The so‐called second Russian revolution occurred in August 1991 when the coup by hard‐liners wishing to prevent the demise of communist power and the Soviet Union was defeated. The coup took place on the eve of the signing of a new union treaty that envisaged the transfer of power from the centre to the republics. Mikhail Gorbachev, the President of the USSR, was on holiday in the Crimea when the coup took place. On 19 August, a ‘State Committee for the State of Emergency’ appeared on television, headed by the Vice‐President Gennady Yanaev and including the prime minister, and heads of the KGB and the Soviet Army, and declared itself in control. It was opposed by the Russian president Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament. World attention was focused on the parliament building itself, ‘the White House’, where thousands of pro‐democracy demonstrators congregated in defence of the Russian leadership inside. Despite repeated warnings of immanent military action, an attack never came and after three days the Committee surrendered and Mikhail Gorbachev returned to Moscow. The real victory, however, went to Boris Yeltsin. The failed coup exacerbated the centrifugal tendencies already evident, and led to the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.