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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City to Mark '91 Coup With Low-Key Events

Overshadowed by the massive preparations for Moscow's 850th anniversary, the city is also planning far more modest events to mark an anniversary which, although it is not a round number, still marks a milestone in Russian history: the sixth anniversary of the August 1991 coup.


Although the celebrations, as usual, will not be distinguished by much pomp, the date has become a dividing line, so that "before" or "after 1991" represents the transition from the old Soviet regime to the new Russia.


This year's celebrations will last four days, from Aug.19 to Aug. 22. Unable to get financing from the federal budget, organizers have turned to sponsors, a move that has led to some rather far-fetched events.


"We have one company which said that they will only give money to sponsor break dancing," said Ruslan Miroshnik, producer of the celebrations at a news conference Friday. "So we are going to feature break dancing."


The celebration will feature events that pay tribute to the episodes and moods the country went through during the four days of the failed 1991 putsch when a band of Communist Party hardliners, styling themselves as the Emergency State Committee, imprisoned Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in his resort residence in the Crimea, sent troops onto the streets of Moscow and then caved in before popular opposition that thronged around Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the White House.


The events dealt a fatal blow to the Communist Party's authority and hastened the Soviet Union's collapse.


On Aug. 19, veterans who defended the White House, then the seat of the Russian parliament, will meet in front of the building on Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya, which was blown up during the events of October 1993, repaired, and now houses the government.


Organizers, expressed concern that Viktor Anpilov and his neo-Stalinist communist party has also requested permission to hold demonstrations there at the same time.


Konstantin Truyevtsev, the chairman of the 1991 coup anniversary organizing committee, said even though the city authorities refused to allow the communist meeting, he said they might still show up.


The official program of the celebration will also include a memorial service Aug. 20, 1991 at 8:30 p.m. near the White House and adjacent Mayor's Office for three people who died during the coup.


After the service, participants will march to the place where the three young men were crushed under tanks in a tunnel at the intersection of the Garden Ring Road and Novy Arbat. On Aug. 21, flowers will be laid on their graves.


On Aug. 22, the last day of the celebrations, a program of mostly youth-oriented events, including the break-dancing, will be held on Vasilyevsky Slope, near Red Square, from 11 a.m. Graffiti competitions, in-line skating races and street dancing will be held during the day, followed by a concert by Russian pop music stars in the evening.


Yeltsin ruled that Aug. 22, the last day of the coup, should be Russia's National Flag Day and a public holiday, but the pro-communist State Duma has refused to ratify either the holiday or Yeltsin's choice of a tricolor white, blue and red flag. As a result, National Flag Day is celebrated more or less randomly across the country.