Boris Yeltsin [nid:113313]

Thirty years ago today, the short-lived coup d'état attempt happened throughout the Soviet Union (USSR) from August 19-22. As these somber events were unfolding, the USSR had already lost its power grip in Eastern Europe, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia had declared the restoration of their independence, and unrest was brewing in many of the Soviet Republics. As a result of the first partially free elections in the USSR, the Communist Party had lost its monopoly on power in seven Soviet Republics. Faced with the prospect of the ratification of the New Union Treaty, communist hardliners attempted to turn the tide. Unsuccessfully. Their failed coup d'état accelerated what was inevitable, the collapse of the USSR. We must pause and not forget that this coup attempted to reinvigorate a Communist state that brought about mass murders, genocide, deportations, loss of life, and freedom of millions of Europeans on a scale unseen in human history. The putschists undertook to revive a totalitarian system. The 30th anniversary brings us a mix of remembrance of those who decisively opposed it from the outset, a joy that the coup failed, and most importantly, invites us to reflect on the chain of events that the failed coup unleashed and which continue to affect the world today. First and foremost, we must remember the hundreds of thousands of people across the former Soviet Union who risked their lives by opposing the coup and the victims. In the Baltic countries, these events came to spur on their de facto independence. In Ukraine, as in several other former Soviet Republics, they resulted in the declaration of their de jure independence. In Russia, the people continued to take to the streets, demanding democratic reforms and abolishing the Communist Party. By the end of the year, the democratic revolutions taking place across the shattered Soviet Union brought a major geopolitical change – the implosion of this Evil Empire and its dissolution that concluded the Cold War. Thirty years on, we should reflect on why the road to democracy, freedom, pluralism, and development has differed so much among the former Soviet Republics. The three Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, are textbook examples of a successful transformation as fully-fledged democracies, Member States of the European Union and NATO. Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova have been less consistent and, therefore, successful on their path towards reforms. Their association status with the European Union, leading to further political association and economic integration, has become an important catalyst of determined reform efforts. All the while, in Russia and Belarus, the sparks of hope ignited thirty years ago are being extinguished, as we witness daily the dreadful deterioration of the situation: the lack of respect for human rights, systemic and brutal oppression of press freedoms and democratic forces, using disinformation, attempts to rewrite history and the neglect of international law. With the consolidation of Putin’s power, there have been growing attempts to maintain control over the former Soviet Republics in what Russia sees as its ‘sphere of influence.’ As illustrated in Georgia, in 2008, and in Ukraine, in 2014, Russia is prepared to use threats, political pressure, and military intervention. The EPP Group strongly condemns these actions and takes a stand against the efforts of Russia to exercise its power in former Soviet Republics and beyond. We strongly believe that a principle of peaceful co-existence between countries is based on their free right to choose their own path and destiny without pressure or interference from abroad. Therefore, this anniversary deserves special consideration: for the hopes and aspirations of the individuals who stood against these last-ditch attempts to maintain totalitarianism, for the victims of these and other past events orchestrated by the Soviet Communist regime, for the nations that have, and continue to, struggle for independence under the yoke of Russian imperialism and for the people who, despite all setbacks, continue to carry the aspirations of freedom and democracy in their hearts. The European Union has a particular responsibility, as a model of peaceful integration and reconciliation, to promote and safeguard democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law outside its borders. It will support the not yet fulfilled aspirations of millions of citizens of the former USSR. │

NOTE TO EDITORS

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 179 Members from all EU Member States

Other related content