Carnegie Council Project Offers New Insights into the Final Years of the Cold War

August 18, 2011

Yeltsin speaking near the Council of Ministers building,
August 19, 1991. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons


August 19th marks the 20th anniversary of the 1991 coup d'état attempt by Communist hard-liners against the government of reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, an event that many believe was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.

Yet although two decades have now passed since the Soviet Union's collapse, the full story of the end of the Cold War has yet to be told.

In late 2010, U.S. Global Engagement Program Director David C. Speedie launched a series of interviews in Moscow with leading Russian dissidents and also with U.S. foreign policymakers who played a role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Throughout the winter of 2010/2011, he recorded thought-provoking discussions with Russian parliamentary "reformers" and aides to Boris Yeltsin, as well as Americans who trained and collaborated with these Russian influentials. Working hand-in-hand with high-profile public dignitaries such as Yeltsin, these individuals worked from behind the scenes to effect change, making the decisions and reaching the agreements that ultimately led to the Soviet Union's collapse.

Speakers include Gavriil Popov, the first democratically elected mayor of Moscow, and several of his appointees; U.S. Ambassador Jack Matlock, whom Popov enlisted to help prevent the coup; and John Exnicios, former vice president of the Krieble Institute, who played a key role in training Russian dissidents.

Here are the interviews (with speakers in alphabetical order):

Gennady Burbulis on the Dissolution of the USSR
Burbulis was one of the drafters and signers of the 1991 Belavezha Accords, which declared the Soviet Union effectively dissolved. In this interview he discusses the significance of the Accords, his close association with Yeltsin, and the role of the Krieble Institute. (Transcript)

John Exnicios on Training USSR Dissidents
David Speedie interviews John Exnicios, former vice president of the Krieble Institute. Exnicios played a lead role in training Russian dissidents in the last years of the Soviet Union. (Video, audio, transcript)

Thomas E. Graham on the End of the Cold War and Beyond
Graham discusses the turbulent period of the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s in Russia, including the relationship between Yeltsin and Gorbachev and the role of other prominent people of the time. He goes on to analyze the post-Cold-War multi-polar world. (Transcript)

Ambassador Jack Matlock on the 1991 Soviet Coup Attempt
Today, almost all Russians are convinced that the U.S. brought down the USSR by military and economic pressure. But this is the opposite of the truth, says U.S. Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock. (Transcript)

Arkady Murashev on "Reforming" the Moscow Police Force (1991-92)
Active in Russian politics since the early days of Perestroika, Arkady Murashev discusses his part in bringing down the Soviet Union and working towards a new form of government. (Video, audio, transcript)

Interview with Gavriil Popov, First Democratically Elected Mayor of Moscow
Gavriil Popov was mayor of Moscow in the turbulent days of the early 1990s, and his key appointees played crucial roles in bringing about the end of the Soviet Union. (Transcript)

Mikhail Reznikov on Working to Bring Democracy to Russia
When Krieble Institute representatives from the U.S. first visited Russia, it was "like a collision of civilizations," recalls Reznikov. He got involved in Russian politics in the heady days of 1989 and worked with the Institute to train people across Russia in the workings of democratic elections. (Video, transcript)

Evgeny Savostiyanov on Dismantling the Moscow Communist KGB
Evgeny Savostiyanov was one of two key appointments, along with Arkady Murashev, made by "reformist" Mayor Gavriil Popov during his brief tenure as mayor of Moscow from 1990-92. Savostiyanov was made head of the Moscow KGB, with a view to "dismantling" the old Soviet-era version. (Video, audio, transcript)

Alexandr Urmanov on Democratic Elections and Campaigning for Yeltsin
Urmanov recalls his relationship with Yeltsin—he directed his presidential campaign in 1989/1990—and with the Krieble Institute, which trained Russians in election techniques. Urmanov brought Institute staff to the Urals, formerly off-limits to foreigners, and they invited him to the U.S. (Transcript)