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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Look Back at Those Heady, Fateful August Days

Izvestia celebrated the fourth anniversary of the August 1991 coup attempt with an article written in a style that would have been appropriate if the coup had succeeded. A short excerpt follows.

The State Committee for the Emergency Situation celebrated the fourth anniversary of its victory over extremist forces bent on the liquidation of the Soviet Union. Despite the fact that the state of emergency persists, a meeting of representatives of workers from Moscow and the republics was held in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. Together with guests from abroad, they listened to a report from the State Council of the State Committee for the Emergency Situation.

In an atmosphere of unprecedented joy, the workers of the Soviet Union, who saved their socialist motherland from collapse and a dictatorship of personal power, greeted this holiday, the report stated. This is the main result of the last four years.

Izvestia, Aug. 19

Behind the Barricades

Other papers offered more serious assessments of the meaning of August 1991 and the four years that followed.

Four years ago, we could not believe our eyes (puffy after three sleepless nights) to see our victory. It was just the same as how we earlier could not believe that what was happening around us since Aug. 19 was unstoppable and that this was really the end for us. And we were right on both counts. We could not even suspect just how right we were.

At the time, the slogans and the banners spoke of a serious clash of ideas. It was far more serious than anything that came afterwards. Later, there were procedural questions about how to divide power and property. There were personal ambitions and tactical and technical disagreements. In those three days in August, the fate of society was in the balance. Later, it was a question of divvying up property. In August, three people died, by accident as we now know. Later, the blood flowed in rivers, not stopping for a single moment. There have been fewer songs, less pathos, less sympathy and attention from the outside world. Less spectacle and more brutal reality.

There is no point now in talking about who was right and who was guilty or what might have happened if ...

Four years ago, after a long, well-deserved rest, Russia once again saw barricades. And the barricade remains in place to this day because during those days in August, we ceased to be a single country, a single society in which the "barricade" -- what sociologists call "the polarization of society" -- was the greatest taboo. The barricade remains, but it is a sort of drifting barricade, always shifting around so that even the most fervent fighters might suddenly find themselves on the other side.

Russian society is now divided by one crucial line -- the one between the criminals and the noncriminals. This barricade runs through factory offices, banks, through the Kremlin and the beer kiosks. But if not for that barricade, we would all become bandits. It is impossible to abandon this barricade without giving up the entire country to the criminals. I fear there may be only one anniversary left, closing a five-year circle of Russia's post-Soviet development. What began as a bloodless revolution might end in one very bloody shoot-out.

Segodnya, Aug. 19

On Men and Women

Critic Lyudmila Lunina presented readers with her analysis of the merits of two relative newcomers to Russia's magazine market, Cosmopolitan and Playboy. Both of them are published by Independent Media, parent company of The Moscow Times.

The first issue of the Russian-language edition of Playboy magazine has hit the newsstands. With this event, it seems, the Russian market is now fully equipped with an array of men's and women's magazines. Amadeus, Andrei, Medved, Dzhentlmen, Penthouse, Good Housekeeping, Tvoi Stil have all appeared within the last few years. This boom is somewhat instructive. The most obvious explanation for it is that there is some sort of social demand, that it is necessary to quickly learn how to buy groceries in a supermarket, travel abroad and how to match a tie and trousers. It would also be a good idea to introduce some changes in standards of social behavior: We simply don't know how to act when looking for a job, and we don't know how to best fill our leisure time.

Playboy and Cosmopolitan may be able to teach us something because, unlike homegrown publications, they have the benefit of solid Western experience. So it is interesting to ask, what is the lyrical hero, the ideal personality that these magazines are trying to propose to readers as an example for imitation?

The first thing that strikes the eye is that Cosmopolitan depicts its personality in considerably more detail. Here readers will find advice on all aspects of life from which cosmetics to chose to how to best rent an apartment, buy a dog or take a vacation in Hungary. The main regular features of the magazine, unlike those of old favorites like Rabotnitsa and Krestyanka, have nothing to do with cooking or family life. They are all devoted to careers.

The ideal Cosmo woman is a "businesswoman." The magazine, if not with much variety, at least with some consistency constantly reinforces the idea that finding oneself and realizing one's professional potential are just about the most important things there are.

The tempo of Playboy is considerably more calm. The articles are frighteningly long and remind one of endless after-dinner conversations. The interview with Yevgeny Kiselyov could have been cut by two-thirds just by removing the narcissistic questions about journalism. The featured authors exhibit the spiritual state that is usually found in sluggishly moving memoirs.

The first issue is distinguished by a noble retrospection. It is almost entirely devoted to the past. Our playboy is a Don Juan on a pension who isn't so much recalling interesting episodes from his life as fuming because there never were any. Naturally, like any middle-age person, Playboy's lyrical hero is not interested in either career or work.

In Cosmo, authors explain how to deal with depression; in Playboy, they tell how to use an ice bucket. Cosmo presents women that are active in all spheres of life, including sex. Playboy teaches men how to lick their wounds after a breakup. It is remarkable that the first (!) issue of this men's magazine doesn't discuss how to begin relationships but how to get out of them with the fewest personal inconveniences.

In short, the ideal Cosmo heroine is well-disposed toward change and easily adapts to it, and this is her indisputable advantage. The nature of male conservatism is worthy of an article of its own.

Segodnya, Aug. 24

Grachev and the Troops

They say that when Defense Minister Pavel Grachev visited a hospital full of young soldiers who have become invalids during the Chechen campaign, the staff first removed all the pitchers, glasses and anything else the patients might have been able to get their hands on to throw at him.

But the minister didn't even go into the wards. Just a short while before, his wife completely canceled a visit to the same hospital. No one knows why the visit was canceled, but the patients say it was because they were promised $15 each and the Defense Ministry just decided to save the money. I don't know whether this is true, but I want to convey the attitudes of the young men who were wounded in Chechnya in January and who still find themselves in this hospital outside Moscow.

These boys are not like you and me. They take everything more sharply, more painfully. I think this is because of their sense of their own defenselessness and because of the incredible, inhuman injustice they have faced at the hands of their country. As compensation for the arms and legs that were amputated, they received one-time insurance payments of 250,000 rubles. Is this a joke? That is far too soft a word.

Some of them have been lying here for eight months, receiving their regular soldier's pay of 12,000 rubles a month. "However, the treatment is free," hospital staffers tell me, "as are the artificial limbs." This is how the government "cares."

These soldiers blame those who gave the order to begin the war. They are furious at Grachev, at the government, at the state. It must be hard to live when one hates one's country.

Argumenty i Fakty, Aug. 23