Not a prominent member of the party, but one with a reputation for hard work and loyalty, he was Mikhail Gorbachev's choice in 1990 to be vice-president of the Soviet Union, a move widely believed to be an appeasement of conservative elements of the Communist Party displeased with perestroika. His appointment upset reformers.
Yanayev with seven others lead the August 1991 coup d'etat against Gorbachev. Yanayev as vice-president and assumed the presidency when Gorbachev was falsely declared ill. It was he who went on national television to inform the Soviet people of the coup and he was seen visibly trembling and many thought he was drunk. On August 22, 1991 he was arrested and charged with treason, later to be pardoned in 1994, in the blanket amnesty given to conspirators.
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