Speaking of the Alexander Yakovlev's conflict with the hardcore communists, the Wikipedia article says:

In the early 1980s, Yakovlev returned to the Soviet Union, and became a prominent supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev's proposed reforms. In response to his perceived importance in the reforms, he came under attack from hardliners such as Alexander Lebed and Gennady Zyuganov, eventually resigning two days prior to the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt.

and later describes more specifically an interaction with Lebed:

At the 28th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in July 1990, a cynical Alexander Lebed caused uproar when he asked Yakovlev: "Alexander Nikolayevich... How many faces have you got?" An embarrassed Yakovlev consulted his colleagues and continued on with the proceedings, but resigned from the Politburo the day after the congress concluded.

In both cases the link points to General Alexander Lebed, who was a prominent military and political figure in 1990s Russia, notably mounting an impressive presidential bid in 1996 (and rallying for Eltsin in the second tour of the elections.) To my knowledge in 1990 Lebed was still in the military, and his resistance/disobedience to the authorities during the 1991 coup d'état does not square with an image of a hardcore communist.

Q: Does Wikipedia confuse Lebed with another personality (possibly with a similar name)? Or perhaps he was indeed a Deputy to the 28-th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, while still in the military?

2 Answers 2


Yes, that is the same Lebed:

Политикой заинтересовался в конце «перестройки»: в 1990 году был избран делегатом XXVIII съезда КПСС

He became interested in politics at the end of Perestroika and in 1990 was elected as a delegate to the 28th congress of the CPSU

Lebed was not a hardcore Communist; his main interest was in maintaining the status quo which he saw as beneficial for the continued functioning of the Army, making him "hardcore" enough to be in the (minority) opposition to Gorbachev's reformist faction and the Federation referendum.

This explains his behavior during the putsch - in his memoirs he calls it a farce, orchestrated to destroy the rotting Communist Party. Lebed's Wikipedia page has a summary of this rather unusual position:

В событиях сознательно и намеренно участвовали все высшие должностные лица страны... По мнению генерала, это была спланированная политтехнологическая операция для подрыва влияния КПСС. Только это объясняет, почему в условиях, когда любой латиноамериканский генерал легко захватил бы власть, имевшие большие возможности руководители страны «не смогли» это сделать. Также «путч» (провокация) помог избежать выполнения решений всесоюзного референдума 1991 года, разгромить силовые ведомства, развалить страну и сильно ослабить коммунистическую партию

The highest-placed people in the country were all consciously and intentionally involved ... according to the general's opinion, it was a planned political-technological operation to undermine the influence of CPSU. This explained why, in conditions where any Latin American general could have seized power, the organizers of the putsch somehow failed to do so. This provocation also helped avoid implementing the decision of the 1991 All-Union referendum, devastate the military, destroy the country, and weaken the Communist party significantly

He "changed sides" during the putsch not to oppose Communism (since, as above, he believed the putsch was an anti-Communist operation) but to support a united RSFSR against further collapse:

Развалился Союз. Теперь разваливается Россия. Суверенные республики, суверенные области, суверенные города... По логике процесса, должны дойти до суверенных хуторов.

The Union fell apart. Now Russia is falling apart. Sovereign republics, sovereign Oblasts, sovereign cities... Logically we will reach the point of sovereign hamlets


Apparently an episode with Yakovlev, closely resembling the one described in Wikipedia, indeed took place, although characterization of Lebed as a communist hardliner (alongside Zyuganov, who would later become the leader of the Russian Communists for decades) is misleading: he likely was a Communist Party member for practical reasons (as a pre-condition for a career in the USSR), and he didn't have significant weight in the communist party. When making his remark, he was actually acting as a heckler rather than a serious opponent to Yakovlev.

Firstly, Lebed indeed participated in the 28th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This Master's Thesis on Lebed by Kevin D. O'Malley describes the whole episode:

Lebed's real disillusionment about the government came in 1990. He had been a member of the Communist Party for 19 years, but entered public politics when the Soviet regime was collapsing. As a 40-year old division commander, he was given an honored spot on the Russian Communist Party's central committee, and sent as a delegate to the 28th Party Congress in Moscow. Lebed recalls in his memoir that "A double, a triple morality was running amok within the Party" and "All the authorities ceased to exist for me." During the congress, Lebed furiously asked Alexander Yakovlev, the so-called godfather of perestroika, "Just what do you believe in?" 44 The remark suggests that he was a more obstinate, conservatively principled communist than he would like today's Russia to believe, and that he was suspicious of reform and reformers. Ironically, it was a question that was later often asked of Lebed during his presidential campaign.

At the 28th Party Congress, Lebed met people he had previously only seen in pictures. When he looked them in the face, he said he saw a crowd of imbeciles, adding that his view was "strengthened" by the failed coup attempt in 1991. 45 After attending two party conferences, he said he became tired of "screaming, rackets and petty bickering" and quit the Communist Party in 1990. 46 It is unknown whether Lebed quit because he no longer believed in the Party or simply because he saw communism was collapsing. From this point on, Lebed's sense of betrayal by those he served chronicled his career and served as a focus for his rise in Russian politics.

The cited source is
44. Mark Galeotti, "General Lebed - The Voice of Russia's Soldiers," Jane's Intelligence Review 7, no. 1 (1 January 1995): 32.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.