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Russia and the Black August syndrome

MOSCOW, July 31 (Marc Bennetts for RIA Novosti) - April is the cruellest month according to T.S. Eliot, but for modern Russia it is undoubtedly August, a time of catastrophe, crisis and political upheaval.

For almost two decades, Russians have learned to expect the worst from the eighth month of the year, with 1991 seeing a coup and 2008 war in the Caucasus.

The litany of August chaos and woe reads like this:

August 19, 1991 - Communist hardliners disgruntled at Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms launch an unsuccessful coup attempt that leads to the break-up of the Soviet Union.

August 14, 1992 - The Georgian-Abkhazian war begins, with the conflict involving large numbers of Russian citizens.

Early August 1994 - The notorious MMM pyramid scheme collapses, leaving millions of Russians without their life-savings, a sum believed to be up to $1.5 billion.

August 24, 1995 - The Russian interbank credit system breaks down, leading to the ruin of 28 Russian banks.

August 29, 1996 - A Russian Tupolev TU-154 crashes over the Arctic Ocean, all 141 people on board die.

August 17, 1998 - The Russian government defaults on its foreign and domestic debt and the ruble loses two-thirds of its value in the next four weeks.

August 7, 1999 - Chechen fighters invade Dagestan, signaling the start of the second Chechen war.

August 8, 2000 - A bomb explodes in a pedestrian underpass in central Moscow killing 13 people.

August 12, 2000 - The Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sinks in the Barents Sea; all 118 sailors on board die.

August 8, 2002 - Floods and strong winds kill 59 people in the Russian Black sea city of Novorossiisk.

August 19, 2002 - A military Mi-26 helicopter is shot down over Chechnya, 126 servicemen die.

August 1, 2003 - A suicide bomber attacks a military hospital in the Russian North Ossetia town of Mozdok, killing over 50.

August 24, 2004 - Two Russian passenger planes are blown up by Chechen terrorists, over 90 people die.

August 31, 2004 - A Chechen suicide bomber blows herself up outside Moscow's Rizhskaya metro station, killing 10. The next day, September 1, sees the start of the Beslan school siege.

August 21, 2006 - Nationalists explode a bomb at Moscow's Cherkizovo market, killing 13.

August 22, 2006 - A Russian Tu-154 plane crashes in Ukraine, 170 lose their lives.

August 8-12, 2008 - Russia and Georgia fight a war over South Ossetia after Georgian forces attempt to bring the republic back under central control.

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