Moscow During the Soviet Coup

Web-exclusive images from photographer Deborah Copaken Kogan
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Pro-communism

A woman holds up a photo of Lenin at a pro-communist demonstration in Red Square.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Another protester

At a pro-communist rally.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Hunger strikes

Typical breadline in the days of Soviet-era communism.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Out of luck

Alas, the bread store was soon empty, and those who were waiting for hours had to go home empty-handed.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Meet the photographer

This photo of me was taken from the roof of a hotel overlooking St. Basil’s.
Photo courtesy of: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Market place

Perestroika, the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system, Opened up the possibility of free-market entrepreneurship. Anyone with a fold-up table and some produce could run a vegetable store.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Taking a stand

Another makeshift, perestroika-sanctioned vegetable stand, on the side of the road in central Moscow, 1991. Before perestroika, this type of vending would have been illegal.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

At the butcher

A perestroika-sanctioned, market-rate butcher.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Food hazards

Again, perestroika resulted in scenes like this, of cabbages being sold at market-rate prices on the street. Meanwhile, there were no communist-priced cabbages in the government subsidized and owned grocery stores. In the background is a nuclear power plant. This was five years after the Chernobyl disaster, and many Muscovites would bring Geiger counters (used to detect ionizing radiation) to shop for vegetables such as these.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Indoctrination

All Soviet-era children became members of the Young Pioneers, a communist youth movement. The red tie was required, as was a badge with a picture of Lenin on it, with a Cyrillic inscription underneath that read, "Always ready!" My husband, Paul, was a Young Pioneer as a child. When he emigrated, he made a stopover in Italy, where he was deprogrammed from the Soviet propaganda he’d been taught. These Young Pioneers are standing in front of Gum on Red Square.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Babuschkas

Babushkas (grandmothers) on a Moscow street.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Disorderly conduct

Police arrest a drunk man at a perestroika-era rock concert.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

A sense of place

This is me, photographing and chatting with Russian youth, who are eager to hear stories of the outside world.
Photo courtesy of: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Mingling

Me, with street vendors.
Photo courtesy of: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Before the coup

Before the tanks rumbled down Gorky Street and the coup began, Muscovites gathered in the streets to try to gather information. On TV, which was controlled by the Soviet government, Swan Lake was playing on every channel, so they had to rely on transistor radios like these to hear outside news of what was happening right in their city.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

The tanks roll in

On the first day of the coup, August 19, 1991, protesters stop a government tank in Manezhnaya Ploshad.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Scolding the soldiers

Even during the first hours of the coup, babushkas came out in droves to protest, often telling the young soldiers, "You should be ashamed of yourselves!"
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

At the White House

Protesters in front of the Parliament (White House), where president Boris Yeltsin was holed up during the coup.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Maintaining order

Soldiers block the path of protesters.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Yeltin steps out

Yeltsin, as seen from behind (I’m short, and often got manhandled out of the way by the more muscular photographers) greets his supporters during the coup.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

National pride

A protester plants the Russian flag atop a barricade in front of the White House.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Day 2 of the coup

By this point, many of the soldiers had already switched sides, showing their support of the hard-line communists by placing flowers in the barrels of their weapons. Moscow, August 20th, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Change of heart

Another soldier shows his support of the angry masses.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Building barricades

The Muscovites erected barricades on the ring road encircling Moscow to block the path of the tanks near the White House.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Stopping the tanks

Taxi drivers joined in the protest by ripping their meters from their taxis and tossing them on the ground, hoping that they would jam the treads of the tanks.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Youth experience

Two Muscovite girls climb on a tank parked in front of Red Square.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Standing by

A Muscovite couple stand on a barricade on the second day of the coup. Moscow, August 20th, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Escalating violence

A rainy night, the third night of the coup, just prior to my witnessing three casualties. These tanks, sympathetic to the communist hard-liners, tried to push their way through the barricade made of trolley buses, which was less than a mile from the White House. Protesters, standing on each side of the tunnel wall, began throwing Molotov cocktails into the tanks. Chaos ensued. Moscow, August 21st, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Explosives

Protesters blow up the tanks with Molotov cocktails, keeping them from getting through the barricade of trolley buses. These protesters are celebrating having set the tank on fire. Moscow, August 21st, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

On camera

Paul (now my husband), on the third night of the coup. He videotaped the events as I took pictures.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Extreme measures

On the bloody third night of the coup, a man tries to block a tank with his body. Moscow, August 21st, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Tank attacks

Same scene as the prior photo, about fifteen minutes later. Protesters attack the tanks by sheer force of their numbers, climbing on top of them and trying to pull the tank commanders out of their holes. Moscow, August 21st, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

A bloody death

A victim of the Soviet Coup. Moscow, August 21st, 1991.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

After the coup

The day after the failed coup, a Soviet solder walks through a rainy Red Square.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Unusual sight

Days after the coup, children play on a fallen statue of Stalin, banging his nose with a hammer, a sight unimaginable a week earlier.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Imitating Lenin

A photo taken by my husband, Paul. I’m mimicking Lenin in front of a Lenin statue. Exact location unknown, but probably in the city of Tashkent in Uzbekistan, 1991.
Photo by: Paul Kogan

Fighting the Russian mafia

After the coup, the Russian mafia became a huge issue in Moscow. These soldiers entered a restaurant where alleged mafia members were dining, and attacked those responsible for a wave of crime.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

The post-coup economy

It was grim for some, as inflation skyrocketed. Some pensioners were forced to sell their own personal effects, in order to be able to eat.
Photo by: Deborah Copaken Kogan

Soldiering on

Me, at a military academy in Moscow. *TO READ DEBORAH’S ESSAY ABOUT RETURNING TO MOSCOW TO INTRODUCE HER HUSBAND TO HIS LONG-LOST FATHER, CLICK HERE*
Photo courtesy of: Deborah Copaken Kogan

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