Gennady Yanayev

Gennady Ivanovich Yanayev (Russian: Генна́дий Ива́нович Яна́ев; 26 August 1937 – 24 September 2010) was a Soviet politician who served as the first and only Vice President of the Soviet Union. Yanayev's political career spanned the rules of Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko, and culminated during the Gorbachev years. Yanayev was born in Perevoz, Gorky Oblast. After years in local politics, he rose to prominence as Chairman of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, but he also held other lesser posts such as deputy of the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

Gennady Yanayev
Gennady Yanayev.jpg
Acting President of the Soviet Union
In office
19 August 1991 – 21 August 1991
Preceded byMikhail Gorbachev
Succeeded byMikhail Gorbachev
Vice President of the Soviet Union
In office
27 December 1990 – 4 September 1991[1]
PresidentMikhail Gorbachev
Preceded byAnatoly Lukyanov (as vice head of state)
Succeeded byNone (post abolished)
Chairman of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions
In office
April – July 1990
Preceded byStepan Shalaev
Succeeded byNone (post abolished)
Full member of the 28th Politburo
In office
14 July 1990 – 31 January 1991
Secretary of the 28th Central Committee
In office
14 July 1990 – 31 January 1991
Personal details
Born(1937-08-26)26 August 1937
Perevoz, Gorky Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died24 September 2010(2010-09-24) (aged 73)
Moscow, Russia
Political partyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union (1962–1991)

Due to his chairmanship of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, in 1990 he gained a seat in the 28th Politburo and Secretary of the Central Committee. Later that year, on 27 December, with the help of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yanayev was elected the first, and only, Vice President of the Soviet Union. Having growing doubts about where Gorbachev's reforms were leading, Yanayev started working with, and eventually formally leading, the Gang of Eight, the group which deposed Gorbachev during the August 1991 coup d'état attempt. After three days, the coup collapsed, in part due to Western backing of Boris Yeltsin, but during its brief grip of power Yanayev was made Acting President of the Soviet Union. He was then arrested for his role in the coup, but in 1994 he was pardoned. He spent the rest of his life working in the Russian tourism administration until his death on 24 September 2010.

Early life and careerEdit

Yanayev was born on 26 August 1937 in the town of Perevoz, Gorky Oblast during the administration of Joseph Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[2] He graduated from the Gorky Institute of Agriculture in 1959. After graduation he worked as the head of a mechanised agricultural unit and later as a chief engineer in the Gorky Oblast. He applied and officially became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1962.[3] From 1963 to 1968, he held the positions of second, and subsequently first, secretary of the Gorky Komsomol, and later became Chairman of the Committee of Youth Organisations, which he held for 12 years.[4] From 1980 to 1986 he was Deputy Chairman of the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. He became Secretary for International Affairs of All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions in 1986 and became Deputy Chairman of the trade unions in 1989. In April 1990 he was elected Chairman of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions.[5] As chairman of the trade unions, he was not able to quell the growing labour discontent in the country, but his position granted him a seat in the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU)[6] at the 28th CPSU Congress (held in 1990), alongside his election as Secretary of the Central Committee.[7]

Vice PresidentEdit

On 27 December 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev proposed Yanayev as Vice President of the Soviet Union. He was Gorbachev's third choice for the post; Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev had turned the offer down.[8]

Yanayev had initially been rejected by the Supreme Soviet, but he was finally approved by a second vote due to Gorbachev's insistence, (by a vote of 1237 for to 563 against), only days after Shevardnadze had resigned from office due to Gorbachev's willingness to give leeway to conservatives. Yanayev said after the vote "I am a Communist to the depths of my soul."[9] Some weeks after Yanayev's election, a senior Soviet official described Yanayev as "Gorbachev's Quayle—a conservative nonentity, no threat to Gorbachev, and his selection would pacify the right-wing".[9] At the beginning of January 1991, Yanayev headed a committee working on the formation of a new cabinet.[10] Later, he was sent to the Soviet city of Kuznetsk to negotiate with a newly formed independent trade union, making this the first time since 1917 that a Russian government official had negotiated with a trade union. However, after gaining the attention of the Soviet government, the unionists withdrew their plans for a strike.[11]

August CoupEdit

Shortly after taking office, Yanayev joined a group of more conservative Communist politicians, led by KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, who hoped to persuade Gorbachev to declare a state of emergency.[12][13]

After Gorbachev announced his proposal for a New Union Treaty to form the Union of Sovereign States, as a reorganisation of the Soviet Union into a new confederation, he went on vacation to his dacha in the Crimea. Believing that this new Union treaty would lead to the disintegration of the USSR, the State Committee of the State of Emergency placed Gorbachev under house arrest on 19 August, one day before the treaty was due to be signed. On that same day the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) issued the coup plotters' decree, which stated: "Owing to the conditions of his health, Mikhail Gorbachev is no longer capable of carrying on the duties of the President of the USSR. In accordance with article 127, clause 7 of the USSR constitution, Vice President Gennady Yanayev has assumed the duties of the President of the USSR."[14] The decree made references to the growing problems facing the country such as ethnic tensions, political confrontations and chaos, which according to the coup leaders threatened the very existence of Soviet life and the territorial integrity of the USSR.[15][16] Yanayev further claimed that the danger of collapse was imminent, and if the economic situation was not handled quickly, the Soviet Union would collapse. In addition, Yanayev and the rest of the state committee ordered the Cabinet of Ministers to alter the then current five-year plan to relieve the housing shortage. All city-dwellers were given one third of an acre each to combat winter food shortages by growing fruit and vegetables.[17]

When asked about Gorbachev, Yanayev replied "Let me say that Mikhail Gorbachev is now on vacation. He is undergoing treatment, himself, in our country. He is very tired after these many years and he will need some time to get better."[17] At a press conference Yanayev's hands were shaking rather violently, leading many journalists to focus on Yanayev's apparent drunkenness instead of Gorbachev's allegedly bad health.[18]

On 19 August, citizens of Moscow gathered around Russia's White House and began to erect barricades around it, in which at 16:00 Yanayev responded by declaring a state of emergency in Moscow.[19][20] Yanayev declared at the press conference at 17:00 that Gorbachev was "resting". He said: "Over these years he has become very tired and needs some time to get his health back." Yanayev said the Emergency Committee was committed to continuing his reforms. However, Yanayev's weak posture, trembling hands and shaky expressions made his words unconvincing.[19] On August 21, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, chaired by the heads of the chambers of the union parliament, adopted a resolution in which it declared illegal the actual dismissal of President Gorbachev from his duties and the transfer of them to the country's vice-president and, in this regard, demanded that Vice-President Yanayev cancel the decrees and emergency orders based on them.[21] According to some historians, Yanayev was the most visible and powerful member of the Emergency Committee but was not its mastermind; Kryuchkov has been described as the "heart and soul of the conspiracy". Yanayev only agreed to head the Emergency Committee on 20 August. Along with the other coup leaders, such as Valentin Pavlov and Boris Pugo for instance, Yanayev was dismissed as vice president and later jailed for his crimes against the Soviet state.[22]

In 1993, Moscow weekly Novy Vzglyad quoted Yanayev as admitting that he was drunk when he signed the decree which made him acting president, but saying that inebriation had not affected his judgment.[23] In an interview from 2008, Yanayev said he regretted making himself acting President, further claiming that he was pressured by the more conservative members to sign the documents which declared his own presidency. He described the events of 1991 as a burden for the rest of his life.[2]

Later life and deathEdit

Yanayev was released on recognizance not to leave in January 1993.[24] He was pardoned in 1994.[22] He would eventually become the head of the Department of History and International Relations of the Russian International Academy of Tourism.[2] On 20 September 2010, he fell ill and was hospitalised at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow, where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on 24 September 2010.[25]

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) expressed their condolences to Yanayev's family.[26] Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the CPRF, said of him: "Yanayev lived an interesting, complicated and worthy life."[27] The CPRF officially praised him as "a highly professional specialist [...] a dear and trustworthy comrade".[28] In another statement made by the CPRF, this time on their official website, they claimed: "If they had acted much more decisively, our unified country would have been preserved."[29] He was buried at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery, in a ceremony attended by several prominent CPRF members. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.[30]

Decorations and awardsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Постановление Съезда народных депутатов СССР от 4 сентября 1991 г. N 2390-I "Об освобождении Г. И. Янаева от обязанностей Вице-президента СССР"
  2. ^ a b c Schwirz, Michael (24 September 2010). "Gennadi I. Yanayev, 73, Soviet Coup Plotter, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  3. ^ Громыко Андрей Андреевич (in Russian). hrono. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  4. ^ Steele, Jonathan (26 September 2010). "Gennady Yanayev obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  5. ^ Kulikov, Anton (28 September 2010). "The man, who tried to save the USSR". Pravda Online. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  6. ^ Pry, Peter Vincent (1999). War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 58. ISBN 0-275-96643-7.
  7. ^ Биография Геннадия Янаева: ветеран и инвалид госслужбы (in Russian). Temadnya. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  8. ^ Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. ^ a b Garthoff, Raymond L. (1994). The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. p. 442. ISBN 0-8157-3060-8.
  10. ^ "Mulig at Sjevardnadse forsetter" (in Norwegian). Norwegian News Agency. 7 January 1991.
  11. ^ "Sovjetunionen: gruvearbeidere trekker plan om streik" (in Norwegian). Norwegian News Agency. 3 March 1991.
  12. ^ (in Russian) September 1991 internal KGB report on the involvement of KGB in the coup
  13. ^ (in Russian) "Novaya Gazeta" No. 51 of 23 July 2001 Archived 15 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine (extracts from the indictment of the conspirators)
  14. ^ Указ вице-президента СССР от 18 августа 1991 года
  15. ^ Заявление советского руководства
  16. ^ Neimanis, George J. (1997). The Collapse of the Soviet Empire: A View from Riga. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 76. ISBN 0-275-95713-6.
  17. ^ a b "Russian Reaction". PBS NewsHour. 19 August 1991. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  18. ^ "Gennady Yanayev". The Daily Telegraph. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  19. ^ a b Тоннель на крови (in Russian). nr2. 18 August 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  20. ^ Государственный комитет по чрезвычайному положению в СССР (in Russian). souz. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  21. ^ Постановление Президиума Верховного Совета СССР от 21 августа 1991 года № 2352-I «О неотложных мерах по восстановлению конституционного порядка в стране» [1]
  22. ^ a b "Soviet coup leader Gennady Yanayev dies". BBC News. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  23. ^ "Soviet coup plotter Gennady Yanayev dies at 73". USA Today. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  24. ^ Ъ-Газета — Пресс-конференция по делу ГКЧП
  25. ^ Один из идеологов ГКЧП Геннадий Янаев скончался в московской больнице (in Russian). 24 September 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  26. ^ Янаев перед смертью раскрыл правду о ГКЧП (in Russian). LifeNews. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  27. ^ Antonova, Maria (24 September 2010). "Soviet 1991 coup leader Gennady Yanayev dies at 73". Agence France-Presse. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  28. ^ 24 сентября на 74 году жизни после продолжительной и тяжёлой болезни скончался Геннадий Иванович Янаев // Официальный сайт КПРФ
  29. ^ Gutterman, Steve (24 September 2010). "1991 Russian coup plotter dies". Toronto Sun. Reuters. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  30. ^ "Лидера ГКЧП Янаева похоронили в Москве". LifeNews. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.

Further readingEdit

  • Yanayev, G. I. (2010). GKChP Against Gorbachev: The Last Battle for the USSR. Moscow: Eksmo Algorithm.

External linksEdit