Valentin S. Pavlov, 66; Soviet Prime Minister Led Failed 1991 Coup

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Valentin S. Pavlov, a former Soviet prime minister who helped lead the failed hard-line coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, has died, Russian news reports said Monday. He was 66.

Pavlov died Sunday in Moscow after a long illness.

A native of Moscow, Pavlov graduated from the Moscow Finance Institute and held a doctorate in economics. He began his career as a city tax inspector in Moscow and rose slowly through the Soviet economic bureaucracy, becoming finance minister in 1989. He was named prime minister by Gorbachev in January 1991.

At the time of his appointment, Gorbachev lauded Pavlov as “a major financier and economist with great experience and character, capable of bearing the burden of responsibility.”

But that early assessment faded over the next few months when Pavlov made harsh accusations against unnamed Western business figures, alleging they were bent on destroying the Soviet economy.

An effort by Pavlov and other hard-liners in June 1991 to increase the power of the prime minister through a series of emergency powers was blocked by Gorbachev.


In August 1991, Pavlov and others calling themselves the State Emergency Committee announced Gorbachev was ill and isolated the reformist Soviet leader at a Black Sea resort.

Eight of the hard-line ministers sat together at a news conference to tell the nation their committee was in charge.

They moved armored columns into Moscow but stopped short of using them on thousands of protesters, who rallied behind Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian republic. After just three days, the coup collapsed, Gorbachev was freed, and the plotters were arrested.

Although the hard-liners said they were trying to prevent the Soviet Union from disintegrating into chaos, the coup attempt precipitated the group’s demise. Four months later, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus announced the Soviet Union defunct, forcing Gorbachev to resign on Dec. 25.

One coup plotter committed suicide. Pavlov and the others were sentenced to prison but were released in 1993 and granted amnesty by parliament in 1994. Pavlov went on to head a commercial bank and later turned to economic research, taking leadership posts at several academies and institutes.

Pavlov remained unrepentant about his role in the coup. In 2001, he and several other surviving coup plotters praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as trying to achieve the same goals that they had.

“The current leadership is making efforts to restore control over the country,” Pavlov told reporters. “Today they are trying to do what we attempted to do in the Soviet Union in 1991.”

He is believed to be survived by his wife and a son.