Most likely result of a successful August Coup in the USSR in 1991?

I've been reading some threads on this forum on the August Coup, an attempted 1991 Soviet coup d'état. Communist hardliners tried to seize power from Gorbachev, President and General Secretary of the USSR. They opposed his reforms and the new union treaty, which decentralized a lot of power to the republics. The hard-liners were opposed, mainly in Moscow, by a short but effective campaign of civil resistance led by Yeltsin, who had been both an ally and critic of Gorbachev. This proved a watershed event that resulted in the dissolution of the USSR, despite the coup failing and Gorbachev returning to power.

So suppose the State Committee on the State Emergency, i.e. the plotters, have their get act together and have Gorbachev and Yeltsin mysteriously die of "accidents" or "illness" and no serious campaign of civil resistance gets off the ground in Moscow. What then? In the threats I've read there wasn't a consensus, so I'm proposing a number of scenarios:

1) Short/medium term Soviet survival, peaceful collapse: government and party institutions as well as the Soviet military fall in line with the new leadership in Moscow. The tanks crush separatism in the Baltic States, Moldova, parts of Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. As a return to the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union is untenable, communism still falls peacefully in by the dawn of the 21st century at the latest, probably with the USSR dissolving much like it did historically (despite possible Chinese support).
2) Short term Soviet survival, violent collapse a.k.a. "Mega Yugoslavia": within a matter of months resistance to the cabal of hardliners separatist conflicts erupt which Moscow attempts to suppress violently in a Second Russian Civil War that lasts for years until Russia is too exhausted to carry on. No foreign intervention on behalf of the separatists because the Kremlin has a big red button.
3) Immediate revolution: plotters overthrown, USSR dissolves
4) Immediate revolution v2.0: plotters overthrown, New Union Treaty still goes through
5) Long term Soviet survival: the plotters pull a Deng Xiaoping. In other words, the democratic experiments of Gorbachev are all reversed and the USSR returns to Brezhnev style totalitarianism, but economic reforms are enacted mimicking those of China. Needless to say, Moscow's relations with Beijing become much much closer.
6) Something else, please explain.

Which do you think is most likely?
 
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If anyone knows of any good sources on this topic, I'd like to hear about them. I'm woefully undereducated on this event.

My layman's opinion would be that so long as the government maintains it's authority (which is what I think killed the USSR ultimately) the country can persist despite it's shortcomings.

If separatists have already assumed control of the Baltics, the USSR are going to trigger a crisis if they try to take them back.

The Baltic states aren't like Ukraine or Belarus, they're a rekindling of a decades old unresolved diplomatic conflicts. I don't think their annexations were even properly recognized at any point. In the chaos of the coup, I could definitely see some assurances being tossed toward any of the breakaway countries on the European side of the USSR. Bush wouldn't be shy about flexing muscle if he thought he could get away with it. And at a tender moment, the Soviets might have to let them go.

So... Option 1....and a half, I guess.
 
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The cold war starts up again in the hardliners ignore the problems that Gorbachev was trying to fix
That could lead to serious problems, most likely the economy would collapse and the people would blame them for preventing Gorbachev from trying to fix the problems.
Massive civil unrest, the Soviet military was capable of many things but firing on Soviet civilians would be something the vast majority of the 1990s Soviet military would not do
Soviet special forces would fire on Soviet civilians but they would find themselves in the same boat the Romanian special forces found themselves in, surrounded by a couple hundred thousand really pissed off soldiers
 
That could lead to serious problems, most likely the economy would collapse and the people would blame them for preventing Gorbachev from trying to fix the problems.
It's definitely in for some catastrophic pain, but I'm not so sure that hardliners taking over would make the existing issues worse. Gorbachev has a good reputation as a reformer, but the economic reforms he pursued had a way of adding inefficiencies rather than reducing them. Hardliners might at least restore some of the older ways of economic management. They won't work long term, but short term they might restore some basic stability.

I wish we had a USSR expert on the forum.
 
It's definitely in for some catastrophic pain, but I'm not so sure that hardliners taking over would make the existing issues worse. Gorbachev has a good reputation as a reformer, but the economic reforms he pursued had a way of adding inefficiencies rather than reducing them. Hardliners might at least restore some of the older ways of economic management. They won't work long term, but short term they might restore some basic stability.

I wish we had a USSR expert on the forum.
I agree that the solutions would not work long term that's when the trouble would start
 
It's definitely in for some catastrophic pain, but I'm not so sure that hardliners taking over would make the existing issues worse. Gorbachev has a good reputation as a reformer, but the economic reforms he pursued had a way of adding inefficiencies rather than reducing them. Hardliners might at least restore some of the older ways of economic management. They won't work long term, but short term they might restore some basic stability.

I wish we had a USSR expert on the forum.
No expert, but I was working for one if the big Management Consulting houses in the late 80s. We did quite a lot of work for the Soviets under "Perestroika" and "Konvertskaya" (Gorbachev's attempts to reform and civilianise the economy).

I didn't do any of this work personally, but friends did. What I gathered was that the economy was distorted beyond belief - the ability to destroy value was amazing. So much so I think anything either than collapse wasn't an option.

An example. A colleague was working for a state enterprise that made a titanium honeycomb that was used for military aircraft wings. They needed other markets, and he was advising in finding them. This product was far too expensive and specialised for civil aviation even outside the USSR.

He went back after about three months from his initial engagement to find the management overjoyed. They'd come up with a product that could use their output - skis with a titanium honeycomb core. Fantastically light and stiff.

The problem was, at any volume, they'd sell for about 15% of the market value of the titanium used - never mind all the additional inputs to then block titanium into honeymoon. In other words, it would be more profitable to take the allocation of titanium sent to the factory (at a state determined price. a fraction of the market value) and sell it, than it would be to apply massive amounts of manpower and capital, to turn it into a product worth less than the titanium itself.

Almost every project ended up at that same place. Everything the Soviet system did REDUCED the value of the raw material inputs, and once couldn't be competitive with the outside world.

Eventually, the firm pulled the plug on the work - largely because the Soviets wanted to pay by barter (couldn't earn foreign currency), and we kept getting stiffed on the value of the commodities we were paid in.

Those problems were fundamental and would have cratered the economy sooner or later.
 
No expert, but I was working for one if the big Management Consulting houses in the late 80s. We did quite a lot of work for the Soviets under "Perestroika" and "Konvertskaya" (Gorbachev's attempts to reform and civilianise the economy).

I didn't do any of this work personally, but friends did. What I gathered was that the economy was distorted beyond belief - the ability to destroy value was amazing. So much so I think anything either than collapse wasn't an option.

An example. A colleague was working for a state enterprise that made a titanium honeycomb that was used for military aircraft wings. They needed other markets, and he was advising in finding them. This product was far too expensive and specialised for civil aviation even outside the USSR.

He went back after about three months from his initial engagement to find the management overjoyed. They'd come up with a product that could use their output - skis with a titanium honeycomb core. Fantastically light and stiff.

The problem was, at any volume, they'd sell for about 15% of the market value of the titanium used - never mind all the additional inputs to then block titanium into honeymoon. In other words, it would be more profitable to take the allocation of titanium sent to the factory (at a state determined price. a fraction of the market value) and sell it, than it would be to apply massive amounts of manpower and capital, to turn it into a product worth less than the titanium itself.

Almost every project ended up at that same place. Everything the Soviet system did REDUCED the value of the raw material inputs, and once couldn't be competitive with the outside world.

Eventually, the firm pulled the plug on the work - largely because the Soviets wanted to pay by barter (couldn't earn foreign currency), and we kept getting stiffed on the value of the commodities we were paid in.

Those problems were fundamental and would have cratered the economy sooner or later.
And did the reforms by Gorbachev make these things worse, just continue the downward trend or did they actually help ?
 
And did the reforms by Gorbachev make these things worse, just continue the downward trend or did they actually help ?

Neither. They missed the point, but we're well intentioned. - you know the phrase "Lipstick on a Pig"?

The economy needed to be rebuilt from the ground yup using rational things like price signals. That simply wasn't possible under Gosplan and state direction.
 
The cold war starts up again in the hardliners ignore the problems that Gorbachev was trying to fix
That could lead to serious problems, most likely the economy would collapse and the people would blame them for preventing Gorbachev from trying to fix the problems.
Massive civil unrest, the Soviet military was capable of many things but firing on Soviet civilians would be something the vast majority of the 1990s Soviet military would not do
Soviet special forces would fire on Soviet civilians but they would find themselves in the same boat the Romanian special forces found themselves in, surrounded by a couple hundred thousand really pissed off soldiers

Where did you get this insight from? What makes the Soviet Army deployed against protestors different from the Chinese army deployed to Tiananmen Square?

It's definitely in for some catastrophic pain, but I'm not so sure that hardliners taking over would make the existing issues worse. Gorbachev has a good reputation as a reformer, but the economic reforms he pursued had a way of adding inefficiencies rather than reducing them. Hardliners might at least restore some of the older ways of economic management. They won't work long term, but short term they might restore some basic stability.

I wish we had a USSR expert on the forum.
I agree that the solutions would not work long term that's when the trouble would start

Question is whether the new leadership is able and willing to pull a Deng Xiaoping. Otherwise anything could happen from collapse to giant North Korea. Would the August 1991 plotters be able and willing to reform economically to preserve the communist dictatorship like China did?

Neither. They missed the point, but we're well intentioned. - you know the phrase "Lipstick on a Pig"?

The economy needed to be rebuilt from the ground yup using rational things like price signals. That simply wasn't possible under Gosplan and state direction.

Would an August Coup 1991 USSR be able to do that? If not, what happens the longer stagnation continues?
 
I think I need mention this again. The Soviets cannot pull a Deng because their economies are entirely different from the Chinese! You can't use solutions to different problems on your problems and expect them to work properly!
 
Where did you get this insight from? What makes the Soviet Army deployed against protestors different from the Chinese army deployed to Tiananmen Square?
I was around in 1991
There were several television interviews with Soviet soldiers and they said they would not fire on Soviet citizens
One of the justifications for the Bolshevik revolution that was taught in Soviet schools was that the Tzar's troops had fired on Russian civilians and turned against their own country.
 
I think I need mention this again. The Soviets cannot pull a Deng because their economies are entirely different from the Chinese! You can't use solutions to different problems on your problems and expect them to work properly!

Then what should they have done to fix their economy?

I was around in 1991
There were several television interviews with Soviet soldiers and they said they would not fire on Soviet citizens
One of the justifications for the Bolshevik revolution that was taught in Soviet schools was that the Tzar's troops had fired on Russian civilians and turned against their own country.

OK, but television interviews aren't representative and protesting Soviet citizens could be framed as "fascist agents-provocateurs."
 
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Would an August Coup 1991 USSR be able to do that? If not, what happens the longer stagnation continues?

Absolutely not - central eco comic a long was so integral to the Soviet model it couldn't conceivable be rejected
 
It's definitely in for some catastrophic pain, but I'm not so sure that hardliners taking over would make the existing issues worse. Gorbachev has a good reputation as a reformer, but the economic reforms he pursued had a way of adding inefficiencies rather than reducing them. Hardliners might at least restore some of the older ways of economic management. They won't work long term, but short term they might restore some basic stability.

I wish we had a USSR expert on the forum.

Then what should they have done to fix their economy?

OK, but television interviews aren't representative and protesting Soviet citizens could be framed as "fascist agents-provocateurs."

Absolutely not - central eco comic a long was so integral to the Soviet model it couldn't conceivable be rejected

One thing that the Soviets could have done to fix their economy that was so obvious I still can’t believe they didn’t do it was to *increase. private. agricultural. plots.* Basically do what Deng Xiaoping did with the collective farms in China. For heavens’ sake, even North Korea eventually figured that one out. Kim Jong Un privatized agriculture when he took over and managed to really alleviate the food shortages and get the economy growing at about 4% a year. But the USSR never did it, and the best Gorbachev could come up with his stupid contract worker brigade idea which kept all the inefficiencies and lack of personal incentives from the old system but removed the central direction. It did exactly what Tjakari said, add inefficiencies instead of reduce them.

Private plots were 4% of the USSR’s cultivated land but produced 25-33% of its output. If someone had been smart enough to say hey, let’s make that 4% into 25%, the USSR would have been a net agricultural exporter and would have really improved its balance of payments. It also would have pretty much solved the food shortages towards the end of the USSR, which might have saved it. Historically people in dictatorships will put with most anything right up until the food starts running out. At that point, they get restless, and the USSR wasn’t any different.
 
I was around in 1991
There were several television interviews with Soviet soldiers and they said they would not fire on Soviet citizens
I’ll add that this was not a new phenomenon. In the repression of some domestic riots in the early-60s, Soviet Red Army officers refused orders to repress the rioters and said their men would never obey such orders as well. The Soviets wound up having to use Interior Ministry Paramilitaries instead. The Red Army was utilized as a tool of domestic repression during Lenin and Stalin’s regime in the interwar years (as the sailors at Kronstadt found out to their cost), but during and after WW2 the military seems to have developed the viewpoint that it was defender of the Soviet State and Motherland against it’s external enemies, but not it’s domestic ones. For some reason, the coup’d’tat plotters did not seem to have taken that into account but what I’ve read about them indicates they were pretty out of touch in general.
 
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I don’t think anyone’s mentioned the Eastern Europe factor yet. That horse is already out of the barn. It’s going to circumscribe Soviet foreign policy options to a large extent, and it’s going to fuel Western reaction. Enough so that I think the West is going to at least get muscular on the Baltic States, which nobody’s going to empty the silos over.

A delegitimized Soviet government, for any length of time, is going to see a NATO and EU* bulwark pop up on its doorstep in a minute.

*Sure, plenty of other factors to consider when talking about EU membership. But there are still ways to signal greater support for European integration given a situation where you don’t have to worry about keeping the Soviets happy, at least up to the point where they launch nukes. And again, I don’t think they’re going to be secure enough at home to make that judgment over the fate of the Warsaw Pact any more than they would for the Baltics.
 
I think that 1991 was very much the wrong time for the plotters - 4 years too late at least. As such, I can't imagine their act being well received by anyone. If they lack the legitimacy, then even if they somehow secure the loyalty of the whole army (which in OTL they very much did not have), I don't see how they can govern.

Also, I don't see external actors reacting well to this either. The Bush administration is full of people who either want to crush Russia before this obvious ruse of pretending to collapse reaches its sinister conclusion, or people who just want as much stability as they can get. Which I can't see the coup leaders providing. The USSR's neighbours all had some degree of trust in Gorbachev at this point, so a coup throwing him out wouldn't be welcomed by any of them either.

I expect the outcome will be a few weeks or months of attempts to stabilize the coup regime, which probably fail. Especially since I don't really think the coup plotters had the required vision and leadership skills.

fasquardon
 
I was thinking about this recently. The problem here is that IOTL the coup collapsed within a few days. To get a successful coup, you need to raise the level of competence of the coup plotters to actually pull off a coup. Once you raise their level of competence, they can probably hold the Soviet Union, including the Baltics, together afterwards.

I think the Warsaw Pact and Communist Eastern Europe is gone anyway by 1991, though maybe not if you move the date of the coup up to 1987 as part of the POD. However, the Eastern European protectorates were arguably a net strategic liability of the USSR at this point.

One possible outcome of a successful coup not mentioned is a counter-coup by the army later. The new government will have no legitimacy, and being competent enough to seize and hold power doesn't necessarily mean it will have a governing program.
 
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