Many Russians see 1991 attempted coup as power struggle episode, poll says

Almost 50 percent of the Russians believe that the attempted coup in August of 1991 was an episode of power struggle in the country’s top leadership. Nearly the same number of people believes neither of the opposing sides involved in the events that took place August 19 through August 22, 1991, was in the right. The 1991 attempted coup effectively led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A recent survey conducted by the Levada Analytical Center found that 48% of Russians saw the attempted coup of August 1991 as a mere episode of power struggle in the upper echelons of the country’s leadership. According to results of the opinion poll, 24 percent of respondents believe the attempted coup was a tragic event, which had a devastating effect on both the country and its people; 10 percent saw it a victory of the democratic revolution, which put an end to the rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Among other questions, the respondents were asked with whom they had sided at the time: 33 percent said they had not enough time to take sides; 21 percent sided with Boris Yeltsin and pro-democracy supporters; 20 percent said they were too small in 1991 to form an opinion of their own. Only 8 percent of the respondents admitted to siding with the State Emergency Committee; 18 percent of the polled found it difficult to give a straight answer to the question.

According to the Levada Center survey, 46 percent of Russians believe none of the opposing sides involved in the 1991 events was in the right; 17 percent believes Yeltsin and democracy supporters were in the right, whereas 8 percent believe members of the State Emergency Committee were in the right; 29 percent of the respondents were unable to provide a straight answer to the question.

The opinion poll shows that 28 percent of Russians believe their country has been moving in the right direction since August of 1991, whereas 37 percent took an opposing viewpoint. For 35 percent of the polled the question was too difficult to answer.

As for those who believe that Russia has been moving in the wrong direction, 14 percent say the country suffered a turn for the worse because Boris Yeltsin and his team were incompetent and committed lots of mistakes; 8 percent put the blame on Mikhail Gorbachev for his lack of political farsightedness, and those in highest command (party and government officials) for being too greedy as they tried to lay their hands on Russia’ natural resources; another 2 percent cite the 70-year rule of the Communists and a variety of conspiracy theories with the U.S. and Western Europe’s countries as chief culprits.

The opinion poll shows that 65 percent of the respondents (those who believe Russia has been moving in the wrong direction) failed to cite any reasons which might have caused the situation. In addition, 1 percent of the polled blames it all on a tragic coincidence. The nationwide survey was conducted by the Levada Center from August 10 to August 13, 2007. The survey involved 1,600 respondents.

Vremya Novostei

Translated by Guerman Grachev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov