Volume L – Number 1

Harry G. Kyriakodis

Abstract: This article measures the success of the two major coups d’état in Russian history, the 1991 Soviet coup and the 1917 Bolshevik coup through comparison, and argues the illegality of the 1991 Soviet coup. The 1991 Soviet coup was a result of the Communist Party’s dissatisfaction with Gorbachev’s increasing power as he attempted to slowly transition the Soviet Union into a more capitalistic society by instituting new economic reforms. Gorbachev was betrayed by eight members of his inner circle, which resulted in a failed three day coup d’état against him. This coup brought about the end of the Soviet Union, as the incident’s inefficiency cemented anti-Communist sentiment within the public. The 1917 Bolshevik coup was a result of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks orchestrating the overthrow of the Provisional Government through the use of conspiracy, tactics, and sudden violence. As in 1991, economic woes were at the root of the coup, but the Bolsheviks were more effective in exploiting the social unrest within the country. While the coups contrasted in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, they were similar in cause, and both effectively brought about the end of the incumbent regime. Finally, the 1991 Soviet coup was illegal, as the steps taken by the eight conspirators violated the Soviet Union’s succession rules, and was thus, illegitimate.

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