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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

From Kuzbass, A Professional Oppositionist

Leonid Sergachev must confound political analysts trying to separate the good guys from the bad guys.

The 53-year-old economics teacher, a Brezhnev-era dissident and key opposition leader to the August 1991 coup attempt, is now an outspoken critic of President Boris Yeltsin. Sergachev's story shows the danger in trying to divide the present power struggle along lines of good and evil, reform and reaction, white and red.

"The meaning of my whole life is that I stand for the principles of democracy", Sergachev says. "What Yeltsin is doing now is another coup".

Sergachev became politically aware in 1968, after the hammer of Brezhnev doctrine nailed a lid over the Prague Spring.

"After Czechoslovakia, I knew something was wrong with our system", he says.

Sergachev officially became a dissident in 1971 after delivering a lecture against the Soviet Union's "state capitalism" in his political economics class in the Kuzbass region of Siberia, located 3, 000 kilometers east of Moscow. A student reported him, and Sergachev made the first in a long series of trips to the Kemerovo KGB building to explain his latest lecture.

Twenty-one years later, in 1982, he was kicked out of the Communist Party and stripped of his qualifications to teach.

Under Mikhail Gorbachev, he embraced perestroika, only to be called in by the KGB in 1987 to explain his attempts to organize opposition to parts of Gorbachev's economic reform plan.

In January 1989, Sergachev publicly quit the Communist Party. That move cost him his job.

During the August 1991 coup attempt, Sergachev led opposition to the plotters. "I decided I had to do everything in my power to stop this thing", he says. On the first day of the coup, while most regions were conspicuously quiet, Sergachev persuaded the Kuzbass regional Soviet to publicly back Yeltsin.

In today's struggle for power, Sergachev, a People's Deputy of the Kuzbass regional Soviet, is on the side of the Congress, an institution he sees as far more democratic than the presidency.

"Many democrats have slipped away from Yeltsin", he says. "We oppose his attempts to turn the president into a new General Secretary".

"Sergachev is a professional oppositionist", says an Izvestia correspondent familiar with Sergachev's career. "He's not happy unless he's pushing against something".

But to Sergachev, this all makes perfect sense.

"I have never made the mistake of confusing personality with policy", he says. "That is the mistake the West is making. It made the mistake when it backed Gorbachev, and now it is doing it again with Yeltsin".