Civil War in Moscow, October'93

Description of events.


Description of events.

The violent events in Moscow on October 3-4, 1993 were the culmination of a long developing conflict. At the end of 1991, Yeltsin and other presidents of former Soviet republics signed the treaty dissolving the U.S.S.R.; at the end of December of 1991, M.Gorbachev, (the President of the Former U.S.S.R.) leaved the Kremlin.

At the beginning of 1992, just after the breakdown of the U.S.S.R., Yeltsin and his government started a hard-lined monetary economical policy which was increasingly unpopular. This policy was called by a word of mouth "a shock without therapy", in contrast to the economic reform in Poland named there "shock therapy". Due to breakdown of U.S.S.R and the centralized state-planned economy, many traditional economic and trade ties and markets were lost. Living conditions of the significant part of Russian population quickly deteriorated. Political and economical crisis was made even worse by the struggle for power between Yeltsin from one side and his opponents in the Russian Parliament (together with Vice President Rutskoi) from another side. Under the pressure from the Parliament, in December 1992, extremely unpopular prime-minister E. Gaidar was fired, but this did not stop the conflict. At the first half of 1993, both sides made different attempts to strip each other of power, but did not succeed.

On September 21, 1993, Yeltsin decreed parliament dissolved and new parliamentary elections to be held on December 12th. At an emergency session of parliament (in the Russian White House) Vice President Rutskoi announced that he is assuming the office of President. Parliament and his supporters refused to obey Yetsin's orders. Despite that G.Zyuganov and other top leaders of the Russian Communist Party have not participated in events, the outermost communist and nationalistic organizations actively supported the Parliament. October 2 and October 3 were the culmination of violent clashes with the police throughout the center of city. On October 2, supporters of parliament constructed barricades and blocked traffic on Moscow's main streets. On October 3, a mob of parliament supporters stormed the police cordon around the White House territory (where the Russian Parliament barricaded itself) and seized also the Moscow City Mayor offices. Later, the crowd was greeted from the White House balcony by Rutskoi, who urged them to seize the national television center at Ostankino. Same evening, small division of Russian airborne troops (about 40 men) who were on guard of the national television center stopped the assault of Ostankino; part of TV center was significantly damaged. A few hours before, E.Gaidar called citizens of Moscow to support the President. At the midnight, all main channels translating from Ostankino abruptly stopped working. One of main channels continued to work from a reserved studio in another TV center; however, there were almost no information about the attack on Ostankino. Part of Moscovites, who supported Yeltsin, went to the center of the city and constructed barricades to defend most important and vulnerable offices from the possible assault by the parliament forces. At the next morning parts of those barricades were still visible.

On the morning of October 4, after a few days of hesitation, several elite divisions of Russian military forces decided to support Yeltsin. Tanks rolled up to the White House at around 5:00 am. Firing began at 7:00 am. The assault continued throughout the day and was accompanied by almost constant sniper fire from upper stories of several buildings in the downtown Moscow. Defenders of the Parliament were equipped with anti-tank guns and they managed to burn several machines. Large amount of teenagers and other Moscovites attracted by the exciting events walked and gaped around the parliament building; some of them were injured or killed by casual bullets. At 5:00 pm. special troops entered the White House; leaders of Parliament and Vice President Rutskoi were arrested. Well-equipped snipers (supporters of the Parliament) kept shooting hours after that; several accidental civilians were injured on streets of Moscow. During the evening and night of October 4-5, special army and police divisions were hunting for snipers in the downtown Moscow. A few days later, under the pressure of Yeltsin, the Head of the Russian Constitutional Court was fired, because he opposed the military and violent solution of the conflict between presidential and parliamentary sides.

A few months later, 26th February 1994, all leaders of anti-Yeltsin campaign received a pardon and were released from a jail. Official reports placed the toll of the October Events at 146 dead and approximately 1000 injured. As wrote newspapers long after the events, the government spent in 1994 more than 300 millions US$ just to restore and renovate the Parliament building, more than it spent on fundamental academic research and development programs in the whole country.

  • Detailed chronicles of events in Moscow and around the country (in Russian, KOI8 encoding).

    Credits and Disclaimer: all links to photos of political leaders mentioned above lead to photo-archive provided by the server of National News Service in Moscow (Russia). The facts are outlined above according to several information sources (including Edward Opp's diary) and my own personal impressions; the description may contain some minor errors.
    Mikhail Soutchanski


    White House Storm and Pictures of Events in Moscow, September-October 1993.

    1. Photography by Edward Opp (6 photos). Send comments to
    2. Red October: a photo essay by photojournalist Chris Morris. Unfortunately, many captions to photos are confusing: sometimes text to pictures is factually incorrect (the siege in Moscow was in 1993, not in 1994), or ambiguous regarding who stormed what. The link is no longer operative.
    3. The following 2 pictures were taken by Robert Birkenes during events in Moscow: (1) View of a street near the USAID/Moscow office; (2) Parliament building after the events (view from the vicinity of the American Embassy. Photos are copyright Robert M. Birkenes (Bloomington, IN, USA). Send comments to:
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