MOSCOW, Aug. 22, 1991 (UPI) - Anatoly Lukyanov, said to be the mastermind of the botched coup against his former college friend Mikhail Gorbachev, was the most brilliant law student of his generation and wrote poetry of some acclaim in his spare time.
Unlike the eight conspirators who openly identified themselves and signed junta decrees, Lukyanov kept silent and said he was on vacation until the eve of the coup. But he signed the statement on the first day of the takeover, justifying the stopping of the Union Treaty the next day, saying the pact would destroy the Soviet Union as an economic entity.
But he joined several of the other the conspirators like Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov to travel to Gorbachev's Crimean dacha to explain himself. Gorbachev said Thursday he was not impressed with the explanation.
''I talked with him,'' Gorbachev said. ''He told me about the positions and actions he had taken. I noted his statement, but I think we should all of us say to each other truthfully what we really did.''
Russian republic premier Ivan Silayev, mincing no words on Thursday, charged: ''Anatoly Lukyanov was the major ideologue of everything that happened ... he tried to deceive us. It was revolting to see how he tried to prove just the opposite, that he had been active, trying only to save the situation.''
Then Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin told a throng celebrating the end of the coup that ''Lukyanov was the chief ideologist of the putsch.'' A sign bobbed in the crowd reading ''That Dog Lukyanov. On Trial With Him.''
Seemingly the perfect No. 2 when Gorbachev began his democratic reforms, the largely unknown Lukyanov, now 61, was chosen first to be the assistant chairman of the new Supreme Soviet, and the two worked in tandem, often whispering the next procedural step to each other.
Gorbachev beamed as Lukyanov strode to the podium to answer critics of Gorbachev's choice of him as vice chairman, or deputy speaker, of the new Parliament. When Lukyanov finished a brilliant defense, he walked off and looked to Gorbachev for a nod of approval.
But when Gorbachev became president and no longer had to be in Parliament every day, Lukyanov ran the legislature himself, and differences with his mentor over policy began to emerge. At one point last year when Gorbachev could not get a measure passed because of Lukyanov's points of order, he said, ''I wonder who the chairman is working with.''
Any notion that the Gorbachev-Lukyanov exchange was a misunderstanding evaporated when then-Premier Valentin Pavlov easily got the floor in early July to suggest he be given more powers at Gorbachev's expense.
Gorbachev rushed to the Parliament the next day to retain his powers and later emerged with Pavlov and Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov in tow and announced, ''The constitutional coup is over.''
Newspapers at the time openly spoke of Interior Minister Boris Pugo and KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov as putting Pavlov up to it, but suspicions also began to fall on Lukyanov.
In a speech, Lukyanov distanced himself from Pavlov, but his views on the dire straits of the country emerged clearly: ''If we do not resort to extraordinary measures, the country will perish. Will perish -- do you understand this?''
''There is no governing center in the country today,'' he said. ''The Cabinet (headed by Pavlov) is making this plea: 'Untie our hands, let us do something for the country.
''We need decisions and instead some people are speculating, 'What if the Cabinet usurps power?' This is ridiculous.'' This was an apparent barb at Gorbachev, who had taken economic decision making power from the Cabinet.
Failing legislatively to ''untie'' the Cabinet's hands, Lukyanov apparently, according to his accusers, decided to cut the Gordian knot by force -- a strange approach for the legal scholar who prided himself as helping give birth to a genuine legislature and a nation of laws.
Something of a Renaissance man, Lukyanov found time for his hobbies such as painting and writing poetry, which he sent to literary publications under a pseudonyn and was rated as above average. He also was an avid mountain climber and book collector with a private library of some 5,000 volumes.
Two years ahead of the country boy Gorbachev at Moscow State University Law Faculty, Lukyanov was Gorbachev's superior in the Komsomol Communist Youth Communist Organization at the university in the gray Stalinist days of the early 1950s in Moscow.
When Marxist historian Roy Medvedev revealed two years ago at a Congress of People's Deputies that the two men had known each other since college when Lukyanov was No. 1, Lukyanov and Gorbachev smiled sheepishly.
At the university, Lukyanov outshone Gorbachev and was accorded to be the most brilliant law student of the 1950s, but while Gorbachev went back to his home base of Stavropol after graduation to start a political career, Lukyanov dropped into the anonymity of Central Commitee party work.
When the Communist Party reigned supreme in Gorbachev's first years as leader, Lukyanov was a non-voting member of the Politburo, the same position that Yeltsin had at the time. As an expert in drafting documents, he was invaluable to the legalistic Gorbachev.