State Committee on the State of Emergency

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State Committee of the State of Emergency
Государственный комитет по черезвычайному положению
Press conference of the Committee of the GKChP USSR (August 19, 1991).jpg
Press conference of the "State Committee on the State of Emergency USSR", in the building of the Ministry of foreign Affairs of the USSR (August 19, 1991).
Formation August 1991
Extinction 22 August 1991
Type Self-declared provisional government
Legal status Dissolved by the Russian SFSR and Soviet Union
Purpose Prevention of the New Union Treaty signing, governance for planned six-month state of emergency
Headquarters Moscow Kremlin, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union[1][2]
  • Soviet Union
Region served

Soviet Union

  • esp. Russia
Official language
Gennady Yanayev
Affiliations KGB
Soviet Army
Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs

The State Committee on the State of Emergency (Russian: Государственный комитет по чрезвычайному положению, ГКЧП, Gosudarstvennyi Komitet po Chrezvechainomu Polozheniyu, GKChP), also known as the "Gang of Eight",[3] was a group of eight high-level officials within the Soviet government, the Communist Party, and the KGB, who attempted a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev on 18 August 1991. Within two days, the attempted coup collapsed.


The eight members included:

Pugo shot himself to avoid arrest, while the other seven members were arrested.

Coup d'état[edit]

The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt (19–21 August 1991) was an attempt by the Gang of Eight to take control of the country from Gorbachev. The group of eight were hard-line members of the Communist Party (CPSU) who were opposed to Gorbachev's reform program and the new union treaty he had negotiated, which dispersed much of the central government's power to the republics. The coup collapsed in only two days and Gorbachev, although restored as President, became less influential outside of Moscow as his authority was irreparably damaged. The event destabilized the Soviet Union and many speculate that it has helped to bring about both the demise of the Communist Party and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Afterwards, members of the Gang of Eight were arrested.

Court trials[edit]

On December 15, 1992, over a year after the incident, the Prosecutor Generala sent a criminal case to the Military Collegiate of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. Anatoliy Ukolov, a deputy chairman of the Collegiate, was charged with revising (reviewing?) the case. The hearing was scheduled for January 26, 1993. The defendants included the aforementioned seven plus three others:

  • Oleg Shenin (1937–2009), Politbureau and secretariat member
  • Anatoly Lukyanov (b. 1930), Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union
  • Valentin Varennikov (1923–2009), General of the Army, Deputy Minister of Defense, Commander of Land Forces

The trials lasted 14 months, from April 14, 1993 until March 1, 1994. The trials were open to the public and press; however, foreign press did not participate due to lack of space in the courtroom. A prosecution commission was assigned consisting of nine people and headed by Denisov, who was a Deputy Prosecutor General. The following defense attorneys were hired: Genri Reznik (Shenin), Genrikh Padva, Yuriy Ivanov (Kryuchkov), Dmitriy Shteinberg (Varennikov). In total, there were 17 defense attorneys. After various defense delay tactics, the trial began on November 30, 1993. The main prosecutors were Yazov, Kryuchkov, Shenin, and Varennikov.

On February 23, 1994 the State Duma issued an amnesty. On March 1, 1994, the case was closed with all ten defendants accepting amnesty. Varennikov requested amnesty on the condition that Mikhail Gorbachev would be the next to be prosecuted. He accused Gorbachev of creating the recent political disorder. The court rejected his petition, but sent his request to the Prosecutor General's office. The Prosecutor General's office rejected his request.

Ten days later the Presidium of the Supreme Court revived the prosecution, ruling that procedural infringements regarding the amnesty had occurred. The Presidium of the Supreme Court arranged a new hearing and assigned a new judge, Viktor Aleksandrovich Yaskin. He conducted the case review using revised court procedures. Yaskin offered the defendants amnesty, and all but Varennikov accepted it. Varennikov was acquitted on the argument that he was following the orders of Minister of Defense.

Kryuchkov, Yazov, Shenin, and Pavlov were named as the main conspirators.

Further fate of GKChP members[edit]

  • Pugo committed suicide together with his wife. However, some sources speculate that he may have been murdered.[4]
  • Yazov spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina. According to the magazine "Vlast" No. 41(85) of 14 October 1991 "...from the prison contacted the President with a recorded video message, where he repented and called himself "an old fool". Yazov denies ever doing that. He accepted the amnesty stating that he was not guilty. He was dismissed from the military service by the Presidential Order and awarded a ceremonial weapon. He was awarded an order of Honor by the President of Russian Federation. Yazov works as a military adviser at the General Staff Academy.
  • Varennikov spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina, refused to accept the offered amnesty, and was eventually recognized as not guilty. Prior to GKChP he participated in events to capture the TV-station in Vilnius and according to Gorbachev's aide, Anatoly Chernyaev, the decision to use the force was taken by him personally without discussion with the President.[5] Varennikov since 1995 was a people's deputy and in 2008 publicly was stating that the military force used during the August putsch was intended for security purposes including the protection of Yeltsin. He died in 2009 and was buried in Moscow.
  • Baklanov spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina, then accepted an amnesty in 1994 as not guilty. Later he worked as a director of Rosobshchemash.
  • Yanayev spent 18 months in Matrosskaya Tishina. Later he became a chairman of the department of national history at the Russian International Academy of Tourism.[6]
  • Pavlov had been taken to a hospital during the putsch with a diagnosis of hypertension, but on 29 August was transferred to Matrosskaya Tishina. He accepted his amnesty as not guilty and became the head of the Chasprombank. Pavlov resigned from the bank on 31 August 1995 and six months later the bank was left without license.[7] Later he was an adviser at Promstroibank (today known as Bank VTB). Pavlov died in 2003 after a series of heart attacks and was buried in Moscow.

Evaluations of Ukolov's interviews[edit]

According to Vzglyad the occurrence of the August putsch Ukolov blames on Gorbachev by implying that Gorbachev should not have taken his vacation. However, in interview to Komsomol Pravda Ukolov also mentioned how the members of GKChP chose not to follow the letter of law, but rather to take the situation in their own hands.


  1. ^ Артём Кречетников (August 17, 2006). "Хроника путча: часть I" (in Russian). BBC Russian Service. Archived from the original on September 2, 2007. 
  2. ^ Артём Кречетников (August 18, 2006). "Хроника путча: часть II" (in Russian). BBC Russian Service. Archived from the original on August 28, 2007. 
  3. ^ Obolensky, Georges (2013), Forever Russian: Memoirs of a Vagabond Prince, AuthorHouse, p. 152, ISBN 1481714767, [...] a group of military brass and Communist Party hardliners, calling themselves the 'State Emergency Committee,' (later to be known as 'the gang of eight') attempted a coup d'état. 
  4. ^ "The Men Who Tried to Topple Mikhail Gorbachev". The Moscow Times. August 17, 2001. Archived from the original on September 5, 2001. 
  5. ^ Деньги и судьба империи (in Russian). Независимая газета. June 3, 2006. 
  6. ^ Бывший вице-президент СССР Геннадий Янаев: Ручонки действительно подрагивали (in Russian). Версия. October 31, 2008. 
  7. ^ Книга памяти: "Часпромбанк" (in Russian). Банки.ру. 

External links[edit]