Soviet Politician, Conspirator. He served as Interior Minister of the Soviet Union from 1990 until his death. Pugo was one of the "Gang of Eight", a group of hardline communists who attempted a coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. The unsuccessful plot triggered the demise of the USSR. Boris Karlovich Pugo was born in Kalinin (now Tver, Russia), the son of Latvian bolsheviks, and was raised in his family's native Riga from age three. Trained as an engineer, he rose through the political ranks in Latvia, serving as head of the Latvian KGB (1980 to 1984) and First Secretary of the Latvian Communist Party (1984 to 1988), while attaining the military rank of Major General. Under Gorbachev he became a member of the USSR Party Central Committee (1986) and of the Politburo (1989). Pugo was opposed to growing independence movements in the Baltic Republics and in Latvia he was regarded by many as a traitor to his own people. His appointment as Interior Minister by Gorbachev in December 1990 was viewed as a backward step for perestroika, and an incident six weeks later confirmed his critics' worst fears. Soviet troops fired on demonstrators in Vilnius, Lithuania, killing 13; Pugo denied ordering the attack but said it was necessary because of the local government's refusal to submit to Kremlin authority. In fact he was deeply alarmed by Gorbachev's reforms, which had already touched off a groundswell of nationalism that ended Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe and divided the Communist Party at home. Pugo became an early member of a cabal of high-ranking officials styling themselves the "State Committee of the State of Emergency", and plotted to help them usurp government control. On August 19, 1991, they launched the coup in Moscow while Gorbachev was away on vacation, declaring at a press conference that he could no longer lead due to "health reasons". But they failed to arrest several key reformist leaders - most crucially, RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin, who rallied opposition to the takeover and urged a general strike throughout Russia. Planned military support for the putschists was withdrawn in the face of massive civil resistance and by August 21 the coup had fallen apart. The following day, Pugo was found shot dead and his wife fatally wounded in their Moscow apartment. The official version was that Pugo shot his spouse and then himself to avoid arrest, with both leaving suicide notes. Some major news sources cast doubt on the circumstances and suggested it was really an assassination. Arguing against this is the fact that none of Pugo's co-conspirators were convicted of treason; they were granted amnesty in 1994 and some even resumed political careers. Most agree that the "Gang of Eight" hastened the downfall of the regime they had hoped to save. Although Gorbachev returned to office, the failed coup enabled Yeltsin to seize autonomous power within Russia and destabilized the already shaky Soviet power structure beyond repair. Gorbachev resigned as USSR President on December 25, 1991, and one day later the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards