Yeltsin's Big Gamble

Fighting opponents of reform, the Russian President claims special powers, orders a popular referendum and plunges the country into a fateful crisis

JUST A COUPLE OF HOURS BEFORE Boris Yeltsin was scheduled to address the Russian people last Saturday, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union, attended a reception at the Moscow Writers' Club. "My wish to the Russian President," he said, "is to take the initiative in his own hands." Few knew better than Gorbachev the fate of those who failed to show courage at the decisive moment: when the August coup of 1991 collapsed after three days, Gorbachev chose to closet himself in the Kremlin instead of rushing out to the barricades and embracing the man who had stood...

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