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Friday, 21 August 2015

What If: The August Coup had succeeded?

From the 19th August to the 21st August 1991 a failed coup took place in Moscow. Since his rise to power in 1985 the General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev had been enacting his reforms of perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (openness). These reforms were meant to reinvigorate the stagnating Soviet economy, allow increased freedom of speech and lessened government controls over people's lives. He even re approached the United States which helped end the Cold War and gave more independence to the USSR's puppet communist states in Europe such as East Germany and Czechoslovakia. However these reforms had little success as Gorbachev tried to keep communism meaning that the economy could not grow and many conservative Soviet officials became irate over Gorbachev's reforms. The public became more angry as the new open government policy exposed the weaknesses of the Soviet economy and the USSR was slowly breaking up with the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) declaring their independence and Russia declaring it had increased sovereignty. In the August of 1991 eight leading officials including the USSR's Vice-President and the Chairman of the KGB formed the State Committee on the State of Emergency, the GKChP, with the intention of overthrowing the government. They placed Gorbachev under house arrest in Crimea and attempted to overthrow the government. However quick acting by Boris Yeltsin allowed the public to oppose the coup. When the coup failed its leaders were arrested and later that year the USSR collapsed. What if the coup had succeeded though?

The coup succeeds
One of the main reasons why the coup failed was the conspirators failed to arrest the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Russia Boris Yeltsin (he held the equivalent role of a state governor). Yeltsin informed two leading figures, Ivan Silayev the Prime Minister of the Supreme Soviet of Russia and the Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, who in turn informed the public. In this scenario Yeltsin is arrested by the plotters before he could leave his summer home. After Yeltsin is placed under house arrest the early hours of the 19th would be the same as it was in our timeline where the GKChP takes control of the Soviet television and radios as well as the only independent radio Ekho Moskvy. Caught unawares Ivan Silayev and Ruslan Khasbulatov are arrested as they try to get to the White House, the Soviet workplace of the Russian Prime Minister. Small level protests would emerge demanding the release of Silayev and Khasbulatov as well as for Gorbachev to address the nation but these would be minuscule to what protests were like in our timeline. The next day the head of the GKChP who was also the Vice President, Gennady Yanayez, is declared the General Secretary after Gorbachev's 'resignation thanks to ill health'. The Defense Minister, Dmitry Yazov, calls for the army to support the Yanayez government and the KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov forbids the resignation of any KGB agents after many quit because of the coup. Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Silayev and Khasbulatov are forced to resign officially and are all placed under house arrest with the official story that they had to resign through family problems, ill health and possibly even political corruption. The last of the protesters are rounded up after martial law is declared in Moscow ending what is left of anti-coup protests. The coup has succeeded.

Following the coup
Following the coup the GKChP would try to reestablish dominance over the whole of the Soviet Union. The military would be sent to the Baltics, Moldova and Georgia to brutally suppress the independence movements and the leaders of the movements themselves would either be executed or sent to prisons. With the ease of communication that had arisen during the 1990s these would be internationally condemned. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union communism had fallen in the USSR's puppet states with East Germany reunifying with the West, the Velvet Revolution ousting communism from Czechoslovakia and the Romanian Communist Party being dissolved following the execution of its General Secretary Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. It would be unlikely that the new Soviet government would be able to reinstate control over these nations. However they would seek out Yugoslavia as an ally who was collapsing thanks to ethnic tensions, something that would lead to genocide. North Korea and China would also offer closer partnerships with the new Soviet government, China especially who had managed to end its own protest for democracy following the Tiananman Massacre. Relations with the USA would break down and the work that had been done during the 1980s to ease tensions would be undone as the Soviet government starts rearming. Criticisms from President Bush on the coup and crackdown on protesters would infuriate the new USSR. They in turn would criticize the USA on the Gulf War and its funding of contras in Nicaragua and mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan. Both nations would rearm. Instead of ending the Cold War it would fire up again.

Domestic USSR
Parades in Red Square showing the USSR's missiles would become common again during the 1990s and the 2000s as a gesture of force in the continued Cold War. Like in the 1950s when the Cold War was very intense the Soviet Union would spend most of its GDP on the military. Instead of nuclear missiles though most of the weapons would be ballistic missiles and drones as the face of warfare changed. During the Gorbachev years the USSR went through a period of decentralization as each state of the USSR (Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan) all gained increased sovereignty. Under the new government the increased sovereignty would be stripped off of them, possibly even more so in the Baltics, Georgia and Moldova who openly declared their independence. Each state, or republic, would be allowed to create their own laws but the law could only be ratified with the Kremlin's say so. Similarly the republics would be forced to pass any law that came from the Kremlin. The Soviet people would be able to see a rising economy and a better standard of living. The USSR, specifically Russia, had tonnes of raw resources such as coal, natural gas and oil which previously the Soviet government used to keep the economies of communist puppets going. No puppets means that all the natural resources could be used to trade with China and the EU. However with so much money being spent on the military most citizens would be unable to prosper as none of it would be going their way. The Russian oligarchs and monopolies would not exist in this timeline as a communist regime meant full control of businesses and the economy rested with the government. The massive economic collapse in Russia and the new republics following the dissolution of the USSR would not happen which in turn means that the Russian Mafia would remain small. The mafia grew exponentially as it thrived on the economic collapse so no collapse means that the mafia would remain small.

Censorship would return full force to the Soviet Union. The independent radio Ekho Moskvy would be outlawed and if it somehow managed to survive it would only be able to broadcast in secret. Literature deemed to be anti-communist or critical of the government would be banned along with any other media forms. The dancer Baryshnikov for one would be unable to return due to him being made an official US citizen. Today in Russia there has been a revival of the Orthodox religion following the breakup of the USSR which would not happen in this scenario. Religion was widely persecuted in the USSR so the persecution of the Orthodox church would continue as well as Islam in republics where Islam was the primary religion. Right wing politics gaining ground in Russia would never gain root thanks to the one-party communist state forbidding any other idea other than communism from getting into the USSR. Homosexuality was illegal in the USSR so likely homosexuals in the USSR would be more persecuted than they are today. When the internet gets invented it would be likely that the Soviet Union installs a firewall similar to that which China has today. In China foreign websites such as YouTube and Facebook cannot be accessed thanks to this firewall unless through the deep web so likely to reduce foreign influence the USSR would have a similar firewall.

A Cold War in the 2000s
In regards to US politics Bush would likely lose the 1992 election still. Criticism from Republicans about not doing enough to counteract the USSR and criticism from the Democrats for allowing the Cold War to return would allow Clinton to win. However in the USA there would be less welfare programs, including Obama Care if he manages to win the 2008 election in this timeline. From 1950-1985 many social welfare projects were criticized for being socialist and not passed due to the friction with the USSR. This could easily be repeated. Following 9/11 a US led invasion of Afghanistan would turn into a proxy war. The USSR would fund anti-American fighters in an ironic twist of fate considering that the US funded anti-Soviet fighters during the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1988). Vladimir Putin would never come to power. In our timeline he resigned from the KGB in protest of the coup which helped him progress his career. In this timeline his resignation would stop him from being a leading figure. The current Ukrainian crisis would not happen as there would be no independent Ukraine but the USA and USSR would still disagree over Europe. The former communist nations such as Poland and Romania would be even more eager to join the EU and NATO to escape from the shadow cast by the USSR. Castro's Cuba would be a bigger ally to the USSR than it was during the 1980s thanks to the re-ignition of the Cold War. The current talks between Obama and Castro thus would not happen. The USSR would be a growing power having its biggest trade partners with the EU and China but would remain one of the most authoritarian governments in existence. 

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