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10th Anniversary of the Moscow Coup – Russia Then and Now

Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM

As a former KGB lieutenant colonel, Putin belongs to the breed of second-rank Soviet bureaucrats who got the most out of the attempted coup against the roots of democracy planted in Russia by Mikhail Gorbachev, which chimed the death toll for the Soviet Empire. However, in August 1991, Putin had been on the other side of the barricades, opposite those Russians defending democracy a decade ago who were sincerely ready to die beneath the coup organizers' tanks. Last week, a special ceremony took place in Moscow in the memory of four Russians who died defending Russia's White House 10 years ago. But only about 100 people attended that event, most of them foreign reporters and correspondents who demonstrated their willingness to remember the events of August 1991, currently blamed by 79 percent of Russians for the nation's troubles. Because 10 years later, we are still dealing with the consequences of the abortive coup attempt. In 1991, majority of Russians considered America and the West in total as an example for their own democratic and free-market economic development, and had very strong hopes that after removal of communists from power ordinary Russians would finally to have a chance for freedom and prosperity. Unfortunately, they were wrong, and now they are living with less freedom and with a less free-market economy than what was in place in Russia 10 years ago when the Soviet union collapsed. Modern Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, betrayed the ideals of the Soviet-era democrats who supported him then, and on the ruins of the people's expectations created a mixture of a corrupt totalitarian political system with the so-called virtual economy. During his presidency Yeltsin's government borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. and other Western countries - money that ordinary Russians never saw because all this money was dispersed between the corrupt elite and organized crime syndicates, finally ending up in the private foreign bank accounts of these "new" Russians. Future generations of Russians will have to pay back these credits and loans, a burden that will make their life even more miserable than their predecessors had under the tyranny of the Soviet Union. Trying to avoid responsibility for his crimes against his own country and people, Yeltsin picked his own successor, who would have to protect Yeltsin and members of his criminal clan, the so-called "The Family," from possible prosecution. His choice of Vladimir Putin was not accidental because who else a former midlevel secret police professional would know how to provide protection for the state criminals. According to the Aug. 21st Moscow Times Boris Yeltsin put "the fruits of the August 1991 victory into the hands of a man who represented the KGB, the main force behind the attempted coup. By declaring a KGB man his heir, Yeltsin openly acknowledged the role those KGB colonels and their pals in other key Soviet institutions played in those events." These days, Yeltsin is enjoying the good life and feels comfortable because he has in his files more than enough compromising documents concerning the "heroic past" of his successor, Putin, who is now busy trying to finalize the consolidation of all state powers into his hands and return Russia back to the "glorious days" its totalitarian past. President Putin began and continues the brutal war in Chechnya and has liquidated almost all political freedoms and civil rights, which old, sick, tired and drunk Boris Yeltsin didn't have a chance to destroy himself. Putin deepened the negative trends in Russia's economy, which still heavily depends upon foreign investments and the export of Russia's national wealth, and as a result ordinary Russians are far worse off than they were 10 years ago. In 1991, an atmosphere of hope and inflated expectations prevailed. Ten years later, hopes for a brighter tomorrow are replaced by a deep pessimism and disillusionment among ordinary Russians, who once more were betrayed by their leaders. And it's no surprise that the word "democracy" is considered bad language for ordinary Russians, who teach their kids not to use this word at all. While it seems to be only a domestic Russian problem, it could be far more than that because the Kremlin can't find any other way but lying propaganda to convince the Russian people that they are living so badly not because of a corrupt political elite in Moscow, but because the West, led by the U.S., is trying to destroy Russia in the same way it destroyed the former U.S.S.R., former Yugoslavia, and other countries. Moscow's propaganda appeals to the people to protect their country from America's "aggressive intentions" to destroy their motherland and urges them to unite around Russia's president in defending their country. The Russian people are smart enough not to buy this false propaganda, but without an alternative free press the influence of state-run propaganda is on the rise, and more and more people have begun to trust these fabrications. These propaganda efforts are taking place in tandem with the development of Russia's military machine and its defense industry, and Moscow's military preparations have become more obvious and more dangerous than during the hottest days of the Cold War. The Clinton-Gore team inherited from the first President Bush a mostly friendly Russia whose people hoped to become America's partner and future ally. But that administration made so many mistakes in its Russian policy that the second President Bush has inherited a not-very-friendly Russia. We know that today Bush trying to build a close relationship with Putin to guide the American-Russian ties in the post-Cold War era. It could be extremely difficult to achieve that goal, and there is very little chance for its realization, but if he succeeds we won't have to worry about the future of our kids, and the whole world.

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As a former KGB lieutenant colonel, Putin belongs to the breed of second-rank Soviet bureaucrats who got the most out of the attempted coup against the roots of democracy planted in Russia by Mikhail Gorbachev, which chimed the death toll for the Soviet Empire. ...
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Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM
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