In 1991, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was executed in front of a Soviet Army firing squad in Red Square this morning, according to the USSR's Interior Ministry. Gorbachev had been arrested on August 18th of this year for crimes against the Soviet Union, including undermining the Soviet economy and giving military secrets to the West. Soviet President Gennady Yanayev used the occasion to reassure the Soviet people that the Communist Party (CPSU) remained firmly in control, and the damage caused by Gorbachev's Glasnost and Perestroika programs would be swiftly rectified.
Gorbachev Executed in Red Square on Christmas Day A story by Andrew Beane
This ended a series of high-profile executions, starting on August 21st with the assassination of Boris Yeltsin, then the newly elected President of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Yeltsin had been arrested on August 17th after his return from a trip to Kazakhstan, though he had yet to be charged with a specific crime. Yeltsin's assassin was an unidentified man that shot himself before he could be subdued.
Efforts to remove Gorbachev from power and restore the nation to its once-mighty status began in December of 1990, when members of Gorbachev's government quietly conspired to create the need for the declaration of a state of emergency in the USSR. The State Committee of the State of Emergency, headed by Yanayev and seven other former members of Gorbachev's administration, seized upon the instability caused by the slow break-up of the union and ordered the arrest of Gorbachev and other "western conspirators". At the height of the crisis, the Soviet Army invaded and recaptured the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania).
American President George Bush condemned the execution, saying that Gorbachev had been the greatest hope for peace between the USSR and the West, and that the dead leader would live on "the hearts and minds of the people who so long had to strive for their God-given rights". Deng Xiaoping, leader of the Peoples' Republic of China, applauded the "halt of the USSR's capitulation to the West," and expressed hope that Moscow would follow China's example of "market socialism".