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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

White House Defenders Mark Coup

Five years to the day after tanks rolled onto the streets of Moscow as part of the August coup attempt, the men and women who in 1991 formed a human chain around the White House to defend it against attack gathered at the building once again in commemoration Monday, but the mood was more of uncertainty than defiance.


A crowd of a few dozen people carrying Russian flags and anti-communist posters -- and nearly outnumbered by journalists -- met on the small hump-backed bridge next to the White House as part of what has become an annual reunion of those who rallied to the building on Aug. 19, 1991, after a group of top Soviet leaders declared a state of emergency in an attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev.


Tatyana said she went on the barricades in 1991 because she feared a return to the old pre-perestroika system, adding that she also supported Yeltsin in his clash with parliament in October 1993. But now, struggling to survive as a consequence of Yeltsin's reforms, she admitted to some doubts about the past.


Then she added: "We cannot remake our history ... I'm sure it would have been much worse if we hadn't fought back then."


Another White House defender, former Moscow City Soviet deputy Alexander Kalinin, presented an even starker example of ambiguity about the past. If in 1991 he rallied to support Yeltsin and the other occupants of the White House, in 1993 he was back again, this time defending parliament against the president.


"Both times we defended the Constitution," said Kalinin. "I would have done it again if necessary."


Pensioners Yekaterina Grigoriyevna and Vladimir Dmitriyevich said they come regularly to the building -- but they come to visit the symbolic graves of those who died there during the events of 1993.


"They come here every year and drink and rejoice in their victory while for us this is a place of mourning," said Yekaterina Grigoriyevna. "So many good men died here in 1993."