A Breakdown of Civil-Military Relations: The Soviet Coup of 1991

Heinrich Matthee


In August 1991 a Committee for State Emergencies, consisting of the minister of defence and the chief of the KGB, ousted Mikhail Gorbachev from power in the Soviet Union. The coup was important for several reasons. The platoons of tanks that moved in Moscow's streets ended a long tradition of obedience by the Soviet military to the civilian Communist Party. In addition, the military coup also marked a decisive shift in the foundation of civilian control in the Soviet Union.

By analysing Soviet civil-military relations before the coup, this essay tries to determine how the military became involved in the coup. The essay then seeks to determine whether different theoretical frameworks, mostly based on American experience, could explain the breakdown of civil-military relations in the Soviet Union.


Civil-Military Relations; The Soviet Coup of 1991; Committee for State Emergencies; Soviet Union; Soviet military; Communist Party; breakdown of civil-military relations in the Soviet Union; Mikhail Gorbachev; KGB

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/29-0-185


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Copyright (c) 2018 Heinrich Matthee

ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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