What I learned from the USSR coup attempt

Participants in the conspiracy said, and some still say, that they wanted to save our union. But, as I said from the start, they ended up destroying the country. Although the coup collapsed three days later, it damaged the principle of a common state, speeding the republics’ “run on the Union” — a process that Russia’s leaders had initiated long before the putsch. One after another, the republics began declaring independence.

The situation we faced was indeed grave. But we were able to convene the Congress of People’s Deputies, which approved preparation of another draft of the Union Treaty, based on the concept of a confederative state. We ran into all kinds of problems, but we soon had a new draft and began presenting it to the republics.

Once again, the prospect existed that we could work together to end the crisis. Had it not been for the collusion of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, meeting at Belovezhskaya Pushcha, the new treaty could have been signed before the end of 1991. The union, which would have been known as the Union of Sovereign States, would have been saved — in a different form, and with much greater rights to the republics.

Had that happened, I am convinced that economic reforms would then have been less painful, the collapse of industrial production would have been avoided and the dangerous decline in Russians’ living standards would not have occurred.