A Word to the People

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"A Word to the People" (Russian: «Слово к народу») was an open letter signed by a number of Soviet politicians, literati and other figures.[1] The declaration was published in Sovetskaya Rossiya (a newspaper that expressed anti-perestroika views) on 23 July 1991. Among signatories of the publication were Yuri Bondarev, Valentin Varennikov, Gennady Zyuganov, Alexander Prokhanov, Valentin Rasputin, and Vasily Starodubtsev.

The authors of the writing appealed to the citizens of the country, severely criticizing the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, and they pleaded to avoid the collapse of the Soviet Union, suggesting the formation of new opposition movements.

An enormous, unforeseen calamity has taken place. Motherland, our land, a great power, given to us to ward with the nature, glorious ancestors, it is perishing, breaking apart, falling into darkness and nonbeing. And this collapse takes place at our silence, toleration and accord.<...>
Brethren, too late are we waking up, are observing the misery when our home is already burning in four corners, when extinguishing this has to be done not by water, but by our own tears and blood. Do we allow for the second time during this century civil discordance and war, again throw ourselves into merciless millstones, set started not by us, that will be grinding the bones of the people, breaking in two the backbone of Russia? <...>
Let us unite, so as to stop the chain reaction of the disastrous collapse of the state, economy, human personality; in order to contribute to the strengthening of the Soviet power, to the transformation of it into a genuinely people's power, and not some manger for the hungry nouveaux riches, who are ready to sell off everything for the sake of their insatiable appetite.<...>
Soviet Union, this is our home and stronghold, built with enormous efforts of all the peoples and nations, that has saved us from disgrace and slavery at the times of hideous invasions! Russia - unique, beloved! - she is crying for help.

According to V. Bondarenko, it was Alexander Prokhanov who wrote the text of the publication.[2] Three of the signatories (Valentin Varennikov, Alexander Tizyakov (ru), and Vasily Starodubtsev) later joined the State Committee on the State of Emergency in the 1991 August Coup attempt against Gorbachev.[3] In his memoirs, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, a founder of perestroika and former head of the propaganda department of the Communist Party, regarded the letter as "demagogic", a volume of "rabid passages and at the same time desperate sighs of the soul", and "a vulgar work".[4]

The letter has also been regarded as a call to arms on the eve of the August Coup.[5] According to A. James Gregor, the signatories (a number of them active CPSU members) abandoned class war rhetoric, emphasizing rather "a salvation of the Motherland",[6] stressing the priority of patriotism[7] over Soviet Marxist ideology. Two Central Committee members, Otto Latsis and Andrey Grachev, explicitly attacked the publication in their speeches at the plenum, but were heckled and had difficulty in making themselves heard.[8]

Ten years after the publication, on 14 August 2001, Sovetskaya Rossiya published an appeal entitled "Stop reforms of death!" («Остановить „реформы смерти“!»), in which the letter "A Word to the People" was called "prophesying".


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