The role of one of the regional elites was absolutely decisive, namely, the Russian Federation. Yeltsin and the Russian Federation were the key factors in the fall of the Soviet Union. For Yeltsin, one of the few ways to get in the Kremlin was to essentially overthrow President Gorbachev.
Twenty years ago, on December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Soviet Union, declaring the office extinct and dissolving the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Vyacheslav Nikonov, Co-Founder and President of the Polity Foundation; Executive Board Director of the Russki Mir Foundation shares his views on the dissolution of the Soviet Union with
What role did the regional elites play in the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
The role of one of the regional elites was absolutely decisive, namely, the Russian Federation. Yeltsin and the Russian Federation were the key factors in the fall of the Soviet Union. For Yeltsin, one of the few ways to get in the Kremlin was to essentially overthrow President Gorbachev, thus leaving the country with no one to preside over it – and that’s exactly what happened. The role of other regional elites was supplementary, and I would say that, first of all, the Baltic elites and part of the Ukrainian elite played important roles; the other Soviet elites were against the disruption of the country.
So what was the role of the supranational elites, the elites of the Soviet Union party apparatus, etc? Why did the GKChP comprise only hard-liners, and, moreover, quite a lot of supranational elites did not support the hard-liners?
Well, first of all, the national elite was Gorbachev and his team. In my view, his team was quite weak, and those who he believed to be his major supports were the ones who actually organized the coup. The new party elite and Soviet apparatus were a long way from being the decision-makers. So the decision-making was made by the very orthodox elite – an elite that was not very familiar with how the political system and the government functioned.
Recently, a new post-Soviet integration project, the so-called Eurasian Union, has emerged. Is it a serious project, or is it just the rhetoric of the presidential or parliamentary campaign?
Well, the Eurasian Union project was initiated in 2003 but was interrupted by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Of course, you don’t do something for 7-8 years in order to jockey for an election; this is clearly not intended for election purposes. Actually, I think Putin is absolutely serious about making a strong, integrated space, which is absolutely necessary for Russia and its allies to solidify a strong center of power.
And the last question: How do you generally assess the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its impact on you and Russia as a country?
Well, I lost my motherland, personally, and Russia lost itself, because, at that point, Russia existed as the Soviet Union. So, for me it was the loss of the country and the loss of Russia as well.