THE BLOG
10/17/2007 01:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

According to Official Sources

Moscow, the early morning of August 19, 1991: the so-called State Committee on the State of Emergency was attempting to seize power in the Soviet Union.

It was one AM and Gennadii Shishkin, deputy director of TASS was asleep in his bed when his phone rang. It was his former boss at TASS, Leonid Kravchenko. A year earlier Kravchenko had moved up to head of Gostelradio, (the State Committee on Television and Radio). Shishkin's current boss, the director of TASS was on vacation. Shishkin was temporarily in charge and Kravchenko was reaching out to him. Kravchenko, a member of the Emergency Committee, ordered Shishkin to be down on the street in ten minutes. There would be a car waiting for him.

Downstairs Shishkin was greeted by two large men in black leather coats waiting at his doorstep. As he emerged they led him to a large black car and opened the back door and ushered him in. They then sat in front and, in total silence, drove him to Gostelradio and accompanied him into Kravchenko's office. Kravchenko was sitting at his desk with a paper in his hand. He handed to Shishkin a one paragraph statement to the effect that there had been a attempted coup in Moscow, and that the Emergency Committee was stepping in to restore order.

Kravchenko told Shishkin to take the bulletin to TASS and put it on the wire immediately. Kravchenko added that his friends, the two large gentlemen in the black leather coats would accompany Shishkin to TASS and assist him. Once again Gennadii got into the backseat of the car, and was driven to TASS. Once again, the two large men in the black leather coats accompanied him into his office.

Under their eyes, he sat at his desk and typed Kravchenko's message directly onto the TASS wire. But, in what he later described to me as the most courageous act of his career, he added four words to the communiqué-- "According to official sources".

I wish we had more journalists like him.