Two decades on, the image of Boris Yeltsin climbing onto a tank outside parliament remains the reference for many remembering the failed coup against Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev.
Yeltsin, the then President of Russia, led public resistance to the attempted takeover. Thousands protested against the coup announced on August 19 1991 by leading hardline Communists opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms.
With Gorbachev under house arrest at his Black Sea villa, armoured vehicles were sent into Moscow. Yet amid public opposition, the putsch collapsed two days later. Gorbachev flew back to the capital, looking badly shaken by the experience.
Many historians say the coup achieved the opposite of what the plotters intended and simply hastened the demise of the Soviet Union, just months later.