Raisa Gorbachev Feared Death During Coup

<i> From Reuters</i>

In the first account of her ordeal during last month’s coup, Raisa Gorbachev said she had feared death and tasted the bitterness of betrayal--and is now tormented by the memory of incarceration.

The wife of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said in an interview in Tuesday’s edition of Trud, the Soviet trade union newspaper, that her family had deliberately walked around the grounds of their dacha and along the Black Sea shore so that people could see they were in good health.

The hard-line coup leaders claimed on Aug. 19 that they had removed Gorbachev because his poor health meant that he was no longer able to act as president.

The family--including their daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters--was held for 73 hours until the coup collapsed.


On the last day, Raisa Gorbachev said, she became ill when the family heard that a delegation was flying to the Crimea to monitor the president’s health.

“After three sleepless days and nights, at the moment when events began to speed up, my health deteriorated,” she told Trud’s political commentator Vitaly Golobachev.

“I thought the lie (about Gorbachev’s health) could soon be followed by certain actions which would turn that lie into reality--the tragic outcome could be approaching rapidly,” she added. “I suffered an acute bout of hypertension accompanied by a speech disorder.”

Raisa Gorbachev said she is being treated and feels better.


“Again and again I relive everything that happened,” she said. “I greatly fear a split in our society.”

She said she first heard of the coup about 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18, when an agitated Gorbachev entered the room saying that a group had come from Moscow to see him.

“I tried the telephones. The first, the second, the third--all telephones are cut off. Even the red one,” she quoted him as saying.

The red phone is Gorbachev’s direct line to the armed forces’ supreme commander.


Radio and television were also cut off.

“We understood the situation immediately,” she said.

“We know our history, its tragic episodes,” she said in an allusion to dictator Josef Stalin’s purges and other bloody episodes in Soviet history.