Grigory Yavlinsky: a coup is started by idealists and controlled by rascals
These days Russia celebrates the anniversary of the events of October 1993. Twenty years ago a bloody confrontation took place in the Russian capital and only miracle helped to avoid a civil war. RBC correspondents spoke to the participants in those events about who was right, what people were dying for and who was to blame in their death. On the night from October 3 to October 4 Grigory Yavlinsky made a televised appeal to President Boris Yeltsin to “suppress the rebellion with the utmost responsibility,” while at the same time he criticized the statement made by Yegor Gaidar who called Muscovites to go out into the streets to defend democracy.
RBC: What is the first thing you recall when it comes to the events that happened 20 years ago?
Grigory Yavlinsky: The most important thing is its reason – why all this happened. And the reason of this was how the so-called reforms were carried out in 1992. Then there was hyperinflation. There was also a confiscatory [monetary] reform when all personal savings were wiped out.
In autumn 1991 Boris Yeltsin obtained unlimited powers on the wave of frantic populism, the Congress [of People’s Deputies] voted [for this], and he had the proxies for conducting reforms. In 1992 there was hyperinflation, and economic chaos came, and in the spring of 1993 people began asking questions, “Why did this happen? What to do now? How can we survive?”. Those who carried out the reform (they were called ‘young reformers’ then) did not know what to say. So the only thing they could say was, ” You are anti-reformist forces, you are against the reforms, you do not understand anything and you are enemies”. The confiscatory reform and the rejection of a dialogue led to confrontation and virtually to a civil war. In 1993 a civil war began. Fortunately it was over very quickly, but it had a huge potential to turn into a nation-wide tragedy. And it was a tragedy, because a lot of people died in Moscow, but its scope of this could have been much greater.
And today we can still observe sliding into a hysterical populism without any desire to discuss the content, the meanings and programmes. This is very similar to what there was then. And this is one of the lessons that would be worth to learn so that not to repeat.
RBC: Do you think it was possible to avoid casualties then?
Grigory Yavlinsky: This is the second lesson of those events. To avoid casualties it was necessary so that the people who were in the White House (Ed. The Russian Government’s House) would abolish the armed confrontation and go to the polls as envisaged by [Boris Yeltsin’s] Decree No 1,400. I tried to convince [Vice President] Alexander Rutskoi [who was opposing Yeltson] to do it. And he answered me that he did not control the situation. Vice President said that there are so many armed men who had emerged from nowhere and that there was such an atmosphere that even if he took some decision, he [Rutskoi] would not be able to do anything about it. Because neither he, nor Ruslan Khasbulatov [Speaker of the Parliament opposing Boris Yeltsin], as Rutskoi said, could control the situation which had developed there.
It is also a lesson: those plotting forceful action must realise that shortly after the situation gets out of control, then it is controlled by completely different people, as a rule, all sorts of villains. So the plotting is done by idealists and fanatics, but the control is taken by villains and scoundrels.
If they [Rutskoi and Khasbulatov] had come out [of the besieged parliament], they would have got a large percentage of vote at the election, but they preferred an armed collision. It led to a large number of casualties.
Also [Prime Minister] Yegor Gaidar’s calling people to come out into the streets which was broadcasted by TV led to victims. People were unarmed, there were lots of snipers in the streets, and there really was fire. It was unclear then who was who, everyone was dressed in about the same, and it was unclear who was on which side. People who were sent into the streets to defend the reforms they suffered from were unarmed. But most importantly, there a lot of teenagers ran out into the streets (the weather was good, not like we are having today), and they ran to the White House and to the Ostankino Television Centre. I do not know the exact numbers, but there were very many casualties.
RBC: Were you afraid then?
Grigory Yavlinsky: It was unpleasant. I was in the streets, in the television centre, only not in the Ostankino Television Centre, but in the Yamskaya Street. I was not alone there, but with my friends. It was absolutely obvious that measure should have be taken immediately so that to suppress the outbreak of a civil war.
And also I thought that a parliamentary investigation was required. It was a programme issue for me. It was the first time then when my party was participating in the elections, and we set forth our programme demand to conduct a parliamentary investigation into how this could happen. In my opinion, the main responsibility was lying on President Yeltsin, because he was the strongest side, he was the authority, he had the task to prevent all of this, rather than being talked into something or against someone. But the authorities agreed with the Communists and eliminated the investigative commission via amnesty. They conducted an amnesty, let everyone out, closed the topic, but never investigated it, the perpetrators were not identified and the reasons were not explained. And it is also one of the lessons that if things are not investigated, explained or assessed, than the ghosts may come to life again and they go on living. No one has attempted up to now to investigate this, because everyone feels guilty. Someday, historians will study the causes of these events, this tragedy, and there were only a few such tragedies in modern Russian history, but no one wants to study them, so they go on existing.
RBC: And can people go out into the streets under bullets now so that to protect ideas or they have changed for these twenty years?
Grigory Yavlinsky: Anything can happen. It is the responsibility of politicians to avert fratricide. Because then [in 1993] politicians brought the country to such a situation with their populism, erroneous criminal actions, the reforms that insulted and robbed people, their unwillingness to explain anything and rejection of a dialogue. Anyone absolutely anywhere can be brought into such a situation with such actions. If you practice such things, then anything can happen.
Posted: October 9th, 2013 under History.