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After three hours of anguished debate, the Soviet Parliament (the Supreme Soviet) voted to suspend all activities of the Communist Party pending an investigation of its role in a coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The fate of the party was already sealed before Parliament’s vote. Individual republics had closed Party offices and seized its vast properties and funds and Gorbachev had already quit as its General Secretary and called on the leadership to step down. But Parliament was the only national institution with the formal powers to act against the entire organization, and its decision served to confirm the indictment already passed by the people.

Hard-line members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) tried to take power from President Gorbachev in what became known as the “August Putsch” or “August Coup. They were opposed to the reform programs which Gorbachev instituted including the right of other political associations (de facto political parties) to coexist with the Communist Party and, in 1990, the repeal of Article Six of the USSR constitution which gave the CPSU supremacy over all institutions in society. The Communist Party’s power over the state formally ended that same year with the newly created Soviet Presidency, who’s first (and only President) was Party General Secretary Gorbachev.

The resulting likelihood of the dissolution of the USSR itself led the hardliners launch the August Coup on August 19 and establishing a “State Emergency Committee” which declared that Gorbachev was ill and therefore relieved of his position as president. Soviet vice-president Gennadiy Yanayev was named acting president. The coup dissolved because of large public demonstrations and the efforts of Boris Yeltsin who became the real power in Russia as a result.

Yeltsin declared the CPSU formally banned on 26th August but this had to be ratified by the Parliament which it duly did on 29th August. This event signalled the end of Communist rule and the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Category: Historic Events

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