The following is an excerpt from James W. Douglass’s book “The Nonviolent Coming of God“:
“We have seen [the power of nonviolence] happen during the ‘Second Russian Revolution,’ August 19-20, 1991, in response to the attempted Soviet coup. The coup was overcome by hundreds of thousands of unarmed citizens. Some, as in resisters were martyred by the tanks. Hundreds, then thousands of other citizens encircled the Russian Parliament Building in Moscow as a civilian defense force shielding Boris Yeltsin and other elected leaders from an imminent military assault. All afternoon and evening on the second day of the coup, loudspeakers blared warnings to the people that tanks were rolling toward the building and planes filled with paratroopers were preparing for an airborne assault. Yet the people kept coming. In fact a further three-pronged assault was currently being mounted against them. It was to include K.G.B. agents who had infiltrated the crowd within the building, helicopters bearing shock troops, and elite units prepared to rush into the building from twenty-four subterranean entry points whose existence was unknown to Yeltsin supporters. A Tiananmen Square in Moscow was averted only by the moral force of the resistance and the noncooperation of soldiers who refused to murder their Russian brothers and sisters.
One exemplar of the moral force which prevailed over the coup was Father Aleksandr Boris, an Orthodox priest and member of the Moscow City Council. Father Boris prayed with the civilian defenders, baptized them for their nonviolent mission, then confronted their opponents in an equally prayerful way. He went from tank to tank, distributing 2,000 Bibles to the soldiers who were expected to assault the Parliament. Only one soldier refused a Bible. Father Borisov then gave another 2,000 Bibles to the people on the barricades. Finally he took part in a key meeting with Patriarch Alexis of the Russian Orthodox Church who then made a proclamation that any soldiers who fired on civilians would be excommunicated.
It was this moral force, embodied in the lives of thousands of willing martyrs (‘witnesses’) to the truth, which rendered the Soviet coup impotent.”