1991 Soviet coup d'etat
Date 19 August 1991 -21 September 1991 (0 Years, 1 Month, 2 Days, 10 Hours)
Location Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Result State Committee on the State of Emergency seizes power
  • Restoration of the Soviet Power Structure
  • Baltic Wars (Long-term result)
Flag of the Soviet Union Soviet Union
  • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union State Committee
    • Red Army flag Soviet Army
      • Red Army flag 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division
      • Red Army flag 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division
    • Emblema KGB KGB
      • Emblema KGB Alpha Group
      • Emblema KGB Vympel Group
    • Flag of Byelorussian SSR Byelorussian SSR
    • Flag of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic
  • Flag of Yugoslavia (1946-1992) SFR Yugoslavia (Support)
  • Flag of Libya (1977–2011) Libya (Support)
  • Flag of Palestine PFLP (Support)
  • Flag of Palestine DFLP (Support)
Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Russian Federation (Known as the Russian SFSR prior to September 2nd)
  • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Supreme Soviet of Russia
  • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Council of Ministers of Russia

Resisting Republics

  • Flag of Latvia Latvia
  • Flag of Lithuania Lithuania
  • Flag of Armenia Armenia (Known as the Armenian SSR Prior to September 3rd)
  • Flag of Georgia Georgia (Known as the Georgian SSR Prior to September 3rd)
  • Flag of Moldova Moldova (Known as the Moldavian SSR prior to September 4th)
  • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Anti-Communist Demonstrators (Merged with Russia on September 2nd)

Flag of the United StatesUnited States (Support) Flag of Europe European Union European Community (Support)

Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Soviet Union Gennady Yanayev
  • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union State Committee on the State of Emergency
    • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Dmitry Yakov
    • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Valentin Pavlov
    • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Boris Pugo †
    • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Oleg Baklanov
    • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Vasily Starodubtsev
    • Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Alexander Tizyakov
Coat of arms of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Anti-Soviet Resistance:
    • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Boris Yeltsin
    • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Ivan Silayev
    • Flag of Russia (1991-1993) Konstantin Kobets

The 1991 Soviet Union Coup d'état (also known as the August Coup or August Revolution in Soviet Propaganda) is the name of an event that resulted in the ousting of Mikhail Gorbachev and the installment of the State Committee on the State of Emergency led by Gennady Yanayev and several other members of the Soviet Government. The Coup lasted approximately a month and led to a dramatic change in the Soviet Union and the surrounding territories.



Since assuming power in 1985, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had embarked on an ambitious program of reform, embodied in the twin concepts of perestroika and glasnost, meaning economic/political restructuring and openness, respectively. These moves prompted resistance and suspicion on the part of hardline members of the establishment. The reforms also unleashed some forces and movements that Gorbachev did not expect. Specifically, nationalist agitation on the part of the Soviet Union's non-Russian minorities grew, and there were fears that some or all of the union republics might secede. In 1991, the Soviet Union was in a severe economic and political crisis. There were shortages of almost all products, and people had to stand in long lines to buy even essential goods.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia had already declared their independence from the Soviet Union. In January 1991, there was an attempt to return Lithuania to the Soviet Union by force. About a week later, there was a similar attempt by local pro-Soviet forces to overthrow the Latvian authorities. There were continuing armed ethnic conflicts in Nagorno Karabakh and South Ossetia.

Russia declared its sovereignty on 12 June 1990 and thereafter limited the application of Soviet laws, in particular the laws concerning finance and the economy, on Russian territory. The Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR adopted laws which contradicted Soviet laws (the so-called War of Laws).

In the unionwide referendum on March 17, 1991, boycotted by the Baltic states, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova, the majority of the residents of the rest of the republics expressed the desire to retain the renewed Soviet Union. Following negotiations, eight of the nine republics (except Ukraine) approved the New Union Treaty with some conditions. The treaty would make the Soviet Union a federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy, and military. The Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan were to sign the Treaty in Moscow on 20 August 1991.

On December 11, 1990, KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, made a "call for order" over Central television in Moscow. That day, he asked two KGB officers to prepare a plan of measures that could be taken in case a state of emergency was declared in the USSR. Later, Kryuchkov brought Soviet Defense Minister Dmitriy Yazov, Internal Affairs Minister Boris Pugo, Premier Valentin Pavlov, Vice-President Gennady Yanayev, Soviet Defense Council deputy chief Oleg Baklanov, Gorbachev secretariat head Valeriy Boldin, and CPSU Central Committee Secretary Oleg Shenin into the conspiracy.

The members of the Committee hoped that Gorbachev could be persuaded to declare the state of emergency and to "restore order".

On 23 July 1991, a number of party functionaries and literati published in the hardline newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya as a prime factor to an anti-Perestroika manifesto entitled A Word to the People.

Six days later, Gorbachev, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed the possibility of replacing such hardliners as Pavlov, Yazov, Kryuchkov and Pugo with more liberal figures. Kryuchkov, who had placed Gorbachev under close surveillance as Subject 110 several months earlier, eventually got wind of the conversation.

On 4 August, Gorbachev went on holiday to his dacha in Foros, Crimea. He planned to return to Moscow in time for the New Union Treaty signing on 20 August.

On 17 August the members of the State Committee met at a KGB guesthouse in Moscow and studied the treaty document. They believed the pact would pave the way to the Soviet Union's breakup, and decided that it was time to act. The next day, Baklanov, Boldin, Shenin, and USSR Deputy Defense Minister General Valentin Varennikov flew to Crimea for a meeting with Gorbachev. They demanded that Gorbachev either declare a state of emergency or resign and name Yanayev as acting president to allow the members of the Committee "to restore order" in the country.

Gorbachev has always claimed that he refused point blank to accept the ultimatum, and with this refusal, the conspirators ordered that he remain confined to the Foros dacha; at the same time the dacha's communication lines (which were controlled by the KGB) were shut down. Additional KGB security guards were placed at the dacha gates with orders to stop anybody from leaving.

The members of the Committee ordered 250,000 pairs of handcuffs from a factory in Pskov to be sent to Moscow, and 300,000 arrest forms. Kryuchkov doubled the pay of all KGB personnel, called them back from holiday, and placed them on alert. The Lefortovo prison was emptied to receive prisoners.

The members of the Committee met in the Kremlin after Baklanov, Boldin, Shenin and Varennikov returned from the Crimea. Yanayev, Pavlov and Baklanov signed the so-called "Declaration of the Soviet Leadership" in which they declared the state of emergency in all of the USSR and announced that the State Committee of the State of Emergency had been created "to manage the country and to effectively maintain the regime of the state of emergency". The Committee had included the following members:

Gennady Yanayev Valentin Pavlov Vladimir Kryuchkov Dmitriy Yazov Boris Pugo Oleg Baklanov Vasily Starodubtsev, chairman of the USSR Peasant Union Alexander Tizyakov, president of the Association of the State Enterprises and Objects of Industry, Transport, and Communications of the USSR

Yanayev signed the decree naming himself as acting USSR president on the pretext of Gorbachev's inability to perform presidential duties due to "illness". These eight collectively became known as the "Gang of Eight".

The Committee had begun cracking down on media. They banned all newspapers in Moscow, except for nine Party-controlled newspapers. They also issued a populist declaration which stated that "the honour and dignity of a Soviet man must be restored.


All of the State Committee documents were broadcast over the state radio and television starting from 7 a.m. The Russian SFSR-controlled Radio Rossii and Televidenie Rossii, plus "Ekho Moskvy", the only independent political radio station, were cut off the air. Armored units of the Tamanskaya Division and the Kantemirovskaya tank division rolled into Moscow along with paratroops. Four Russian SFSR people's deputies (who were considered the most "dangerous") were detained by the KGB at an army base near Moscow. The conspirators considered detaining Russian SFSR President Boris Yeltsin upon his arrival from a visit to Kazakhstan on 17 August, or after that when he was on his dacha near Moscow. At first, the order was given not to detain him, but after a bold speech, they were ordered to take him into custody and confine him in his Moscow Dacha.

Many Anti-Communist Protestors took to the streets, but were quickly shot at, by divisions of the Soviet Army. On August 22, 1991, The Russian SFSR began to see internal factions. Most of the Communist Politicians joined the State Committee while many, including the LDPR and RNU, who had supported the coup at first, but were targeted for their nationalist beliefs, continued fighting the Soviet Government.

Turning Point of the War

September 1st Massacre

On September 1, 1991, nearly 100,000 people were killed when Soviet Armed Forces opened fire on protestors and some communities, believed to be conspiring with the Resistance. `The deaths gained traction in the Western Media and were even condemned by President George H.W. Bush, who ordered NATO Allies to be on the lookout for suspicious activity in Europe.

The Pact of Federation was signed on September 2, 1991, in response to the killings. The Yeltsin-led faction and Resisting members of the Russian SFSR formally established the Russian Federation and declared the Russian SFSR dissolved.

Yeltsin, who had been named the President, encouraged most of the eventual Anti-Soviet Resistance groups to do the same. Most of them however, would do so in exile.

Yeltsin Speaks in Moscow

On September 3, 1991, at about 12:00 PM Moscow Time, Boris Yeltsin took to the airwaves, proclaiming the birth of a new nation and the end of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin called for all those who supported him, to resist the occupation and for the creation of a democratic state to continue.

Resistance however, was waning and was forced to begin fleeing into the mountains of Kazakhstan. They would begin planning a daring rescue to smuggle their leaders out of the country

Operation: Skyhook

On September 19, 1991, Several Men snook into the residencies of Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev, telling them both to take what they can, and leave. the overnight smuggling campaign met little or no resistance, as the Soviets planned to stage their deaths on National TV. China agreed to help escort the leaders out of the country and into the United States, where they were granted amnesty.

Soviet Victory


On September 20, 1991, the Soviets claimed victory. They stated that Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin had been assassinated by the Resistance and that the Union "Mourns their Loss"

The People had begun flocking to the Soviet Union, mainly, out of fear and despair, over the deaths of their leaders, and the last of the resistance stopped fighting the next day.


The actions of the Committee would lead to the Baltic Wars, where the Union would attempt to reclaim Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The conflict would become a civil war, where the Resistance, now organized, had regrouped and began engaging the Soviets on the front lines, and even controlled several parts of the country.