Ten Years After the Soviet Breakup: A Mixed Record, An Uncertain Future

The defeat of the Communist hard-liners' August 1991 coup attempt marked one of the most euphoric moments in Russian history. For centuries, autocrats had ruled Russia, using force when necessary to suppress society. This time, emboldened by liberalization under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Russian society organized to resist the use of force by Kremlin dictators. To be sure, all of Russia did not rise up against the coup plotters; only citizens in major cities mobilized. Yet the ripple effects of this brave stance against tyranny in Moscow and St. Petersburg proved pivotal in destroying communism, dismantling the Soviet empire, and ending the Cold War.