Soviet Coup Attempt

Post-Cold War Europe

Europe 1991.0819

Soviet Coup Attempt

Europe after the Cold War (19 August 1991)

Historical Map of Europe & the Mediterranean

By now the forces unleashed by Gorbachev were beginning to test the structural integrity of the Soviet Union itself. In August 1991, Communist hardliners decided things had gone too far and launched a coup to overthrow Gorbachev and roll back his reforms. But it was too late. The coup lacked popular Russian support and instead Soviet disintegration accelerated.

Main Events

Brioni Agreement

Croatia, Slovenia, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia signed the Brioni Agreement under the political sponsorship of the European Community on the Brijuni Islands, Croatia. Slovenia and Croatia accepted a three month moratorium on their declarations of independence; in return, Yugoslavia agreed to withdraw from Slovenia.

Operation Stinger

After almost a year of low level conflict, the Yugoslav government backed Serbian Autonomous Oblast Krajina mounted an offensive to capture positions held by the Croatian police in the region of Banovina, Croatia. When the Croatians began to counterattack, the Yugoslav People's Army intervened, leading to full-scale war.

Gorbachev's house arrrest

President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was met by representatives of the Gang of Eight while on holiday in his dacha in Foros, Crimea. After refusing their demands to either declare a state of emergency or resign in favor of Gennady Yanayev, the conspirators ordered the KGB to confine him to his dacha and shut down his communication lines.

Soviet Coup Attempt

Having placed President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under house arrest, the eight high-level Soviet officials known as the Gang of Eight declared a state of emergency across the Soviet Union and announced that they had formed the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) to manage the country and restore Soviet dignity. The GKChP sent the Soviet Army into Moscow, Leningrad, the Baltic states, and Moldova but failed to capture Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who held out in the White House, Moscow. After a couple of days of mounting popular opposition, the Army chose to withdraw rather than fire on civilians and the coup attempt collapsed.

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