Below we present an alternative view of the events generally called “The Constitutional Crisis” in Russia, brought about by objections and resistance on the part of Supreme Soviet deputies (then Russia’s parliament) to Boris Yeltsin’s regime bent on rapid “Westernization” of the nation, a posture which soon opened the gates to bandit capitalism in its most savage form. Yeltsin was and remains in history as the Western stooge that delivered Russia to its Western enemies. The Yeltsin betrayal of the Russian nation inaugurated the most painful period the Russian people have had to endure in recent memory. The tragic events of “Black October” have been widely described to this day as a “coup by hardline communists” against the duly seated “democratic” president, but in reality it was Yeltsin and his advisors, Russian and foreign, who actually planned the coup —and succeeded—against the people of Russia and their social safety net, and sovereignty.—The Editor
THE TASS SUMMARY OF THE EVENT
On October 3, 1993, Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia was disbanded as a result of the constitutional crisis which began in 1992. The internal conflict escalated in a military confrontation between two political forces: President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin and a group of deputies of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation.
The president’s order on the gradual constitutional reform of the Russian Federation sparked the reason for the coup – in essence, it rendered the Supreme Soviet useless. Supporters for the redundant governmental body tried to take over the City Hall and Ostankino television center, the main broadcasting facility in the country. The following day, October 4, Boris Yeltsin issued the order to storm the White House, which was eventually shelled by tanks.
157 died and 384 injured in this event. The majority were civilians.
Boris Yeltsin’s side won that day, which meant that the Soviet power, which ruled the country since 1917, was irrevocably abolished. According to the new constitution, adopted in December of 1993, Russia became a republic with two houses of parliament and a strong presidential institute.
A dissident version of the events in Moscow of October 3-4, 1993
By Alexander Tarasov
VERSION SPECIALLY EDITED AND EXPANDED BY PATRICE GREANVILLE
[box type=”warning”] [Translator’s note: the following text is excerpted from the pamphlet by the same name. Due to space considerations, we are unable to print Tarasov’s conclusions, but we feel that readers will be able to draw similar ones by themselves after learning more about the history of these infamous events.][/box]
This work is the result of an attempt by a professional political analyst to put together a version of recent events which could explain the various “peculiarities” connected with the events which took place in Moscow on Oct.3-4, 1993, peculiarities which are clearly worth exploring. It should be understood that the following version of the events (or, if you like, working hypothesis) does not claim to offer any final truths, but it does offer a single explanation for all of the oddities connected to the events on the whole while other versions can only offer (or invent) special different explanations for each oddity separately.
I am not at all the sole author of the “provocation theory.” This theory, that the president’s side (Yeltsin’s) provoked the events, has been put forward by many people, even during the first days after the storm of the “White House”. Some showed strong arguments to support their point of view (for example Victoria Shokhina in her article “I See a Grandiose Political Provocation”, printed in “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, Oct.9, 1993). In addition, I myself didn’t come around to accept this version of the events until the middle of October, instead thinking that what took place was a spontaneous chain of events which could have been perfectly natural taking into account the current political arena, dominated by mediocrities and arrogant dilettantes.
But the facts and the convergence of eyewitness accounts (both oral and written) made me change my point of view.
By the end of the September – beginning of October, it was the presidential side which had a stronger interest in a quick, violent solution to the conflict than those barricaded at the White House. Having delivered the stronger blow to his opponents on the 21st of September, Yeltsin lost his tempo during the following 2 weeks and the events started to develop spontaneously in a way that was not to his advantage. The fact that the deputies refused to bow down to a “new Sailor Zheleznyak” and to leave the White House was a source of constant tension and when electricity, heat and water were cut off at the White House and it was cordoned off with barbed wire and military detachments, that only turned the deputies sitting in the White House into heroes in the consciousness of the public (and even more so in its subconscious). The Constitutional Court unequivocally sided with the deputies and the legislative powers announced that Yeltsin would be replaced by acting president Rutskoi, thus upholding the constitution.
There were two presidents and two sets of powerful ministers in the country. And thus came about a situation of dual power such as is characteristic for times of civil war.
The blockade of the White House inspired the appearance of new hotbeds of opposition, first in Moscow (in the Krasnopresnensky Regional Soviet and then in the Moscow City Soviet) and then in the provinces, in the regional soviets and the soviets of the republics and even a number of local authorities. The White House supporters in Moscow started to organize themselves and start up street actions. Clashes with the militia and OMON (special forces) day after day made the situation tenser while there was practically no reaction from those who would support democracy. Moreover, it was obvious to everyone that if they would just take down the barbed wire and remove the blockade of the White House, the disturbances on the streets would die down as the things that had started them would disappear.
This video shows, among other interesting things, the former head of Yeltsin’s security forces admitting Yeltsin had given orders to simply finish off the leaders of the rebellion, without even a semblance of a trial. Obviously Yeltsin was being given assurances of his personal safety also by the West.
Slowly but surely the number of Yeltsin’s opponents were growing, from the FNPR (Russian Federation of Independent Trade Unions) to various “democratic” parties and organizations – even some businessmen. Human rights organizations, in Russia as well as abroad, expressed their discontent with human rights infringements in Moscow and the introduction of elements of martial law in the capital (such as limiting the right of the movement, freedom of speech and of congregation, etc.) without following the necessary legal procedures to do so.
Around the world images of demonstrators begin beaten were shown on TV; even the journalists were being beaten by the OMON. So the fact that there was dissatisfaction with the actions of the presidential side was coming out into the open. Journalists first were upset about limitations imposed on the freedom of speech and the access to information and then they were upset in general. (Helsinki Watch even issued a very strong statement about this.) On Sept.29, the situation came to a head when American Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced that the administration was demanding that Yeltsin guarantee human fights in Moscow, including those of the people in the White House. A few hours after Cristopher, the Americans came up with even more stringent demands. They demanded that Yeltsin not use violence to resolve the conflict in Moscow and this put him in a difficult position: without it he wouldn’t be able to drive them out of the White House.
There was only one option left: to let the White House be the first to resort to violence. But even in the White House they understood full well that they couldn’t allow that to happen; despite the “besieged fortress syndrome” that they were all suffering from, they tried their best to avoid any shooting. They confiscated and put away the arms that had been earlier disturbed and gave out arms only to those on duty, etc. (“Komsomolskaya Pravda”, Oct.9, 1993; “Moskovskiye Novosti”, Oct.17; “Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta”, Oct.20, 1993.) The scenes of the arms repository that were shown after the storming of the White House showed that there were sealed cases of arms that weren’t given out (against all logic) on the night of Oct.3-4 to the defenders of the White House; this would seem to corroborate the fact that they were trying to avoid violence. The fact is that the rank and file defenders of the White House foresaw and feared a provocation and that they all agreed that it wasn’t wise to take up arms. (This is described in an account written by a reporter from “Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, a paper which vehemently hated the opposition, who had infiltrated the ranks of the defenders and signed up for “Rutskoi’s Regiment”. (See “Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Sept.28, 1993).
Besides all this, the establishment of severe control over the radio and TV on the part of the executive powers brought about numerous protests and clearly infuriated the people. The ideological control of TV and radio news on the part of the executive powers reached almost Brezhnevesque proportions. Besides that, in the provinces where the local authorities got to the population quickly and effectively and told them that they didn’t support the president (like in Belgorod or Karelia), there was a deep distrust in all the information coming from the center and they understood that the central mass media was lying. When the president shut down the papers, the journal and the radio and TV shows run by the Supreme Soviet, even more people grew dissatisfied. This damaged the reputation of Yeltsin, as did his crass attempts to buy over the deputies from the Supreme Soviet by offering them cushy jobs elsewhere.
Also when they cut the phones off at a whole series of buildings housing the ministries of the armed forces including the main HQ, the Defense Ministry and the main Military Procurator, this not only publicly humiliated the workers there but it also created an intolerable situation fraught with a threat to the country’s military capabilities. It’s no wonder that “Komsomolskaya Pravda” reported about the phones being cut off in the Defense Ministry and the General HQ with the sarcastic headline “And What if There’s War Tomorrow?”
The worst blow to the president was the “rebellion of the federation’s subjects”. A number of regions recognized Rutskoi as the legal president. A Siberian conference resulted in sending Yeltsin an ultimatum to end the blockade of the White House and start negotiations with the Supreme Soviet or they would blockade the Trans-Siberian Railway. “There were also other reasons for Yeltsin to believe that if he didn’t lay off the White House by Oct.9 (the day on which the meeting of the Federation Council was to be held) then he would have to deal with the regions by force; Yeltsin’s attempt to replace the rebellious governor of Novosibirsk, Mukha, was unsuccessful because he was supported by the local political parties, industries end even the local Department of Internal Affairs; at the Conference of the Subjects of the Federation and at the Conference of North-Western Subjects of the Federation and at the Conference of Subjects of the Federation which took place on Sept.30 in the hall of the Constitutional Court, anti-presidential positions were drawn up. But the most severe blow to the Yeltsin forces was the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church to act as an intermediary in the conflict and to propose that they hold talks in the Svyato-Danilov Monastery. This means that the church, whose support everybody covets, recognized the Supreme Soviet on equal terms with the president. The increasing role of Alexei II as intermediary was especially unpleasant to the president. It seemed as if he was responding to the appeals of some of the intelligentsia who had supported the White House. (An appeal to Alexei was published in “Pravda”, Oct.1, 1993)
There is reason to believe that the Federation Council gave an ultimatum to both sides that either they reach a compromise by the 3rd of October, or it will assume full power in the country on the 4th. (“Argumenty I Fakty”, 1993, No.44)
The crisis had come to a head.
WATCH BELOW VIDEOS RELATED TO THE 1993 CONFRONTATION BETWEEN PARLIAMENT AND YELTSIN.
STORYLINE: Muscovites have been marking the ten-year anniversary of the 1993 attempted coup in Moscow. About some 200 Communists gathered outside Ostankino TV station – scene of some of the most fierce civil fighting ten years ago. Communists and religious figures laid flowers and held a service in remembrance of those who were killed in the violence. In 1993, the Soviet parliament was locked in a power struggle with President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin had accused it of stalling his economic reforms and he had issued a decree disbanding it. But many of the deputies simply refused to leave the “White House” parliamentary building. They accused Yeltsin of breaking the law. They even appointed their own president – Alexander Rutskoi. A tense standoff ensued until, on 3 October, there was an explosion of violence. Forces loyal to the parliament took over the Moscow mayor’s office. Then they moved on to the Ostankino TV centre. There was a fierce gun battle with security troops defending the building, and dozens of people were killed. Boris Yeltsin resolved to crush the rebellion, and early on the 4 October, tanks opened fire on the White House. The parliament which had helped bring Boris Yeltsin to power was soon in flames. The assault lasted several hours, played out live on TV around the world. By the end, at least 140 people were dead, the parliament had surrendered, and the White House was charred and smouldering.
The executive powers had prepared to solve their conflict with the legislature by forceful means long before Decree 1400 was published. One of the first steps in this direction was apparently the order to confiscate loaned out weapons from officers as well as from students at military academies and institutions and to store them away. This made the army more controllable in case of internal armed conflict and left the opposition without the armed support of the officers who sympathized with them. When Barannikov was removed from the post of security minister and when the Security Ministry’s troops were made subordinate to the Ministry of Interior, the Defense Ministry and the Presidential Security Department, a number of analysts could already see by the end of the summer-beginning of fall that Yeltsin was trying, if not to bring the Defense Ministry completely under his political and ideological control, at least to paralyse and leave it without any real armed strength in case that the struggle would lead to armed conflict. All the more since the basic pretext for removing Barannikov (not enough experience in the training of border guards) was obviously fabricated. Today we know that Barannikov was removed because he had come to the conclusion that Yeltsin’s policies were detrimental to the national interests of Russia and because he had entered into a secret pact with Rutskoi and Khasbulatov behind Yeltsin’s back. (See for example “Izvestia”, Nov.3, 1993). The number two man at the Ministry of Interior, General Dunayev, was removed for similar reasons. The highly publicized visits that Yeltsin had made to armed divisions in the months prior to the events tipped many members of the opposition, as well as independent observers, off to the fact that a coup was in the making. It is very telling that the pro-presidential press mocked the people who began to put the pieces together. The notorious “General” Dmitry Yakubovski was secretly flown in on the presidential plane from Canada and brought to the Kremlin in an armoured limousine to prepare to railroad Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. He admitted in Sept. that as far back as July they had worked out a plan to get the Khasbulatov-Rutskoi bloc out of the political arena by November, (“lzvestia”, Nov.3, 1993).
A few days before the decree no. 1400, workers at the defense ministries and presidential security’ suddenly got a pay raise; the average raise was 1.8 times the old salary. What’s interesting is that just two weeks earlier, the “power” ministries [Defense, Interior, etc.] (led by the Ministry’ of Defense where officers hadn’t been paid for a few months, the majority’ of the division having received just 40% of its allowance in August) were trying to get a raise out of the Soviet of Ministers. They were told to take a hike. And then, all of a sudden- such generosity! The guys there know from experience that this meant they would be sent under fire. And as it turned out, they were right. All this testifies to the fact that the president didn’t just draw up decree no. 1400 on the 21st, “having been insulted by the boorishness of Khasbulatov” as a few newspapers had suggested.
Even Yeltsin’s press secretary’, Kostikov, somewhat mindlessly let it out that Yeltsin had been planning the coup for a long time. “How could someone even think that the decree (no. 1400) was written in a few hours and that the president signed it on the spot?! It was the result of much preparation. A large group of jurists worked on it, including the President’s legal staff; altogether around 40 people worked on drawing it up. By the 21st the work was done, the legal aspects had been worked out and the President looked the decree over and approved it.” (“Obschaya Gazeta”, 1993 No. l1/13)
On Sept.22, the day after the decree was signed, a number of Moscow clinics received an order to prepare spaces and supplies for a possible influx of wounded. On the same day they threw the Ministry of the Interior another bone: the Council of Ministers made a decision that the streets should be patrolled not only by the Ministry of the Interior but the military. (This would mean an extra 34,000 people to help them out.) They also decided that 45,000 more jobs should be created there and that volunteer brigades be started up again. The Finance Ministry was told to come up with the money for these extra employees. Starting in 1994, they’ll send the troops subordinated to the Ministry 70,000 new conscripts every year. They’ll also be getting new space. Besides that, there will be special sections set up to patrol food and flea markets and anyplace where they sell stuff. (Eureka! They’ve struck paydirt!)
On Sept.22, Radio “Liberty’” reported that the Tulskaya division of the paratroopers had already been on alert for the past few days. Not knowing anything about the future decree, the paratroopers thought that they’d be sent to Abkhazia. The division was promised to be paid in dollars. (“Pravda”, Sept.22, 1993) It became known later that the Pskov division had been put on alert also. And the Dzerzhinskaya, Tamanskaya (and Kantemirovskaya) divisions had been temporarily moved to winter quarters so that they could get prepared to go into battle in 2 hours. (“Argumenty i Fakty”, 1993, No.44)
Right after the 29th of Sept., as the Weekly “Argumenty i Fakty” later learned from army circles, the president’s side started to figure out who would be the most reliable and unscrupulous players, prepared to do anything for money. They picked out the right people and set out for Moscow. This is what happened with the Tulsky Student Border Guard Regiment. (“Argumenty i Fakty”, 1993, No.44) OMON forces from all over Russia began to descend on Moscow. (OMON forces from 47 republics and regions were sent to Moscow. Only Tatarstan, it seems, refused to send its troops) One journalist counted the different troops there and noticed all sorts, even from the Department of Visas and Registration. (G. Ovcharenko, “Pravda”, Oct.2, 1993)
On Sept.28th. the OMON troops which were blockading the White House fenced it off with barbed wire, brought in a few armed personnel carriers and started carrying out psychological warfare through the use of loud speakers. This was meant as a provocation – there was no way that it wouldn’t provoke a reaction (as psychologists would generally agree) as it pushed their stress limits.
The special forces know how to develop a psychosis in the people whom they surround. (“Moskovskiye Novosti”, Oct. 17, 1993) In the words of Rutskoi’s advisor, Fyodorov, “The White House was transformed in such a way from a camp into a military base.” (“Argumenty’ i Fakty”, 1993, No.4l) They also skillfully drew out everybody from the White House who could have interfered with the president’s plans – for example Kurginyan (“Argumenty i Fakty”, 1993, No.40) and the foreign correspondents who deliberately “leaked” information about the stormings that were being prepared through the western embassies. (“Komsomolskaya Pravda”, “Vsyo o chornom oktyabre” (“Everything About Black October”), p.8) By- Sept.29 the militia and interior troops which were stationed near the White House numbered some 2,500 people. This included 50% of the Moscow police department and 85% of the traffic police. (“Kommersant – DAILY, Sept. 30, 1993) Towards Oct.3 the OMON alone in Moscow numbered some 6,000 people. In the case of civil disorder, if it had come to taking up arms, 6,000 members of the OMON are capable of fighting 7,200,000 people – or the entire adult population of Moscow. (“Moskovskiye Novosti”, Oct. 17, 1993)
They also brought presidential security detachments which totally secured the Kremlin and the Dzerzhinsky Division including special troops and 15 APCs. (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.1, 1993)
The decision to start the operation was made in the president’s headquarters on the 29th of September – the same day as Warren Christopher’s warning. The position of the federation’s subjects was already clear and there was a possibility of a split in the armed forces. Then on Sept. 29, the Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev, “disappeared”, and all the journalists’ attempts to find him were without result. It is significant that on Sept.29, in an interview in “Moskovskiye Novosti”, he promised that the army would retain its neutrality in the political standoff. Another confirmation that the decision to use force was made on Sept.29 was the fact that Sergei Shakhrai held a press conference on that day at which he firmly denied that there would be a storm of the White House or martial law. As we all know, our government is used to having to dispel “rumours” about their actions, especially right before these actions get under way.
The operation to disinform and disorient those at the White House went on to the next stage. Before they just drove the people crazy with incessant announcements about how they were preparing to storm the place, which led them to constantly conduct drills, run for gas masks, etc., creating a chaotic atmosphere. (There are many descriptions of this crazy atmosphere. See “Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Sept.28, 1993 or “Literaturnaya Gazeta”, Sept.29, 1993) Now they were sending announcements to the White House about how the “power” ministries (first and foremost the Ministry’ of the Defense) supported Rutskoi and the constitution. It’s without a doubt that such announcements made their way to the White House and that some contact took place between the White House and the leadership of the power ministries. There’s a lot of evidence that attests to this. This included contacts with Deputy Ministers of Defence, Gromov and Mironov and the chief of the Air Force, Deinekin. (“Komsomolskaya Pravda”, Oct 13. 1993; “Vsyo o chornom oktyabre”, p 39; “Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta”, Oct. 13, 1993) The most plausible explanation for why they could believe in this support was because the White House “supported” minorities in the armed forces. (In the Ministry of the Interior, according to Dunayev and Barannikov, they constitute one third.) This was enough to allow the defenders of the White House to believe that some of the armed forces supported them and this had a disorienting effect.
The Deputy Security Minister, Stepashin, told “Komsomolskaya Pravda” (apparently with great satisfaction) about how well the White House was disinformed. Barannikov was certain that 7,000 workers and a few departments of the Ministry of the Interior were on his side and Rutskoi believed that the air force, the paratroopers and the veterans of the war in Afghanistan were on his side. They believed it to the point that Rutskoi said to Stepashin, “Tell Yeltsin that if he wants to resign and if he goes on retirement, we will consider sparing him his life” and “Don’t cut down the trees in the Kremlin yet. We will need them” [to hang you]. (“Komsomolskaya Pravda” Oct 19, 1993) Even at the last minute, Rutskoi and Khasbulatov were waiting for the divisions that had promised their help to appear. (“Argumenty i Fakty”, 1993 No.41)
It’s impossible to say if these declarations of support were the result of a misunderstanding with the defense ministries or if they were the result of a premeditated plan to disinform the White House (The Commander of the Kantemirovskaya Division for example stated that his troops will by no means go to Moscow (“Kommersant DAILY”, Sept.23, 1993) The While House knew this.) There is however evidence that Rutskoi and Khasbulatov fell victims to a disinformation campaign, if there really were a large number of opponents of Yeltsin in the defense ministry who had promised to support the White House, we would not be seeing them give out tons of medals, but we would be witnessing mass arrests. No government on earth would tolerate demonstrations of disloyally in its armed forces, especially amongst top-ranking officers.
Still, when the OMON (special forces) was sent into Moscow on Sept 29, it was under orders such that it didn’t allow them to demonstrate their capabilities. The Moscow police, which, in contrast to the OMON, had been sent in, was able to understand what was going on in the capital, but were much disorganized because they were receiving contradictory orders. The deputy chief of one police department told journalists from “Izvestia” of such incredible disorganization being sown by the heads of the Moscow Police Dept. This disorder was seemingly planned. The paper carried a headline reading, “Since Friday We’ve Been Receiving Ridiculous Orders from (top) Command”. (“Izvestia”, Oct. 7, 1993) The police were carrying out some ridiculous operations, aimed at imaginary foes. (“Izvestia” Oct. 7, 1993) They were giving out the impression that the OMON wasn’t able to deal with the relatively small crowds of White House supporters, made up of at least 50% old men and women. (Of course this wasn’t at all the case) The police lost one of their men. This had a disorienting effect on the supporters of the White House, who had an exaggerated idea of their fighting abilities. At the same time the OMON perfectly understood that as soon as they were ordered to, they could take care of them all in a half hour. This suppressed brutality would manifest itself when the time came, that is, during the period of martial law, and the fact that the Ministry of the Interior splendidly fulfilled its duties, is proven by the fact that its Minister, Yerin, was made a general on Oct 1st. That was an advance on the Oct. 3-4 job.
To a significant degree the fear and the disinformation were also caused by the people themselves and the press. The operation planned for Oct.3-4 was supposed to take place after preparation by means of a propaganda campaign. For such a campaign to work, it is important that some people take part in it spontaneously. So journalists from “Kommersant” wrote that “As of the night of Sept.29, supporters had started to build barricades in practically all parts of the center of Moscow… they’ve even turned over trolley buses… the situation in Moscow may get out of control (“Kommersant-DAILY, Sept .30. 1993) Of course these barricades all over didn’t exist, but that’s the information people were getting, exactly what the president needed people to think. “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” published the following: “From the Siege of the White House – The number of casualties is growing. In the last 6 days, 32 people were killed in automobile accidents.” (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets’ Oct.29, 1993) Accidents supposedly caused by the blockade of the White House and the chaos on the streets. The hidden message of course being let’s put an end to this nonsense already!
On Sept. 30 in “Izvestia” there was a caricature based on Moore’s famous poster – Rutskoi in a budyonovka (a pointed helmet formerly worn in the Red Army) with pointed finger asking, “Have you signed up to defend the White House?”. In the background of the picture is a burning White House. The fact that they used a poster from the Civil War is also significant. Another thing – in “Moskovskaya Pravda” there was a huge article by L. Kolodony entitled “Why Our Union Fell Apart”. (“Moskovskaya Pravda Oct.1, 1993) The author makes a deliberate connection with the current situation in Moscow. The main idea of the article was that the USSR fell apart because during the first two serious crises in the country, in Karabakh and in Sumgait, Gorbachev wasn’t brave enough to send the troops into Stepanakert and Sumgait. Only a merciless, “iron hand” approach can be used for a hotbed of tension. The reference was very clear.
But this was for the more literate, who like comparisons, generalizations and big articles. For the masses there was the “unbending revolutionary”, the Yeltsin neophyte, Valeria Novodvorskaya. The article which appeared in “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” on Sept. 29 was an appeal to throw them overboard. (“Them” being the enemies of Yeltsin – that is to say, of “democracy” and Novodvorskaya.) She writes “If those cannibals with the red flags were treated to some billy clubs then they wouldn’t be such a nuisance…Cossacks should patrol the streets and take care of everyone with a red flag. …We didn’t get rid of the communists in August 91. It’s impossible to peacefully coexist with them … If we don’t get rid of them now, in 1993, and the soviets as well… The president unquestionably performed a heroic act on Sept. 21… It was for the sake of Russia that he stuck his neck out on the line… “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” won the first battle… “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” and Democratic Russia and the intelligentsia and the Democratic Union… The president performed two Herculean feats…The soviets have to be liquidated at all levels… the National Salvation Front, the Russian All Peoples Union, the Russian Communist Party, the CPSU etc. … Such organizations should be outlawed by presidential decree …Let the land be privatized… We have enough enemies. We’ve got to throw them overboard… for the vampires we’ve got nothing better than a stake in the heart… Revolution ain’t pretty.” There you have it. A plan of action. Short and sweet. Very straightforward. As another leading “democrat” (Dzhaba Ioseliani, close comrade of Eduard Shevardnadze) said, “Democracy is no bowl of lobio. We’ll shoot all of the enemies of democracy on the spot”.
Bits of information about the executive authorities plans to take decisive action leaked out: “On Sept. 30 “Pravda” reported that special preparations were underway at “Matrosskaya Tishina” (a special KGB prison); they were cramming prisoners together to free up cells, moving the prisoners from the upper floors downstairs and a large number of “athletic young men in uniforms” were decorating the corridors. Word got out that Poltoranin met with the editors of pro-Yeltsin papers and advised them to react consciously and reservedly towards the events which will happen on the fourth. The Petersburg TV and “Pravda” (Oct.2, 1993) reported this. The OMON continued to show reluctance – part of the barriers set up around the White House disappeared somewhere. On Oct.1, ITAR-TASS started to spread information from the press service of the Ministry of Security that there was a split in the ranks of the chekists. In the end, Defense Minister Grachev, who showed up finally after a prolonged, unexplained absence, gave the order to lift the beefed up security starting Sept.30 and sent a few thousand service men away to pick potatoes. The paper “Segodnya” even published the front page headline “General Grachev sends Troops Out of Moscow”. (“Segodnya”, Sept 9, 1993)
One of the senior officers of the paratroopers told journalists a month after the bloody events that the paratroopers were already informed by Oct.1 that “a shoot-out will take place on the third which will form the basis for the beginning of operations against the White House” (“Argumenty i Fakty”, 1993, No.44)
And so the government of the Russian Federation sent the White House an ultimatum: you have until Oct.4 to give up. Almost all the media reported that ultimatum. Its entire text is interesting, especially the last paragraph: “The Government of the Russian Federation and the government of Moscow warn you that if you don’t fulfill our demands this might lead to grave consequences. In such case all responsibility will be laid on Ruslan Khasbulatov and Alexander Rutskoi.” (Quoted from “Rossiyskiye Vesti”, Oct. 1, 1993)
THE GARDEN RING ROAD AND THE WHITE HOUSE
Everything started on the second of October, not on the third, on Smolenskaya Sq. About an hour and a half after the beginning of both of the rallies that were going on there (Anpilov’s and The National Salvation Front’s, each having no more than 500 participants) the crowd started to fizzle out. The speakers had said all that they could say and the rally was winding down.
The crowd was rather calm, as were the police. The crowd started to disperse. Then the OMON arrived; they were few and many of them didn’t even have helmets on. They were apparently sent that way so that they could be beaten. And that’s exactly what happened. The OMON for some reason decided to disperse the demonstrators. The crowd was coming up against the very people who had flogged them on Krasnaya Presnya St. (near the White House) and they became savage and started to give it to the OMON. Barricades started broadcasting reports about these disturbances and reinforcements joined the demonstrators on the square. How this would have all ended is unclear but at the last minute Ilya Konstantinov (National Salvation Front) showed up and advised everyone to disperse and so the crowd headed down the Arbat (a famous pedestrian street) singing songs and chanting “Rutskoi-President!” The TV showed how the demonstrators openly chanted slogans “offensive to the president” (Yeltsin) and in general the treatment of the news gave everybody the impression that the police were powerless and that demonstrations could take place unhindered.
It’s difficult to say what we saw on Oct.2 on Smolenskaya; was it a dress rehearsal for what happened on Oct.3 or an unsuccessful attempt (thanks to Konstantinov) to halt the mechanisms of provocation? Whatever it was it’s certain that the OMON that were beaten on the 2nd were demoralized and prepared to run from the battlefield on the 3rd. Ilya Konstantinov was on Oktyabrskaya Sq. on the 3rd, were he was to be one of the main speakers. The events got out of control and he couldn’t do anything to affect the situation. He panicked and kept rushing out in front of the crowd asking, “What’s going on? Where are they going? Who’s leading them?” Many people witnessed this, ranging from journalists from “Kuranty” (see “Kuranty”, Oct.5, 1993) to the Moscow correspondent for “Radio Liberty'”, S. Shuster.
Then, following Grachev’s example, Yeltsin disappeared on Oct.2. Later they said that he went to his dacha. Lawyers have a name for this: creating an alibi.
The chaotic movement of the group on Oct.3 – from Oktyabrskaya to Ilyich Sq. and back – also led to Konstantinov’s neutralization. You could tell by the look of the crowd that had gathered by 2:00 that they didn’t come prepared for combat – a lot of women, older people, a few folks with children; it seemed as if they had gathered for a town meeting. From 3,000-3,500 people gathered. The square was blocked just like on May 1st, only Leninsky Prospekt was also closed off and there were more police and OMON.
Then strange things started to happen. The demonstrators were informed that their demo was forbidden and they tried to disperse them. This dispersal looked more like a deliberate attempt to push the demonstrators in the direction of the Krymsky Bridge. And there, the notorious “democrat” Urazhtsev, who had become the best friend of the same generals and communists that he hated yesterday, led the unarmed crowd easily through the OMON, disarming them and heading towards the next round on Krymsky Bridge. The rest of the OMON, which were on Oktyabrskaya Sq. for some reason didn’t try to stop the crowd by attacking from behind but simply looked on at the development of the events. Then they disappeared without a trace.
By the entrance of the bridge you can basically stop and disperse any crowd. The detachments were for some reason stationed in the middle of the bridge. There was thus nowhere to disperse the crowds to (what were they going to jump off the bridge?) and it was thus necessary for them to break through the lines. The OMON greeted the demonstrators with tear gas. The gas was totally ineffective as it got carried off in the strong wind that blows off the river. They had to know that would happen. Thus the attack just served as a theatrical device to rile up the crowd. The cordon on the bridge was broken through with suspicious ease, just like at Oktyabrskaya Sq. Then everybody witnessed a shocking spectacle: some of the OMON ran away at great speed, “even outrunning some of the journalists” (“Izvestia, Oct.7, 1993) (Igor Andreyev from “Izvestia” shouldn’t be surprised; the OMON are systemically trained, and they can all run well.)
Many people got the impression that the OMON showed the demonstrators what to do, for them not to stop halfway and head in the wrong direction.
Having “disarmed” the OMON, the crowd ran ecstatically onto the Garden Ring Road. The square near the Park Kultury metro station (on the Garden Ring) is an ideal place to block and disperse people but of course they didn’t even try. They could have tried on Zubovsky Blvd. (part of the Garden Ring Road) although that wouldn’t have been as effective because they could have found a way around. But again nothing.
The OMON ran right to Smolenskaya Sq. where the next line was standing. The BBC correspondent, Grigory Nekhoroshev, described this retreat as if he were describing the defeat of the fascists near Moscow during WWII: “The OMON are fleeing, leaving their arms and vehicles. The demonstrators are running after them, beating them and gathering up as much as they can gather.”
If there hadn’t been this race after the OMON, the demonstrators might not have ran into the line at Smolenskaya and could have headed onto the Smolenskaya embankment, towards the White House where there weren’t any OMON. If that had happened, then the demonstrators wouldn’t have been able to pick up some discarded OMON vehicles (trucks and buses) on which the demonstrators rode to the White House. The fact that they got a hold of military vehicles played a big psychological factor.
The interesting question is why did the OMON stand on the route from Oktyabrskaya to the White House like a road sign pointing out the way? Why weren’t they located in other places? What would have happened if the demonstrators turned down Kropotkinskaya for example and headed towards the Kremlin? (They usually demonstrate by the Kremlin and it was the headquarters of the most hated Yeltsin.) What if they had gone to Tverskaya, towards the Moscow City Soviet? Or to Pushkin Sq.? A storming of the White House was not on the agenda of their planned town meeting. How did the heads of the police know along which route they should stick their suspiciously weak cordons?
You can ask the heads of the Ministry of the Interior why, if they had so many vehicles (just left around, with the keys) they didn’t use them to blockade the streets. They used this strategy a number of times, successfully, the last time being on May Day. Could it be that nobody could remember that there hasn’t been a single time when demonstrators have been able to penetrate such a blockade? Could they have forgotten this tactic since the 1st of May? Of course not; they had been blockading the way to the White House successfully for days before that.
The fact that the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior so stubbornly refused to admit that the OMON ran away and gave up their arms and vehicles, as if it had never happened, also lends credence to the theory that there was a provocation. Dozens, if not hundreds of people can attest to the fact that this is untrue, not to mention the fact that millions of people saw this happen on TV. They had to do this so they wouldn’t have to explain why they gave these people medals on Oct.8 including a Star of Heroism to Minister Yerin (head of the Ministry of Interior). Normally if the OMON, the police, Yerin and the head of the Moscow Internal Affairs Division, Pankratov, acted like they did on the 3rd, they would have all been fired. Furthermore, upon arrival at the White House, everything was all ready; the OMON cordons were taken away from Novy Arbat (St.) and the White House was blocked only by a chain of street cleaning trucks which the demonstrators easily climbed over. On Oct.6, Pankratov, told journalists that the troops were evacuated in order to regroup forces. (“Izvestia”, Oct.7, 1993) We’ve got to admit that the evacuation and the relocation were carried out in an exemplary manner; there was no sign of them until the morning of the 4th.
As early as the 2nd of Oct. there were 3,000-5,000 armed people at the headquarters of the blockade, at the former COMECON (Mayor’s) building. On Oct.3, before the demonstrators broke through the blockade, they disappeared, quickly and without attracting a lot of attention. (“Kommersant-DAILY”, Oct.9, 1993) Of course they forgot to take some of their equipment, like sniper guns, flame throwers and grenade launchers. Now the Mayor’s could be taken easily by storm.
This is where the first shooting took place – from inside the Mayor’s building. Even the TV reported this. The demonstrators dispersed; two people were wounded. They shot not only at the demonstrators, but at the windows of the White House. (“Moskovskiye Novosti” Oct.10, 1993) The result was the storming of the neighbouring Hotel Mir where the police were given orders to leave. (“Izvestia”, Oct.7, 1993) Even the APCs left (“Kommersant-Daily”, Oct.4, 1993) and that left the demonstrators to fight the new recruits from the Dzerzhinsky division, who hadn’t been as yet properly trained and who surrendered right away.
The shooting apparently had a certain effect on Rutskoi, probably just like the authors of the provocation had counted on. A Rutskoi advisor, Fyodorov, said that “… if it hadn’t been for the shooting, there wouldn’t have been Ostankino etc. This aggravated the situation and agitated Rutskoi. He turned from a politician into a military man.” (“Argumenty i Fakty”. 1993, No.4l) A recording of radio negotiations being made at that time also testify to the fact that Rutskoi flew into an outrage upon seeing the defenders of the White House and the White House itself being shot upon from the Mayor’s building. (“Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta”, Oct.15, 1993)
At 4:35 PM Rutskoi ordered the storming of the Mayor’s. In 4 minutes, 20 seconds the place was taken. While the fight was going on, the OMON, police and the Dzerzhinsky division which were on the other side of the White House quickly packed up and left. We already know’ what they call that; evacuation and regrouping. From a military point of view, it was a crazy move.
By the Mayor’s building someone “forgot” 10-15 army trucks and buses. Suddenly 4 armed personnel carriers turned up on the side of the insurgents. (Of course military and police command try to avoid explaining how this happened.) From the balcony of the White House and on TV they were saying that part of the Dzerzhinsky division and police had come over to the side of the White House. The TV even showed these people and journalists wrote that they saw them. After Oct.4, the heads of the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior deny this information. But some military were there. Who were they? Where did they go? (On Oct. 20, “Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta” wrote that when they were shooting the White House from the tanks, there were 200 members of the Dzerzhinsky division hiding in the Hall of Nationalities with the deputies.)
So the events on Oktyabrskaya Sq. started after 2 PM and in the course of two and a half hours, they had already broken through to the White House, taken the Hotel Mir and the Presnya region (surrounding the White House) was cleansed of government forces. The crowd had also grown from 3,000 to 10-15,000 people who had picked up arms and vehicles. It is obvious that the defenders of the White House were supposed to get the impression that the government could not control the situation, that the leadership of the military and police were secretly helping them and that nobody was going to defend Yeltsin. (Here it is important to note that the Moscow police force alone (not counting the OMON, other special troops, military students and the Dzerzhinsky division) numbers 100,000 people. See “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” Oct. 19, 1993) Blood had already been spilt.
The events at Ostankino, it would seem, were examined in as much detail as possible. (Partly due to a feeling of solidarity on the part of the journalists.) However for the most part this coverage focused on retracing the events, describing in detail the fear experienced by the news reporters and the heroic battle that the subdivision that defended Ostankino fought. This was very emotional coverage – and very one-sided. Its aesthetics were reminiscent of the famous coverage of the events in Vilnius. (Nevzorov’s “Our People” (“Nashi”))
A valuable newspaper description of the “Storming of Ostankino” does not exist. Somebody who has witnessed the events by themselves can, if he wishes, scrutinize the way that the events were described in the press, for example, as described in “Izvestia” (Oct.5,1993) or “Komsomolskaya Pravda” (in the special supplement entitled “Everything About Black October”, pp. 16-17). But the people who watched from the sidelines can’t do this. The only description of the events that came anywhere close to the truth was the special edition of “Kommersant”(“Kommersant-DAILY”, Oct.4, 1993). And we mustn’t fail to mention “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” for at least being brave enough to publish an eyewitness account (an article entitled, “I Saw This and Didn’t Go Crazy” (“Ya videl eto i ne soshel s uma”)) which, even though it didn’t give the overall picture of what went on, allowed the reader to get a sense of the atmosphere and possibly to understand the essence of the events. (See “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” Oct 16, 1993)
Let’s begin with the fact that the rebels never had made any secret of their intentions to seize the Ostankino TV Center. Everything took place in the open – from the calls to take Ostankino to the formation of columns near the White House and the loading up of trucks with volunteers (mostly unarmed). There was no effort made to cut the rebels off on the way to Ostankino. This is especially odd considering this would have been easily done since the rebels were mostly unarmed and the president’s side had clear superiority in the weapons department. They had several opportunities to cut off the rebels along the Garden Ring Road (for example at Mayakovsky Square, around Tsvetnoi Blvd., where the government had stationed considerable forces and at the intersection of the Garden Ring and Prospect Mira) and they had an excellent opportunity to stop them near Rizhsky Station where the president’s side had ten times as many columns and ten times as many guns. Even at the last minute they would have been able to organize some kind of defense near the Alexeyevskaya metro station. (Even though by that time it would have required some effort to cut off all the alternative routes nearby.) Of course they didn’t do anything of the kind. If they had you see, “those awful red-browns” wouldn’t have wound up at Ostankino and everybody would have seen from the very beginning that the rebels didn’t have tremendous power and that they could be taken care of within a couple of hours, if they had wanted to. (But they didn’t.)
On November 2, the Petersburg TV station aired some really sensational footage which showed how the main division of the OMON, completely decked out in combat garb, with a good ten armoured personnel carriers didn’t even try to stop a “Rutskoi Column”, practically unarmed, from entering the TV tower. (In fact they seemed to be deliberately ignoring their enemies.) TV reporters asked “Why?” in astonishment. Why? How naive! Because they were following orders, that’s why.
What’s more, a significant portion of the people set out to Ostankino on foot. One witness (the writer, Surova) described the people such: there were no raging crowds, no displays of bestial fanaticism. These were normal, everyday people of different sorts – my fellow citizens, my compatriots. They were young and old, women and young girls … A father with his ten year old son…We saw people who had gone by themselves, having been organized by no one. Some were apparently more peaceful than others, some from the intelligentsia while others seemed more ready to fight – but they didn’t go there to kill people or to take vengeance upon their enemy. What kind of weapons did we see? We saw about five or six metal helmets, a big wooden stick, somebody had a piece of pipe and one fifteen year old boy had a little axe. We didn’t see any armed fighting divisions at all. (“Nezavisimaya Gazeta” Oct. 16, 1993). Stopping the crowd would have been easy, but they didn’t stop them – they let them march to their death. Surova’s eyewitness testimony was thus aptly entitled “A Report from the Site of Execution”
Remarkably the head of the City Internal Affairs Division, Pankratov, explained the evacuation of the area around the Mayor’s and the White House on the part of the government’s troops by citing the necessity of transferring the forces to defend Ostankino. (“Izvestia” Oct.7, 1993) Suffice it to say, none of these troops were ever sent to Ostankino.
Of course there was never any intention of sending them there. Later on the frightened and insulted journalists started to ask the heads of the armed forces some unpleasant questions. Why didn’t any troops ever show up at Ostankino, despite the fact that the events there went on for several hours? Why did the orchestrators of Ostankino promise to send in reinforcements many times and even claimed a few times that they had already arrived (and even named figures) when nobody ever saw these reinforcements? And even more interesting – where did the militia and army divisions that were supposedly sent to Ostankino disappear to? The heads of the armed forces refused to answer these questions. They also refused to answer for the most part questions about why they didn’t intercept the rebels on the way Ostankino, especially since there had been several different waves of vehicles heading there, which just simply went back and forth. (See “Izvestia” Oct.7, 1993) They declined to answer what had happened to their armoured vehicles and their military units which had gathered near Taganskaya Sq. and Krymsky Bridge on the night of the third. They declined to answer the question, who stopped and turned back the army column which had headed out from the center in the direction of Ostankino? Some people laid the blame on others. The Defense Minister, Grachev, claimed that there were 400 interior troops and special troops (Vityazi) defending Ostankino, plus six APCs. After the clashes started, another 15 APCs and 100 police were sent there. (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.8, 1993) It turns out that Minister Yerin informed Grachev over the telephone that there were more than enough forces there. And Grachev surely ascertained that there was no danger of any catastrophe. (“Moskovskiye Novosti,” Oct. 17, 1993)
Grachev was absolutely right. All one needs to do is to compare the numbers. Minister Grachev stated that the attackers numbered about 4,000 unarmed and about 100 armed people. (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.8, 1993) This is apparently an exaggeration. All of the other sources claim that the number of unarmed people at Ostankino was anywhere from 1,500 to 5,500. As far as arms are concerned, the estimates also differ. Everyone agrees that there were two grenade launchers but the numbers of automatic weapons are different”: 35, 42, more than 60, about 80. Let’s take the maximum. Let’s assume that there were 2 grenade launchers and 80 machine guns. The strength of the offence would be ten times less than that of the defense anyway.
It is well known that if the offense wants to be successful, it should have more force than those they are attacking, at least, three times as much.
Protesters marching in 1998 to commemorate the 1993 rebellion. Old and loyal communists, supporters of the Soviet Union, and opponents of Yeltsin’s “free-market” reforms.
The offensive usually suffers about three times as many casualties than the defense. The rebels didn’t have the weapons, and the army had 21 armed personnel carriers. The defenders of Ostankino had barriers to hide behind but the attackers were on open spaces. The defenders were well equipped: they had helmets, protective vests, sniper outfits, machine guns, walkie-talkies, night vision devices, etc. The rebels didn’t. The defenders were also professionals, specially trained for armed conflict. Each of them had some sort of notion of tactics, each one was supposed to be able to fight off 1200 opponents in case of civil disorder. When the rebels shot into the building (ASK-3), they were shooting without aiming into a dark building, while the troops were aiming at targets which they could see. They were able to pick out who they wanted to shoot. The Vityazi (a special detachment of the interior troops) admitted this themselves. (“Izvestia”, Oct.9, 1993; “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, Oct.8, 1993)
In any case, hidden away in the shadows near the TV center, near the train tracks were 5 truckloads of soldiers from the Sofrinskaya division who were supposed to intervene in case of any serious danger. They never intervened because there was never any real danger. Having waited for the APCs to arrive, the Sofrinskaya division calmly drove off. (“Izvestia” Oct.12, 1993)
There was no chance of taking Ostankino by storm. And General Makashov, as a military person, should have been able to understand that. Still, he sent his people (most of them unarmed) off into battle.
What took place at Ostankino can only be described one way – as war. The government forces led the opposition into war.
The mass media on the other hand paints a different picture for us, one of “mortal danger” and the awful threat of the red-browns taking over the airwaves. You have to realise that even if Makashov had gone on the air, it would have changed nothing, do you think that after 5 minutes he could turn public opinion 180 degrees in the opposite direction? If this were possible, Makashov would be the greatest genius of all history. Not to mention the fact that they could have simply cut off all the power supplies to Ostankino, just like they had done to the White House.
It’s obvious that they just needed to fan up hysteria and drum up fears of the red-brown terror and it was for exactly this reason that they stopped transmitting from Ostankino. At first, the chairman of Ostankino Radio and TV, Bragin, claimed that they did this so as not to allow Makashov’s people to get on the air and because fighting was going on in the building. (“Kuranty”, Oct. 15, 1993) But his own employees put him up against a wall when they revealed at a press conference that they had all the technical capacities to have gone on transmitting from several different studios. Furthermore, the attack wasn’t launched against the main broadcast center at the complex; that building was completely and securely protected. There were also mobile TV stations which allow’ reports to be made directly from the streets. Even in the worst case, they could have transmitted from the TV tower. Not to mention the reserve stations or the station at Shabolovskaya. (“Nedelya”, 1993, No.41) There were also reserve TV centers near Moscow which no rebels would have been able to take; these stations were built for use in the event of a nuclear war and have concrete walls six meters thick. (“Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, Oct.19, 1993) In the end it came to light that the order to shut Ostankino off had come from the Prime Minister, Victor Chernomyrdin. (“Komsomolskaya Pravda” Oct.14, 1993)
It was all very logical. If they had had the opportunity to show the events in full scale, then despite whatever psychosis had gripped the journalists, it would have clearly been clear that the “storm of Ostankino” was just adventurism, without the least chance for success and that unarmed people were being killed. This is one thing. The other thing is that the people would be able to see the suspicious way in which the armed forces didn’t take decisive action and even worked in a directly provocative manner. Take, for example, the government armed personnel carrier that fired into the top floors of one building and then into the crowd; journalists from “Izvestia’ also tell about government armed personnel carriers that fired at the Ostankino TV tower and also at the houses that were nearby. These APCs just prior to that had been aimlessly cruising around the area and when people asked them “what side are you on?” they just answered, “Who the fuck knows. We’re just driving around.” (“Izvestia” Oct.5, 1993)
It is also very telling that although there was more than enough time to have evacuated the workers at the third building in the complex (the one that came under fire) they were deliberately left there. Nobody even told the people who were working in the studios that there was a battle going on around the building. (One woman found out about it when somebody called her from home.) In addition, at the time when the rebels had already gathered and were preparing to storm the building, they were calmly taping a program and there were a lot of children there! (“Nedelya”, 1993, No.41)
It’s obvious that those who planned the provocation needed “innocent victims of the red-brown terror”. There was nobody better than the television workers; first of all, many of them were women, secondly, some of the people there were well known and popular and finally, it’s not hard to imagine what a wave of fury the journalists would hurl at the red-browns if they had “viciously slaughtered” their colleagues.
The workers at the third building were evacuated (rather late) by the Vityazi, who acted in a cool and professional manner. It would have been too much to have given them orders to just let the rebels pass and then make sure that the battle was drawn out as long as possible so that as many workers as possible would suffer. That would have been much too blatant and would have totally revealed the provocation for what is was.
GAIDAR AND YELTSIN
Still they needed to create some “innocent victims of the red-brown terror”. So Yegor Gaidar appealed to the citizens to gather in front of the Moscow City’ Soviet.
Gaidar called on all citizens who were politically opposed to the rebels to gather unarmed within close proximity to the place where the armed rebels were located. This looked so clearly like the vice-premier sending the lambs to slaughter that even in such a hysterical atmosphere as on the night of the 3rd, you had many people saying outright not to listen to him. First and foremost were the TV commentators, Lyubimov and Politkovski, and even pop-star Peter Mamonov called Gaidar’s appeal “provocational”. (“Kommersant-DAILY”, Oct.4, 1993)
This forced them to have to find a justification for Gaidar’s appeal. So they came up with the explanation that they couldn’t rely on the armed forces because it wasn’t clear who would support whom and therefore the people had to show the army who they were behind. This explanation of course doesn’t hold water.
It’s doubtful that all the troops were sitting in front of the TV waiting to see if the people would go down to the City Soviet. Let’s assume that the army follows orders, not the emotions stirred up by TV shows. The people at the White House of course were also “the people” and if the army had been following the events, they would have known that the people who broke through the lines of the OMON and broke the blockade of the White House were unarmed. That means that some of “the people” had chosen to go to the White House and some would go to the City Soviet. There were thousands on both sides. On both sides were their compatriots. Why should they support the people at the City’ Soviet and not at the White House?
The soldiers were well aware of the fact that the people were divided; this was made clear from eyewitness news reports. In “Izvestia”, the military’ correspondent Burbyga wrote about how the cannon fire had momentarily stopped: the soldiers got wind of a rumour that 100,000 demonstrators were coming to the defense of the White House and they had no desire to fight with the people. (“Izvestia” Oct.6, 1993)
A soldier was asked during the attack, “What do you think of Rutskoi?” “He’s OK,” he answered. “Then why are you fighting against him?” “Orders.” (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.9.1993)
There’s another piece of evidence that shows that there was no need to “convince the army of anything”. If there was any hesitation or split in the army on the night of the third, then there would have been at least someone who would have refused to defend Yeltsin and attack the insurgents. If that had been the case, then they wouldn’t have received medals for their action on the night of the third, if they had refused to fire on the rebels because of any underlying sympathies with them. And those in charge would have been replaced if they had allowed this breech of discipline. Instead the military was praised and decorated.
By the way, whenever the armed forces decide not to obey the government’s orders, you can already consider that government overthrown, and no symbolic support it can muster will change that.
There weren’t a lot of troops in Moscow on the night of the third because there was no need for them. The opposition did not hold any strategically important sites. No part of the armed forces defected onto Rutskoi’s side. The government led the opposition to a bloody slaughter at Ostankino. There was no reason to panic. As the host of the popular military TV show “Aty-Baty” said, “Nothing was hanging on of the string of a thread”. (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.9, 1993)
If you follow the provocation theory, then Gaidar’s appeal changes from a wild, stupid idea which was not thought out to an extremely clever idea which can be easily justified. Imagine what a propagandistic trump card the government would have had had but one attack on an unarmed “defender of democracy” taken place on the part of the opposition.
The terminology used by the president’s side during the night of the third was also provocational. “Pogromists” and “bandits” are not the same as “insurgents”. From Yeltsin’s address to the citizens of Russia on the night of Oct.3, the following clearly stands out: “Shots resound throughout the capital of Russia and blood is running. Militants who have gathered from all around the country are sowing death and destruction …Those who went up against a peaceful city and unleashed a bloody war… are bandits and pogromists…gangs of bandits made up of soldiers of fortune accustomed to killing and tyranny… massacring unarmed Muscovites …they have risen against peaceful people, Moscow, against Russia, children, women and the aged… Defend our children, our mothers and fathers, stop the pogromists and the murderers.” (quoted from “Moskovskaya Pravda”, Oct.5, 1993)
It’s not hard to see that the picture the president painted of what was going on in Moscow was very different from what was going on in reality. What “women, children and old folk”, “mothers and fathers” fell victim to “pogromists and murderers” “gangs of bandits” “from all over the country'” who “sowed death and destruction” all over Moscow? But suppose for a second that the people Gaidar called out en masse had been attacked by the rebels. Then everything would have started to correspond to Yeltsin’s scenario, especially the widespread death and destruction. It is very fortunate for the people that responded to Gaidar’s call that a bloody tragedy didn’t occur outside the City Soviet. (The one part of the provocation which didn’t work out for them.) They’ had no idea that they were supposed to play the role of sacrificial lambs in this political game.
The defenders of the White House foiled Gaidar. The arms that they had at the White House were much less that the government said, (for example, there was no ground to air missile launcher) and they didn’t give out arms to anybody who wanted them. (They had sent out people unarmed to Ostankino apparently not for any lack of arms, because they showed unopened boxes of weapons in their bunker on TV, but for other reasons.) The crowd at the White House was not made up of bums, criminals and pogromists, gathered from around the country. Even Mikhail Leontiev, a journalist who vehemently hated the defenders of the White House, wrote in the openly pro-Yeltsin paper “Segodnya” that, “They keep telling us about how gangs of bestial Nazi pogromists are wandering around Moscow, storming the TV center, the Mayor’s and various other socially important sites. At the same time, you won’t find that a single commercial kiosk has been wrecked.
Those terrible communists expropriators, after coming under heavy gunfire run to a neighboring kiosk and BOUGHT vodka and chocolate and went back to die for their ideals of social justice. The kiosks near the White House did record business on the night of the 3rd, even though there was not a cop in sight (“Segodnya”, Oct.14, 1993).
Even such an aggressive pro-Yeltsin paper like the yellow “Kuranty” had to admit that the reports in the mass media about how the rebels stormed into neighbouring homes and robbed them after the storm of Ostankino were false. (“Kuranty”, Oct. 5, 1993) The mere existence of such reports in the media is very telling.
Of course there were all sorts at the White House. Among them were marauders and Barkashovtsy who are prepared to kill anyone, even women and children, based on their nationality. But the marauders were there mostly to pilfer things from the White House that they were supposedly defending and the Barkashovtsy have their discipline.
The government needed blood. A lot of blood. And it was the rebels who were supposed to shed it. There’s another fact that supports this theory. Lyubimov and Politkovski, having stated their opinion that people should stay at home, were fired from their jobs (following the tradition of the Brezhnev era). They inspired such a harsh reaction from the authorities (to the point of hatred) that could not have been caused had they simply spoken tactlessly. Without a doubt they had interfered with the plans to initiate mass bloodshed. They had prevented them from gathering such a large crowd in the center of the city that they wouldn’t have been able to avoid clashing with the opposition. They are still catching hell about this, even now. Gaidar committed a grave error when he let it slip that they had planned to distribute guns to the people in case of the worse. For example, in case the rebels had any run-ins with the Yeltsinists.
The only tactic Yeltsin and Gaidar had left was to try to make it necessary for the defenders of the White House to fight to shed blood. This is exactly what they did.
First of all, they delayed the storm of the White House as much as possible. (Perhaps they were hoping to provide the opportunity for “bandits” to attack women and children.) They let thousands of people gather around the doomed building. They say that it took them twenty minutes to find a map of Moscow for the Defense Minister. (“Moskovskiye Novosti”, Oct. 17, 1993) They say that he didn’t even have a map of the route along which the tanks were supposed to head towards the White House. They say that they looked for the map all night and didn’t find it until the 4th. (“Izvestia”, Oct.6, 1993) They say that in the Security Ministry they looked and looked but they couldn’t find a map of underground tunnels beneath the White House. (“Moskovskiye Novosti”, Oct. 17, 1993) Ha-ha-ha. I don’t quite believe it.
Let’s not forget that in Tbilisi, Vilnius and Baku, they specifically carried out their military operations at night. Pavel Grachev however said about the October events that they tried to avoid fighting at night to avoid accidentally shooting their own due to the dark. (“Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.8, 1993) But on the fourth there were incidents of friendly fire, even in daylight. (“Izvestia”, Oct.5, 1993; Oct.6, 1993; Oct.16, 1993; “Kommersant – DAILY”, Oct.9, 1993; “Moskovskaya Pravda”, Oct.9, 1993; “Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.9, 1993; “Kuranty”, Oct.6, 1993; “Moskovskiye Novosti”, Nov.7, 1993) What’s more, the government forces had special equipment to help carry out operations at night – the opposition didn’t.
Journalists kept asking the ministers in vain: where were the troops? Where did they wander off to? And why were thousands of spectators allowed near the White House to look on? (“Izvestia”. Oct.5, 1993;Oct.7, 1993; “Moskovskiy Komsomolets”, Oct.6, 1993) The famous “Alfa” division having just taken the White House, told journalists that it was no coincidence, just like it was hardly any coincidence that “provocateurs and hooligans” shot into to crowd of onlookers from the rooftops of nearby buildings. The majority of the casualties and injuries suffered by spectators were caused by the tank fire on the White House. (“Izvestia”, Oct. 19, 1993) The identities of some of the snipers (who the Alfa troops had labeled “provocateurs and hooligans’’) became known. Some of them turned out to be from the Security Ministry—Yeltsin’s boys (“Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta, Oct.20, 1993).
In general, the White House didn’t put up much of a defense. (The Alfa Squad noted that they didn’t use grenade launchers against the tanks, perhaps for fear of injuring the onlookers.) The people for were defending the White House lost morale. The “Kommersant” correspondent, Victoria Kutsyllo, who sat in the White House during the entire siege, saw-numerous times how people were shooting out of windows into the crowd. (“Kommersant-DAILY”, Oct.5, 1993) Inside the White House itself, only 153 cartridge casings were found. (“Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta”, Oct. 15, 1993) Even if we presume that they found only a fraction of the casings, this figure is incredibly low.
The members of the Alfa Squad led journalists to believe that they were supposed to shed as much blood as possible (and that one of the organizers of the provocation wanted there to be as much blood as possible from both sides) and that they weren’t supposed to take live prisoners from the leaders of the opposition. They didn’t understand this and didn’t really do what they were supposed to. (”Izvestia”.Oct.l9, l993) This upset some people up on top because they would have to try these people. What would they try them by – the constitution?
Later it came out that the Alfa Squad were ordered to take the White House by storm but didn’t and instead started negotiations with the White House. For this, the Alfa boys were crossed oft the list to receive awards. (See “Moskovskiye Novosti”, Oct.7.1993)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexander Tarasov is a sociologist and political scientist. He is the founder of the Phoenix Center for New Sociology and the Research of Practical Politics.
Some typical comments to videos posted on Youtube commemorating the Yeltsin coup against the anti-capitalist forces. These views were recorded at various times since that event took place.
FACT TO REMEMBER:
IF THE WESTERN MEDIA HAD ITS PRIORITIES IN ORDER AND ACTUALLY INFORMED, EDUCATED AND UPLIFTED THE MASSES INSTEAD OF SHILLING FOR A GLOBAL EMPIRE OF ENDLESS WARS, OUTRAGEOUS ECONOMIC INEQUALITY, AND DEEPENING DEVASTATION OF NATURE AND THE ANIMAL WORLD, HORRORS LIKE THESE WOULD HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED MANY YEARS, PERHAPS DECADES AGO. EVERY SINGLE DAY SOCIAL BACKWARDNESS COLLECTS ITS OWN INNUMERABLE VICTIMS.
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