caught under the treads of a tank and crushed to death.

Carrying a bouquet of red roses, she says in an interview with VOA that Russia will probably only appreciate her son’s sacrifice on the 50th anniversary of his death. Now,  she doubts that history books write more than three words about the event.

The small gathering of 75 people Saturday seems a world away from the events of 20 years ago, when as many as half a million Muscovites turned out to block the coup.

Twenty years ago, a few weeks after the failed coup, I drove past the site. It was a typical communist tableau, an intersection bounded by shabby state stores and dingy government institutes.

Today, the small stone memorial is framed by a French health food restaurant and a South Korean luxury hotel, where the rooftop bar sells champagne at $80 a glass.

As drivers of luxury cars honked their horns at the inconvenience of a street closing, Gennady Nikolaevich Veretilnii, says Russia has taken the wrong path.

He says Russia is now run by “a dictatorship of the oligarchs.” Fingering his right shoulder where a Soviet tank commander shot him during the coup attempt, he says he now wonders if democracy will ever come to Russia.

Standing nearby is Sergei Filatov, a former defense aide to the late President Boris Yeltsin. During the coup attempt,  he sent to teams to local garrisons to persuade commanders not to attack.

Now the president of a socio economic research institute here, he agrees, that Russia is going through an authoritarian phase.

But he also says that Russia’s leadership will discover that democracy is the only way forward for the nation.

With most of the crowd over 50 years of age, many people gathered for the 20th anniversary felt comfortable taking the long view when talking about Russian history.

You May Like

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid