On January 10, 1991, the President of USSR Mikhail S. Gorbachev appealed to the Supreme Council of Lithuania to restore the Constitution of the USSR and the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR to the territory of the republic. The next day, units of the USSR internal troops took under protection in Vilnius the Press House, the Lithuanian DOSAAF building, and an intercity telephone exchange. On January 13, a “National Salvation Committee” was created in Lithuania, which declared support for the actions of the central authorities. On January 14, at one o'clock, the paratroopers were busy with a television center in Vilnius. January 20 Riga OMON captured the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic. During the shootout in the center of Riga four people were killed, about ten were injured. The center was trying to force the Baltic states under control by local authorities.
The actions of the central authorities provoked a backlash: the Russian and regional democratic opposition came out against Gorbachev in a united front. To resign in protest against the new course of the government, such associates of Gorbachev as A. Yakovlev, E. Primakov, L. Abalkin submitted. At the referendum held on February 9 in Lithuania, over 90% of the residents surveyed spoke in favor of an independent democratic Republic of Lithuania. In an interview on February 19, 1991 on Central Television, B. N. Yeltsin stated that he dissociates himself from the current policy of the president of the USSR and is in favor of his resignation. In turn, on February 21, 1991, in the Russian parliament a number of Yeltsin's deputies (including S. P. Goryachev) demanded his resignation from his post.
On March 17, 1991, a referendum was held in the USSR, in which the majority of the country's citizens (76.4%) spoke in favor of preserving the renewed Union. Most Russians supported the decision of the Russian parliament on the need to introduce the post of president of the RSFSR. In April 1991, direct negotiations began between the President of the USSR and the leadership of the republics on the conclusion of a new Union Treaty at the presidential residence Novo-Ogaryovo. On June 12, 1991, the first presidential election in the history of Russia was held.
They became B. N. Yeltsin, who was far ahead of his rivals: N. I. Ryzhkov, V. V. Zhirinovsky, A. M. Tuleyev, A. M. Makashov, V. V. Bakatin. Yeltsin’s election marked the need for a redistribution of powers between the union and republican centers of power. By August 1991, with difficulty, it was possible to prepare a compromise and agreed only in general terms draft of the Union Treaty, the signing of which was scheduled for August 22. The document provided for the preservation of the Allied center only of issues of defense, finance, internal affairs, and partly tax and social policy. The main powers according to the project were assigned to the republics.
Under these conditions, the events of August 19-21, 1991, take place. In the absence of Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who was on holiday in Crimea at the Foros government dacha, the State Committee for the State of Emergency in the country (Emergency Committee) was established. It includes USSR Vice-President G.I. Yana-yev, Prime Minister V.S. Pavlov, Minister of Defense D.T. Yazov, Minister of the Interior B.K. Pugo, Chairman of the KGB V.A. Kryuchkov, Chairman V. Starodubtsev of the Peasant Union of the USSR, A. I. Tizyakov, President of the Association of USSR State Enterprises, Deputy Chairman of the Defense Council O. D. Baklanov.
The State Emergency Committee declared a state of emergency in a number of regions of the USSR, disbanded power structures contrary to the USSR Constitution, suspended the activities of opposition parties, banned rallies and demonstrations, and carried out economic reforms in the near future. Statements of the Emergency Committee were backed up by the introduction of troops in a number of settlements, including in Moscow. At this, the active operations of the Emergency Committee stopped, and the initiative began to move on to the positions that organized numerous meetings in Moscow and Leningrad.
Although B. N. Yeltsin’s call for a general political strike did not meet with support in the regions, the Russian leadership managed to gather a 500,000-strong rally in Moscow and enlist the support of individual military units. Neutralize in these conditions, the Russian leadership, who opposed the Emergency Committee, failed. The initiative finally passed to the supporters of Yeltsin, and the Emergency Committee did not decide on the power option. On August 21, members of the State Emergency Committee flew to Foros to negotiate with Gorbachev isolated there. On August 22, they were arrested, Gorbachev returned to Moscow.
Trying to reanimate the union treaty, Gorbachev agreed to serious concessions from the center to the republics, recognized the independence of the Baltic states and attempted to create a new democratic federal government, where he invited well-known democrats E. A. Shevardnadze, V.V. Bakatin, etc. In September, the development of a new treaty on the formation of a confederative Union of sovereign states instead of the USSR began. However, on December 1, 1991, a referendum in Ukraine called for independence of the republic. On December 5, L. Kravchuk, elected president of Ukraine, signed a decree on the republic’s withdrawal from the Union. On December 8, 1991, the leaders of Russia (B. N. Yeltsin), Ukraine (L. Kravchuk), and Belarus (S. S. Shushkevich) announced the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the cessation of the activities of the USSR.
On December 21, the leaders of eight more republics (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) joined the CIS. The Baltic republics and Georgia (President 3. Gamsakhurdia), having welcomed the collapse of the USSR, refused to join the CIS. (After the December 1991 coup in Georgia and the coming to power of E. A, Shevardnadze, Georgia joined the CIS.) On December 25, 1991, M. S. Gor-bachev resigned as President of the USSR. On December 27, when he appeared in the Kremlin for “collecting things,” Russian President B. N. Yeltsin was already sitting in his office.