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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid