When a coup, staged by hardliners, threatened to topple the Soviet Government of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the world held its collective breath as news unfolded by the hour. While news reports kept coming in that Gorbachev had been removed from office, a government set up by military hardliners had taken over and that the reforms which Gorbachev had initiated would be turned back, resistance to the coup began to mount.
And so over the next several days, the drama played out on Moscow’s streets – tanks rolled through, only to be stopped and turned back by crowds. Resistance to the coup was stiffening, being led by President Boris Yeltsin, a man not known too well outside the Soviet Union, and considered by some to be a loose cannon. Yeltsin was successful in gathering support, and together with the support of the people, managed to prevent the coup from taking power.
And on August 21, 1991 it was announced that the coup had lost, the hardline supporters went into hiding, Mikhail Gorbachev was released from house arrest and Boris Yeltsin emerged as a leader to be reckoned with.
Here are excerpts from the events of that day as the story unfolded on August 21, 1991 from NPR, CNN and BBC