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University Communications
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20th Anniversary of Soviet Coup: AU Experts Available

Thursday, August 19, through Sunday, August 21, marks the 20th anniversary of the Soviet coup  attempt (sometimes called the “August Coup”) during which members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) attempted to take control from Mikhail Gorbachev.   

Even though the 1991 coup attempt was short lived and Gorbachev remained president, it destabilized the Soviet Union and is widely believed to have led to its dissolution.   

American University faculty experts are available to provide commentary on the coup attempt’s significance. To request an interview, contact AU’s Communications Office at 202-885-5950 or

James Goldgeier,  the new dean of AU’s School of International Service, can discuss what the coup attempt meant for the Soviet Union—especially the battle between Boris Yeltsin and Gorbachev—as well as the George H.W. Bush administration’s response.  An expert on contemporary international relations and American foreign policy, Goldgeier is coauthor of the book Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy toward Russia after the Cold War (Brookings, 2003.)

Anton Fedyashin, assistant professor of history and a specialist in Russian and European history, was in Moscow when the coup attempt happened.  He can discuss the confusion that gripped people in its first stages and then the response to the attempt to take power as people went into the streets. Fedyashin says popular perceptions of Gorbachev and the motivations behind the coup plotters have changed radically since 1991 as many Russians today feel that Gorbachev had gone too far in his reforms and deserved to have been removed, although not necessarily in favor of the men who had planned the coup.

Eric Lohr, associate professor of history, was in Russia the summer of 1991 and was often there the years before and after.  He can put the coup attempt into a broader, historical context. In 2008, Lohr served on the advisory committee on Russian and European affairs for the Hillary Clinton campaign for president. He is a participant in the Dartmouth Conference, a long-standing dialogue to improve relations between the United States and Russia.  He is working on a book on citizenship in Russian history, and another book on Russia during World War I.