The Retreat: The Silent Guns of August

Though the army held its fire, it faces a leadership shake-up and a further erosion of power and influence

Throughout Soviet history, Kremlin leaders have taken special care to prevent the army from interfering in the nation's internal politics. Yet the new order being established by Mikhail Gorbachev was not the kind that soldiers were accustomed to living with. Pulled out of Afghanistan, shown the door in Eastern Europe, beset by shrinking defense outlays, low pay and ethnic tensions, the army smarted under the changes sweeping the U.S.S.R. For the plotters of the coup, such discontent seemed to make the military a logical -- if reluctant -- ally. Its armed might made it an essential one.

But when the moment...

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