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The Daily Vertical: The Spirit of 1991 (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

Twenty-five years ago this summer, Russia held its first -- and arguably last -- free and fair presidential election.

Twenty-five years ago today, a hard-line coup in Moscow sought to reverse that democratic progress.

And twenty-five years ago this weekend, Russian citizens faced down that coup, scoring what appeared at the time to be a stunning and historic victory over tyranny.

Today, it's painfully clear that this victory was illusory and temporary.

With Vladimir Putin's autocratic regime in the Kremlin, it is now clear that the ideals of the coup plotters actually won in the end -- at least in Russia, where this weekend's anniversary will be pointedly ignored by the authorities.

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But here's the thing: August 1991 wasn't just about Russia.

It was also about fourteen other newly independent states getting the opportunity to decide their own futures free from Moscow's diktat.

It was about the Baltic states being able to take their rightful place as prosperous, democratic, European countries -- which they quickly seized.

It was about Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova having the opportunity to follow in that path as well.

For these countries, the spirit of 1991 is still very meaningful and still very much alive a quarter century later.

The Putin regime has successfully -- at least for now -- crushed the ideals of August 1991 in Russia.

But despite invasions, proxy wars, active measures, intimidation, and bullying, it has been unable to crush it in all of Russia's neighbors.

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