The president was widely seen as incompetent, naïve, hostile to the professional experts in the bureaucracy, if not an outright traitor, paid off by the nation’s ancient enemies. The traditional political establishment, the intelligence services, and the career federal police were proven patriots and experts, who saw a tragedy unfolding before their eyes. They and everyone in their circle were increasingly worried over the destruction of the nation’s economy and the dangerous concessions to foreign enemies. He must be stopped.In light of recent domestic events, it is worth remembering the 1991 coup attempt against Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Part of the break occurred in pop culture. In spite of widespread censorship and social pressure not to criticize the regime, a well-developed culture of unofficial news, jokes, and mockery about the “official line” were commonly circulated underground among close friends and family.
By 1989, Soviet control over its neighbors mostly had ended. The Berlin Wall had fallen, Gorbachev agreed to remove Soviet troops from East Germany, and Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan. He faced centrifugal forces at home in the form of separatist movements in Georgia and Lithuania, where Soviet forces had used force against demonstrators in January 1991. The economy was in terrible shape, bled white by its massive defense apparatus, and falling global oil prices. The country looked weak, on the brink of collapse, and traditional Communists blamed the radical programs and bad leadership of Gorbachev. For them, his program, far from bringing peace and prosperity, was a threat both to the country’s strength and independence, as well as their own privileged positions in it.