Eyewitness to the 1991 Soviet Coup with Brett Elliott

1991 Soviet Coup
Eyewitness to the 1991 Soviet Coup with Brett Elliott

Today’s episode is different. Brett Elliott died earlier this year and I was contacted by his ex-wife Polly who offered me a cassette tape.

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Polly and Brett had met in college and got to know each other in Russian Club at Oklahoma State. In the summer of 1991, they went to Moscow to pursue Polly’s goal of being a reporter in Russia and Brett’s goal of further studying Russia.

They both worked together covering the Bush Gorbachev summit, with Polly as a reporter and Brett as an interpreter. Polly left Russia early, but Brett stayed a few weeks more and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, August 19-21, 1991. During a rare phone call, Polly begged him to be careful, and he famously said she was worse than the coup leaders if she wanted to deny him getting out to witness history…

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This episode is the audio from a cassette recording of Brett describing his experiences just two weeks after the coup. Being on cassette the sound quality is not great, but I am delighted and honoured to welcome Brett Elliott to our Cold War conversation…

Polly’s book is available on the links below. The book talks only peripherally about this episode but references all the ties between how the Cold War shaped her life and how she experienced the pandemic. It weaves in her life with Brett and his death. “Apocalyptic Polly” was his unflattering nickname for her because she saw threats everywhere but writing this book Polly came to understand why. Polly had been raised to see threats by her father who spent his career trying to avert nuclear war.

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