Vlad Lupan: The 1991 putsch could not have stopped the nationalization and independence process

The Soviet putsch attempt of 19 August 1991, also known as the "August putsch", was an attempt by a group of Soviet communist conservatives to oust President Mikhail Gorbachev from power and take control of the former country. The leaders of the puchists were radical communists who felt that Gorbachev's reforms had gone too far and that the new union treaty was diminishing the power of the central government too much, while increasing the power of republican governments. Although the putsch failed after only three days and Gorbachev returned to power, the event nullified any chance of keeping the Soviet Union in a less centralized form.

Moldova's former ambassador to the UN, Vlad Lupan, shared his thoughts on the matter on Moldova's independence anniversary. According to him, the 19 August 1991 Moscow putsch was a turning point that national leaders took the responsibility to cross. This event opened a broad process towards independence for all former Soviet republics. The putsch could not have stopped the independence process of the former USSR republics. In fact, it was the last seizure in the USSR break-up process.

According to Vlad Lupan, the putsch had already taken place after the various union republics sought independence. At the time of the putsch, the outcome could have been either the maintenance of an authoritarian-totalitarian USSR, with possible massive repression, or, as it happened, the continuation of the independence gaining processes. Thus, even the Russian leader, Boris Yeltsin, was involved in the deconstruction of the putsch and the independence of his republic, and later became President of the Russian Federation.

The roots of the putsch can be traced back to the "Perestroika" processes initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev. According to Lupan, the organizers of the coup noticed that the changes following the "Perestroika" led, at some point, to a change in the balance of power between Moscow and the Republics, which set in motion centrifugal processes within the USSR. These could have led to the eventual break-up of the Soviet Union and the emergence of independent states. In this respect, the pucists reacted, after years of Perestorika, by initiating the putsch, which attempted to halt the process of democratization and decentralization, which they saw as a process of losing power.

The former Moldovan ambassador to the UN also believes that one of the consequences of the internal struggle within the USSR was the creation of a separatist movement on the territory of Moldova to stop the independence movement. Thus, according to Lupan, the pucists received support from the separatist Transnistrian region. At the same time, although the Baltic states were clearly on the path to independence even before the putsch, the Republic of Moldova and other states declared their independence only after the joint meeting of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The fact that the Baltics were moving towards independence regardless of the putsch shows that the putsch would not have changed the processes of break-up and independence for the union republics. In fact, it can be said that the coup accelerated the break-up of the USSR.

Vlad Lupan suggested that, following the 1991 events, Moldova had achieved to break away from an authoritarian system. However, the process was not unequivocal. The break-up of the USSR was deplored by a part of the population, whose income has increased during the last years of the USSR, albeit modestly. As a result, we can observe today how this part of society votes for political parties that are perceived as representatives of that past. Independence, in an objective way, was followed by serious economic repercussions. The population and the country went through an economic crisis and became poorer as a result of the demise of the unsustainable command economy. This inevitable, transitional element was used in their electoral policy by the parties that emerged from the Soviet period - the Communists and the Socialists. Thus, the transition, presented as a collapse of the economy, was used in an attempt to prove that democracy was a bad thing for Moldovan citizens, by those forces that are de facto linked to Moscow.

Following the independence processes, even before the putsch, the Transnistrian conflict arose. Vlad Lupan, who was a negotiator for this conflict, considers it a geopolitical conflict, designed to keep Moldova initially under USSR control, and later under Russian control. In the end it "is a 'successful' project of the Russian Federation," he said. The presence of Russian military troops on the country's territory to date confirms this.

The former Moldovan ambassador to the UN said that the break-up of the USSR also had positive aspects, which were very important for the country. The first would be the independence of this state. In an interdependent world, Moldova has achieved greater independence than before. This new state has not yet learnt to negotiate properly, being a small and inexperienced country, while the governments have not learnt to govern yet. Salaries have increased, but they are not enough. A good part of the population has left the country, yet at the same time borders have been opened for studies and work. Emigrants subsidize the country's economy and, at least partially, will return. According to Vlad Lupan, the country is on a certain path of progress, even if it is a very difficult one.

As for the immediate priorities of European integration and good relations with its partners, the relationship with neighboring countries and in particular with Romania is important for Moldova, as Romania is Moldova's number one economic partner in the European Union. Additionally, Moldova's western neighbor is a member of the EU and NATO and a good advocate for Moldova in Brussels. Bucharest would be best placed to help Moldova through this extended transition period.

Vlad Lupan concluded that 30 years after the Moscow putsch, followed by Moldova's independence, both internal and external developments still depend on the political will and the government's ability to implement real reform.

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