Gang of Eight (Soviet Union)
|Extinction||22 August 1991|
|Type||Self-declared provisional government|
|Legal status||Dissolved by the Russian SFSR and Soviet Union|
|Purpose||Prevention of the New Union Treaty signing, governance during 6-months state of emergency|
|Headquarters||Moscow Kremlin, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union|
Soviet Ministry on Internal Affairs
The State Committee on the State of Emergency (რუს. Государственный комитет по чрезвычайному положению, ГКЧП) was a group of eight high-level officials within the Soviet government, the Communist party and the KGB who attempted a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev on 18 August 1991. Within two days, by 20 August 1991, the attempted coup collapsed.
The eight members were:
- Gennady Yanayev (1937–2010), Vice President
- Valentin Pavlov (1937–2003), Prime Minister
- Boris Pugo (1937–1991), Interior Minister
- Dmitry Yazov, (b. 1923) Defense Minister and Marshal of the Soviet Union
- Vladimir Kryuchkov (1924–2007), Chairman of the KGB
- Oleg Baklanov (b. 1932), First Deputy Chairman of the Defense Council of the USSR
- Vasily Starodubtsev (1931–2011), Chairman of the Peasants' Union of the USSR
- Alexander Tizyakov (b. 1926), President of the Association of State Enterprises
Pugo shot himself to avoid arrest, while the other seven members were arrested.
The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt (19–21 August 1991), was an attempt by a Gang of Eight to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. The group of eight were hard-line members of the Communist Party (CPSU) who were opposed to Gorbachev's reform program and the new union treaty that he had negotiated which dispersed much of the central government's power to the republics. Although the coup collapsed in only two days and Gorbachev returned to government, the event destabilised the Soviet Union and is widely considered to have helped in bringing about both the demise of the Communist Party and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Afterwards, members of the Gang of Eight were arrested.
On 15 December 1992 over a year after the incident a criminal case of 144 volumes was sent to the Military Collegiate of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation from the Prosecutor General. Anatoliy Ukolov as a deputy chairman of the Collegiate was given the case for a revision. On 26 January 1993 was assigned as a hearing for the criminal case. Those that were to be prosecuted for involvement included the aforementioned eight plus three others:
- Oleg Shenin (1937–2009), Politbureau and secretariat member
- Anatoly Lukyanov (b. 1930), Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union
- General of the Army Valentin Varennikov (1923–2009), Deputy Minister of Defense, Commander Land Forces
The trials lasted for 14 months from 14 April 1993 until 1 March 1994. The trials were open to public and press media, however the foreign press media did not participate as there were no space for them left in the courtroom. A prosecution commission was assigned and consisted of nine people and headed by Denisov, who was a Deputy Prosecutor General. The following defense attorneys were hired: Genri Reznik (Shenin), Genrikh Padva, Yuriy Ivanov (Kryuchkov), Dmitriy Shteinberg (Varennikov), and others. In total there were 17 defense attorneys. The court questioning only started on 30 November 1993 due to various procrastination techniques utilized by the defense. Questioning was conducted mainly to four people: Yazov, Kryuchkov, Shenin, and Varennikov, and lasted a couple of weeks.
On 23 February 1994 the State Duma issued a political and economic amnesty. On 1 March 1994 the case was closed as all 11 prosecuted accepted amnesty. Varennikov also accepted amnesty at first under the condition that Mikhail Gorbachev would be prosecuted next. He accused Gorbachev of leading the country to the political disaster that it was in. The court, of course, did not open a new case by his petition, but did send his inquiry to the Prosecutor General's office. The Prosecutor General's office chose not to follow up on Varennikov's petition as, according to Anatoliy Ukolov, no case has appeared in that regard.
After 10 days, however, the Presidium of the Supreme Court supported the prosecution in court by the protest of Denisov and the case was reopened. The reason for that was the procedural infringements connected with amnesty. The case should not have been closed prior to carry out the decision whether or not the accused were guilty and only then present the option of amnesty. The Presidium of the Supreme Court arranged a new hearing and assigned a new judge whom become Viktor Aleksandrovich Yaskin. He conducted the case review by already newly accepted court procedures. Yaskin gathered the prosecuted once again and asked them again if they wish to accept the amnesty. All, but Varennikov accepted it. So the case continued on only with participation of Varennikov. That case finished in full acquittance of the last as he was a subordinated to the Minister of Defense and was executing his orders.
The main organizers were identified as Kryuchkov, Yazov, Shenin, and Pavlov.
The further fate of GKChP members
- Pugo, committed suicide together with his wife. However, some sources speculate that he may have been murdered.
- Yazov, spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina. According to the magazine "Vlast" No.41(85) of 14 October 1991 "...from the prison contacted the President with a recorded video message, where repented and called himself "an old fool". Yazov denies ever doing that. He accepted the amnesty stating that he was not guilty. He was dismissed from the military service by the Presidential Order and awarded a ceremonial weapon. He was awarded an order of Honor by the President of Russian Federation. Yazov works as a military adviser at the General Staff Academy.
- Varennikov, spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina, refused to accept the offered amnesty, and was eventually recognized as not guilty. Prior to GKChP he participated in events to capture the TV-station in Vilnius and according to the assistant of Gorbachev, Andrei Chernyayev, the decision to use the force was taken him personally without discussion with the President. Varennikov since 1995 was a people's deputy and in 2008 publicly was stating that the military force used during the August putsch was intended for security purposes including the protection of Yeltsin. He died in 2009 and was buried in Moscow.
- Baklanov, spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina, then accepted an amnesty in 1994 as not guilty. Later he worked as a director of Rosobshchemash.
- Yanayev, spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina. Later he became a chairman of the department of national history at the Russian International Academy of Tourism.
- Pavlov, during the putsch was taken to a hospital with a diagnosis of hypertension, but on 29 August was transferred to Matrosskaya Tishina. He accepted his amnesty as not guilty and became the head of the Chasprombank. Pavlov resigned from the bank on 31 August 1995 and six months later the bank was left without license. Later he was an adviser at Promstroibank (today known as Bank VTB). Pavlov died in 2003 after a series of heart attacks and was buried in Moscow.
Evaluations of Ukolov's interviews
According to Vzglyad the occurrence of the August putsch Ukolov blames on Mikhail Gorbachev by implying that Gorbachev should not have taken his vacation. However, in interview to Komsomol Pravda Ukolov also mentioned how the members of GKChP chose not to follow the letter of law, but rather to take the situation in their own hands.
- Артём Кречетников (August 17 2006). "Хроника путча: часть I". BBC Russian Service. Archived from the original on September 2, 2007. Check date values in:
|date=(help) (in Russian)
- Артём Кречетников (August 18, 2006). "Хроника путча: часть II". BBC Russian Service. Archived from the original on August 28, 2007. (in Russian)
- "The Men Who Tried to Topple Mikhail Gorbachev". The Moscow Times. August 17, 2001. Archived from the original on September 5, 2001.
- "Деньги и судьба империи". Независимая газета. June 3, 2006. (in Russian)
- "Бывший вице-президент СССР Геннадий Янаев: Ручонки действительно подрагивали". Версия. October 31, 2008. (in Russian)
- "Книга памяти: «Часпромбанк»". Банки.ру. (in Russian)
- How were the GKChPsits trailed? (Komsomol Pravda) Aug. 22, 2006 (in Russian)
- GKChP court trials (in Russian)