Thursday, August 29, 2013
Aug 29 (1991) The Soviet Union is Dead: Long live the Muscovite Billionaire!
"The former union has ceased to exist, and there is no return to it," said Leningrad Mayor Anatoly A. Sobchak on August 29, 1991.
Ten days prior, eight Communist Party hardliners led by Soviet Vice President Gennady Yanayev led a three day coup d'etat and ousted President Mikhail Gorbachev. Despite tanks in the streets of Moscow, thousands of people demonstrated against the takeover, including the democratically elected president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin. Mr Yeltsin ended the coup in dramatic fashion by climbing atop a tank outside the Russian parliament.
Time magazine called Mr. Yeltsin's resistance movement "a kind of miracle, the reversal of a thousand years of autocracy." Seven of the eight coup plotters were eventually arrested--one committed suicide.
Today, Russia (the USSR's successor) is the eighth largest economy in the world. Economic reforms after the fall of the Soviet Union privatized many sectors. The transition was controversial in part because ownership was transferred from the state to politically connected oligarchs, leaving wealth highly concentrated. As of 2011, Russia's capital, Moscow, had the highest number of billionaires of any city in the world.