"Gorbachev will not get his way any longer," Kortunov predicted. "Everything he wants, he will have to cast in terms that Yeltsin will accept, and what Yeltsin wants will become the focus of Gorbachev's attention."
Yeltsin's demands, in effect, now form the country's political agenda, and Gorbachev appeared at his press conference Thursday evening ready to comply.
He had not only been drained by the ordeal, but he seemed to sense that the president of the Soviet Union no longer commanded the scene as he did before the coup.
"I must say that (the republics) adopted a position of principle and, in particular, our Russian Parliament, our Russian deputies, our Russian government," Gorbachev said. "And the leading role was played by the president of Russia, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin."
Gorbachev's own political agenda, in contrast to Yeltsin's, is one of repair. "We have not returned to the status quo ante," a Gorbachev aide said. "We have our president back, but the damage done was horrendous."
He must reassert his authority, which was so diminished by the coup and by the weakness of his leadership that it exposed. He must rebuild his team of ministers and advisers after confessing that he had appointed to key posts men who had betrayed him. He must develop political and constitutional safeguards against further coups and purge the Communist Party of its hard-line conservatives.
Finally, Gorbachev must redraft his reform program, and there Yeltsin's demands are likely to dominate, for the Russian president can claim a mandate--his own election in June, the popular support that thwarted the coup--that Gorbachev does not have himself.
But Gorbachev will likely not be faced with the same strong conservative opposition that has undercut many of his reforms over the past six years and forced him into countless compromises and retreats.
The failure of the rightist coup will likely discredit the democratic conservatives as well as those who tried to seize power.
The parliamentary group, Soyuz, tried but failed to take a position on the coup. The militantly Marxist groups within the Communist Party are likely to coalesce into one faction--and then go underground to avoid the coming purges.
And the party itself, already reduced to fewer than 15 million members in a nation of 290 million, will face a choice of either becoming an instrument of Gorbachev's, and Yeltsin's, reforms or finding itself pushed further and further from the center of power.
To the left, there will be intense competition to lay claim to the honor of having defeated the coup, but only Yeltsin's Democratic Russia movement, its ally the Communists for Democracy and some of the independent labor unions stood up when it counted.
"With Yeltsin, the little parties have a role--otherwise they are insignificant," the liberal editor of a leading newspaper commented. "After months and months of bickering and feuding and stalling, Yeltsin has suddenly become the only political vehicle for the left."