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In the spring of 1991, even before the brief coup in August, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev found his authority and leadership tested on all sides. From Baltic states declaring their independence, to conservatives clamoring for a return to old-line communism, to progressives pushing for more economic reforms, the Soviet Union was a nation on the brink.

Things were coming to a head when demonstrators planned a massive march on Thursday March 28 in Moscow itself to show their opposition to government policy, hoping that 500,000 people would participate. The Kremlin banned demonstrations, issued dire warnings against protesters, and promised a massive show of force if the ban was defied. On everyone's mind was the peaceful January demonstration in Lithuania that was crushed by Soviet tanks and troops, in the process killing fourteen people.

On the day of the march, 50,000 troops and police crowded Moscow; 100,000 people ignored the ban and marched. Fortunately there were no clashes, ...

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