Commonwealth of Independent States

Not to be confused with the Commonwealth of Nations.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Содружество Независимых Государств
Flag Emblem
Administrative centerMinsk
Largest city Moscow, Baku, Minsk
Official language Russian
Type Regional organization
   Executive Secretary Russia Sergei Lebedev
   Presidency  Kyrgyzstan
   Belavezha Accords 8 December 1991 
   Collective Security Treaty Organisation 15 May 1992 
   Free trade agreement signed 18 October 2011[1] 
   Free Trade Area established 20 September 2012 
   Total 20,996,932 km2
8,106,961 sq mi
   2008 estimate 276,917,629
   Density 12.53/km2
32.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
   Total US$2,906.944 billion
   Per capita US$10,498
GDP (nominal) 2013 estimate
   Total US$2,808.844 billion
   Per capita US$10,113
Time zone (UTC+2 to +12)

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS; Russian: Содружество Независимых Государств, СНГ, tr. Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv, SNG), is a regional organization formed during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Nine out of the 15 former Soviet Republics are member states, and two are associate members (Ukraine and Turkmenistan). Georgia withdrew its membership in 2008, while the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) refused to participate.

The CIS has few supranational powers, but aims to be more than a purely symbolic organization, nominally possessing coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking, and security. It has also promoted cooperation on cross-border crime prevention. Furthermore, eight of the nine CIS member states participate in the CIS Free Trade Area. Three organizations are under the CIS overview, namely the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union (alongside subdivisions, the Eurasian Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Space, which comprises the land of over 180 million people), and the Union State. While the first and the second are military and economic alliances, the latter aims to reach a confederation between Russia and Belarus, with a common government, flag, currency, etc.


Signing of the agreement to establish the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), December 8, 1991

In March 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union, proposed a federation by holding a referendum to preserve the Union as the Union of Sovereign States. The new treaty signing never happened as the Communist Party hardliners staged an attempted coup in August that year.

Following the events of August, the republics had declared their independence fearing another coup. A week after the Ukrainian independence referendum was held, in which kept the chances of the Soviet Union staying together as low, the Commonwealth of Independent States was founded on 8 December 1991 by the Republic of Belarus (Byelorussia), the Russian SFSR, and Ukraine, when the leaders of the three countries met in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Natural Reserve, about 50 km (31 mi) north of Brest in Belarus and signed the "Agreement Establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States", known as the Creation Agreement (Russian: Соглашение, Soglasheniye), on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of CIS as a successor entity to it.[2] At the same time they announced that the new alliance would be open to all republics of the former Soviet Union, and to other nations sharing the same goals. The CIS charter stated that all the members were sovereign and independent nations and thereby effectively abolished the Soviet Union.

On 21 December 1991, the leaders of eight additional former Soviet Republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – signed the Alma-Ata Protocol which can either be interpreted as expanding the CIS to these states or the proper foundation or refoundation date of the CIS,[3] thus bringing the number of participating countries to 11.[4]

Georgia joined two years later, in December 1993.[5] At this point, 12 former Soviet Republics (all except the Baltic States, which joined NATO and the European Union in 2004) participated in the CIS.

Between 2003 and 2005, three CIS member states experienced a change of government in a series of colour revolutions: Eduard Shevardnadze was overthrown in Georgia; Viktor Yushchenko was elected in Ukraine; and Askar Akayev was toppled in Kyrgyzstan. In February 2006, Georgia withdrew from the Council of Defense Ministers, with the statement that "Georgia has taken a course to join NATO and it cannot be part of two military structures simultaneously",[6][7] but it remained a full member of the CIS until August 2009, one year after officially withdrawing in the immediate aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War. In March 2007, Igor Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, expressed his doubts concerning the usefulness of the CIS, emphasising that the Eurasian Economic Community was becoming a more competent organisation to unify the largest countries of the CIS.[8] Following the withdrawal of Georgia, the presidents of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan skipped the October 2009 meeting of the CIS, each having their own issues and disagreements with the Russian Federation.[9]

In May 2009, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine joined the Eastern Partnership, a project which was initiated by the European Union (EU).


There are nine full member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Creation Agreement remained the main constituent document of the CIS until January 1993, when the CIS Charter (Russian: Устав, Ustav) was adopted.[10] The charter formalised the concept of membership: a member country is defined as a country that ratifies the CIS Charter (sec. 2, art. 7).

Turkmenistan has not ratified the charter and changed its CIS standing to associate member as of 26 August 2005 in order to be consistent with its UN-recognised international neutrality status.[11][12]

Although Ukraine was one of the founding countries and ratified the Creation Agreement in December 1991, Ukraine chose not to ratify the CIS Charter[13][14] as it disagrees with Russia being the only legal successor to the Soviet Union. Thus it does not regard itself as a member of the CIS.[5][15] In 1993 Ukraine became an "Associate Member" of CIS.[16] On March 14, 2014, a bill was introduced to Ukraine's parliament to denounce their ratification of the 1991 Agreement Establishing the CIS, following the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, but was never approved.[17][18][19] Following the 2014 parliamentary election, a new bill to denounce the CIS agreement was introduced.[20][21] In September 2015 the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Ukraine will continue taking part in CIS "on a selective basis".[22][23] Since that month Ukraine has had no representatives in the CIS Executive Committee building.[22]

In light of Russia’s support for the independence of breakaway regions within Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine,[24][25][26] as well as its violation of the Istanbul Agreement (see Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty), legislative initiatives to denounce the agreement on the creation of CIS were tabled in Moldova's parliament on 25 March 2014, though they were not approved.[27][28][29]

Member states

Country[30] Agreement/protocol ratified Charter ratified Notes
 Armenia 18 February 1992 16 March 1994 Founding state
 Azerbaijan 24 September 1993 24 September 1993
 Belarus 10 December 1991 18 January 1994 Founding state
 Kazakhstan 23 December 1991 20 April 1994 Founding state
 Kyrgyzstan 6 March 1992 12 April 1994 Founding state
 Moldova 8 April 1994 15 April 1994
 Russia 12 December 1991 20 July 1993 Founding state
 Tajikistan 26 June 1993 4 August 1993
 Uzbekistan 4 January 1992 9 February 1994 Founding state

Associate states

Country Agreement/protocol ratified Charter ratified Notes
 Turkmenistan 26 December 1991 Not ratified Founding state. Associate since 2005.
 Ukraine 10 December 1991 Not ratified Founding state. Participated since formation. Associate since 1993.

Former member states

Country Agreement/protocol ratified Charter ratified Withdrawn Effective Notes
 Georgia 3 December 1993 19 April 1994 18 August 2008 18 August 2009 Withdrew as a result of the Russo-Georgian War of 2008.


Executive Secretaries

Meeting of CIS leaders in Bishkek, 2008.
Name Country Term
Ivan Korotchenya  Belarus 26 December 1991 – 29 April 1998
Boris Berezovsky  Russia 29 April 1998 – 4 March 1999
Ivan Korotchenya  Belarus 4 March – 2 April 1999
Yury Yarov  Russia 2 April 1999 – 14 June 2004
Vladimir Rushailo  Russia 14 June 2004 – 5 October 2007
Sergei Lebedev  Russia 5 October 2007 – Incumbent

Human rights

Since its inception, one of the primary goals of the CIS has been to provide a forum for discussing issues related to the social and economic development of the newly independent states. To achieve this goal member states have agreed to promote and protect human rights. Initially efforts to achieve this goal consisted merely of statements of good will, but on 26 May 1995, the CIS adopted a Commonwealth of Independent States Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.[31]

Even before the 1995 human rights treaty, the Charter of the CIS that was adopted in 1991 created, in article 33, a Human Rights Commission sitting in Minsk, Belarus. This was confirmed by decision of the Council of Heads of States of the CIS in 1993. In 1995, the CIS adopted a human rights treaty that includes civil and political as well as social and economic human rights. This treaty entered into force in 1998. The CIS treaty is modeled on the European Convention on Human Rights, but lacking the strong implementation mechanisms of the latter. In the CIS treaty, the Human Rights Commission has very vaguely defined authority. The Statute of the Human Rights Commission, however, also adopted by the CIS Member States as a decision, gives the Commission the right to receive inter-state as well as individual communications.

CIS members, especially in Central Asia, continue to have among the world's poorest human rights records. Many activists point to the 2005 Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, or the cult of personality around President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan (though not a CIS member), to show that there has been almost no improvement in human rights since the collapse of the Soviet Union in Central Asia. The consolidation of power by President Vladimir Putin has resulted in a steady decline in the modest progress of previous years in Russia. The Commonwealth of Independent States continues to face serious challenges in meeting even basic international standards.[32]

Military structures

The CIS Charter establishes the Council of Ministers of Defense, which is vested with the task of coordinating military cooperation of the CIS member states. To this end, the Council develops conceptual approaches to the questions of military and defense policy of the CIS member states; develops proposals aimed to prevent armed conflicts on the territory of the member states or with their participation; gives expert opinions on draft treaties and agreements related to the questions of defense and military developments; issues related suggestions and proposals to the attention of the CIS Council of the Heads of State. Also important is the Council's work on approximation of the legal acts in the area of defense and military development.

An important manifestation of integration processes in the area of military and defense collaboration of the CIS member states is the creation, in 1995, of the joint CIS Air Defense System. Over the years, the military personnel of the joint CIS Air Defense System grew twofold along the western, European border of the CIS, and by 1.5 times on its southern borders.[33]

When Boris Yeltsin became Russian Defence Minister on 7 May 1992, Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, the man appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the CIS Armed Forces, and his staff, were ejected from the MOD and General Staff buildings and given offices in the former Warsaw Pact Headquarters at 41 Leningradsky Prospekt[34] on the northern outskirts of Moscow.[35] Shaposhnikov resigned in June 1993.

In December 1993, the CIS Armed Forces Headquarters was abolished.[36] Instead, 'the CIS Council of Defence Ministers created a CIS Military Cooperation Coordination Headquarters (MCCH) in Moscow, with 50 per cent of the funding provided by Russia.'[37] General Viktor Samsonov was appointed as Chief of Staff. The headquarters has now moved to 101000, Москва, Сверчков переулок, 3/2, and 41 Leningradsky Prospekt has now been taken over by another Russian MOD agency.

The chiefs of the CIS general staffs have spoken in favor of integrating their national armed forces.[38]

Associated organisations

GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development Georgia (country) Azerbaijan Ukraine Moldova Tajikistan Turkmenistan Collective Security Treaty Organization Eurasian Economic Union Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan Kazakhstan Armenia Union State Belarus Russia Commonwealth of Independent States Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area Baltic Assembly Lithuania Latvia Estonia Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations Transnistria Abkhazia South Ossetia Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational organisations in the territory of the former Soviet Unionvde

Free trade area (CISFTA)


In 1994, the CIS countries "agreed" to create a free trade area (FTA), but the agreements were never signed. The 1994 agreement would have covered all twelve then CIS members except Turkmenistan.[39]


In 2009, a new agreement was begun to create a FTA, the CISFTA.[40] In October 2011, the new free trade agreement was signed by eight of the eleven CIS prime ministers; Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine at a meeting in St. Petersburg. As of 2013, it has been ratified by Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, and Armenia, and is in force only between those states.[41]

The free trade agreement eliminates export and import duties on a number of goods but also contains a number of exemptions that will ultimately be phased out.[42] An agreement was also signed on the basic principles of currency regulation and currency controls in the CIS at the same October 2011 meeting.[43]

Corruption and bureaucracy are serious problems for trade in CIS countries.[44]

Eurasian Economic Community

The Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC or EAEC) originated from a customs union between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan on 29 March 1996.[45] It was named the EAEC on 10 October 2000[46] when Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan signed the treaty. EurAsEC was formally created when the treaty was finally ratified by all five member states in May 2001. Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine hold observer status. EurAsEC is working on establishing a common energy market and exploring the more efficient use of water in central Asia.

Organisation of Central Asian Cooperation

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan formed the OCAC in 1991 as Central Asian Commonwealth (CAC). The organisation continued in 1994 as the Central Asian Economic Union (CAEU), in which Tajikistan and Turkmenistan did not participate. In 1998 it became the Central Asian Economic Cooperation (CAEC), which marked the return of Tajikistan. On 28 February 2002 it was renamed to its current name. Russia joined on 28 May 2004.[47] On 7 October 2005 it was decided between the member states that Uzbekistan will join[48] the Eurasian Economic Community and that the organisations will merge.[49] The organisations joined on 25 January 2006. It is not clear what will happen to the status of current CACO observers that are not observers to EurAsEC (Georgia and Turkey).

Common Economic Space

After discussion about the creation of a common economic space between the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, agreement in principle about the creation of this space was announced after a meeting in the Moscow suburb of Novo-Ogarevo on 23 February 2003. The Common Economic Space would involve a supranational commission on trade and tariffs that would be based in Kiev, would initially be headed by a representative of Kazakhstan, and would not be subordinate to the governments of the four nations. The ultimate goal would be a regional organisation that would be open for other countries to join as well, and could eventually lead even to a single currency.

On 22 May 2003, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) voted 266 votes in favour and 51 against the joint economic space. However, most believe that Viktor Yushchenko's victory in the Ukrainian presidential election of 2004 was a significant blow against the project: Yushchenko has shown renewed interest in Ukrainian membership in the European Union and such membership would be incompatible with the envisioned common economic space. Yushchenko's successor Viktor Yanukovych stated on 27 April 2010 "Ukraine's entry into the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is not possible today, since the economic principles and the laws of the WTO do not allow it, we develop our policy in accordance with WTO principles".[50] Ukraine is a WTO member.[50]

A Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia was thus created in 2010,[51] with a single market envisioned for 2012.[52]

Collective Security Treaty Organization

CSTO logo
  CSTO members
  GUAM members
  Other CIS members

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) (Russian: Организация Договора о Коллективной Безопасности) or simply the Tashkent Treaty (Russian: Ташкентский договор) first began as the CIS Collective Security Treaty[53] which was signed on 15 May 1992, by Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in the city of Tashkent. Azerbaijan signed the treaty on 24 September 1993, Georgia on 9 December 1993 and Belarus on 31 December 1993. The treaty came into effect on 20 April 1994.

The CST was set to last for a 5-year period unless extended. On 2 April 1999, only six members of the CSTO signed a protocol renewing the treaty for another five-year period, while Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan refused to sign, and withdrew from the treaty instead; together with Moldova and Ukraine, formed a non-aligned, more pro-Western group known as the "GUAM" (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova). The organisation was named CSTO on 7 October 2002 in Tashkent. Nikolai Bordyuzha was appointed secretary general of the new organisation. During 2005, the CSTO partners conducted some common military exercises. In 2005, Uzbekistan withdrew from GUAM, and on 23 June 2006, Uzbekistan became a full participant in the CSTO and its membership was formally ratified by its parliament on 28 March 2008.[54] The CSTO is an observer organisation at the United Nations General Assembly.

The charter reaffirmed the desire of all participating states to abstain from the use or threat of force. Signatories would not be able to join other military alliances or other groups of states, while aggression against one signatory would be perceived as an aggression against all. To this end, the CSTO holds yearly military command exercises for the CSTO nations to have an opportunity to improve inter-organisation cooperation. The largest-scale CSTO military exercise held to date were the "Rubezh 2008" exercises hosted in Armenia where a combined total of 4,000 troops from all 7 constituent CSTO member countries conducted operative, strategic, and tactical training with an emphasis towards furthering efficiency of the collective security element of the CSTO partnership.[55]

In May 2007, the CSTO secretary-general Nikolai Bordyuzha suggested Iran could join the CSTO saying, "The CSTO is an open organisation. If Iran applies in accordance with our charter, we will consider the application." If Iran joined, it would be the first state outside the former Soviet Union to become a member of the organisation.

On 6 October 2007, CSTO members agreed to a major expansion of the organisation which would create a CSTO peacekeeping force that could deploy under a UN mandate or without one in its member states. The expansion would also allow all members to purchase Russian weapons at the same price as Russia.[56] CSTO signed an agreement with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, to broaden cooperation on issues such as security, crime, and drug trafficking.[57]

On 29 August 2008, Russia announced it would seek CSTO recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, three days after Russia officially recognised both.[58] On 5 September 2008, Armenia assumed the rotating CSTO presidency during a CSTO meeting in Moscow, Russia.[59]

In October 2009, Ukraine refused permission for the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center to hold anti-terrorist exercises on its territory because Ukraine's constitution bans foreign military units from operating on its territory.[60]

The largest military exercises ever held by the CSTO, involving up to 12,000 troops, were conducted between 19 and 27 September 2011 to raise preparedness and co-ordination in anti-destabilization techniques, to counter any attempts at popular uprisings like the Arab Spring.[61]

Other activities

Controversial election observation mission

The CIS Election Monitoring Organisation (Russian: Миссия наблюдателей от СНГ на выборах) is an election monitoring body that was formed in October 2002, following a Commonwealth of Independent States heads of states meeting which adopted the Convention on the Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights, and Freedoms in the Member States of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The CIS-EMO has been sending election observers to member countries of the CIS since this time; they approved many elections which have been heavily criticised by independent observers.[62]

Interparliamentary Assembly

The CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, established in March 1995, is a consultative parliamentary wing of the CIS created to discuss problems of parliamentary cooperation.[70] The Assembly held its 32nd Plenary meeting in Saint Petersburg on 14 May 2009. Ukraine participates, but Uzbekistan does not.[71]

Russian language status

Russia has been urging that the Russian language receive official status in all of the CIS member states. So far Russian is an official language in only four of these states: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russian is also considered an official language in the region of Transnistria, and the autonomous region of Gagauzia in Moldova. Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-supported presidential candidate in the controversial 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, declared his intention to make Russian an official second language of Ukraine. However, the Western-supported candidate Viktor Yushchenko, the winner, did not do so. After his early 2010 election as President Yanukovych stated (on 9 March 2010) that "Ukraine will continue to promote the Ukrainian language as its only state language".[72]

Sports events

At the time of the Soviet Union's dissolution in December 1991, its sports teams had been invited to or qualified for various 1992 sports events. A joint CIS team took its place in some of these. The "Unified Team" competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics and 1992 Summer Olympics, and a CIS association football team competed in UEFA Euro 1992. A CIS bandy team played some friendlies in January 1992 and made its last appearance at the 1992 Russian Government Cup, where it also played against the new Russia national bandy team. The Soviet Union bandy championship for 1991–1992 was rebranded as a CIS championship.

Since then, CIS members have each competed separately in international sport.

Economic data

Country Population (2015)GDP 2007 (USD)GDP 2012 (USD)GDP growth (2012)GDP per capita (2007)GDP per capita (2012)
Russia146,270,033 1,294,381,844,0812,022,000,000,0003.4%9,11914,240
The data is taken from the United Nations statistics division and the United States Central Intelligence Agency.[73]

See also


1. ^ The Commonwealth of Independent States and the Commonwealth of Nations are also called the "Russian Commonwealth" and the "British Commonwealth" respectively to differentiate between them.[74]


  1. CIS leaders sign free trade deal, 2011-10-18. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  2. Agreement on the Establishment of the CIS: 3 founding countries, 8 December 1991 (unofficial English translation). Russian text here
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  4. Alma-Ata Declaration: 11 countries accede to the CIS, 21 December 1991 (English translation). Russian text here
  5. 1 2 Ratification status of CIS documents as of 15 January 2008 Archived 30 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine. (Russian)
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  74. Vinep A Kankam-da-Costa (2012). Who Is Fit to Rule America in the Twenty-First Century and Beyond?. Xlibris. p. 271. ISBN 9781479739653. Retrieved 17 November 2013.

External links

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