Commonwealth of Independent States

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Содружество Независимых Государств
Commonwealth of Independent States
Image:Flag of the CIS.svg
Flag of the CIS
Image:CIS Map.png
Template:Legend Template:Legend
Headquarters Minsk, Belarus
Membership 11 member states
1 associate member
Working language Russian
Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo
Formation December 21, 1991

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (in Russian: Содружество Независимых Государств (СНГ) - Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv) is a confederation, or alliance, consisting of 11 former Soviet Republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan discontinued permanent membership as of August 26 2005 and is now an associate member.

The creation of CIS signaled the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, according to leaders of Russia, its purpose was to "allow a civilized divorce" between the Soviet Republics. However, many observers have seen the CIS as a tool that would allow Russia to keep its influence over the post-Soviet states. Since its formation, the member-states of CIS have signed a large number of documents concerning integration and cooperation on matters of economics, defense and foreign policy.





Initiating the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the autumn of 1991, the leaders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine met on December 8 in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Natural Reserve, about 50 km (30 mi) north of Brest in Belarus, and signed an agreement establishing the CIS. At the same time they announced that the new confederation would be open to all republics of the former Soviet Union, as well as other nations sharing the same goals.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev described this as an "illegal and dangerous" constitutional coup, but it soon became clear that the development could not be stopped: On December 21, 1991, the leaders of 11 of the 15 constituent republics of the USSR met in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, and signed the charter, thus de facto ratifying the initial CIS treaty. The Soviet government had already recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on September 6 1991, and the three Baltic nations as well as Georgia refused to join the CIS. The CIS charter stated that all the members were sovereign and independent nations and thereby effectively abolished the USSR.

The 11 original member states were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. In December 1993, Georgia also joined the CIS under somewhat controversial circumstances, following a civil war.

CIS crisis

Between 2003 and 2005, the leaderships of three CIS member states were overthrown in a series of "color revolutions": Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia, Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine, and, lastly, Askar Akayev in Kyrgyzstan. In Ukraine especially, the new government has taken a clearly pro-Western stance contrasted to their predecessors' close relationship with the Kremlin. The new government of Georgia has likewise taken a pro-Western and anti-Kremlin stance. Moldova also seems to be quietly drifting toward the West, away from the CIS.

In that timeframe a number of statements have been made by member state officials, casting doubt on the potential and continued worth of the CIS:

  • Moldova: On September 19 2003, Vladimir Voronin, the president of Moldova expressed his disappointment at the Common Economic Space, set up between Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus, and claimed this decision would lead to a "depreciation of CIS stock" and that it showed that "possible modernization of the CIS has been abandoned for good" and "the lack of perspective of the CIS has become evident". [1] However he has also more recently argued that it would be a great mistake for Moldova to leave the "huge markets" of the CIS and that Moldova can gain profit by remaining part of the CIS [2]
  • Georgia: In November 2004, the Defense Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Baramidze, told reporters that he would not be attending the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, and that the CIS is "yesterday's history", while Georgia's future was in cooperation with NATO defense ministers. [3] In February 2006, Georgia officially 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". [4] [5]
  • Belarus: One of the closest allies of Russia, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, said during a summit with Vladimir Putin that "The CIS is undergoing the most critical phase of its history" and is at risk of being dissolved or losing all its significance to the member states.
  • Ukraine: On April 9, 2005, Minister of Economics of Ukraine said at a news conference "there is no hope for CIS development" and that Ukrainian government is considering halting its financial contributions to CIS bodies. [6]
  • Turkmenistan: In August 2005, Turkmenistan downgraded its CIS status to an associate member.

Role and organization

The CIS is headquartered in Minsk, Belarus. The chairman of the CIS is known as the Executive Secretary. All of the CIS's executive secretaries have been from Belarus or Russia. The current executive secretary is former Russian interior minister, Vladimir Rushailo.

From a historical point of view, the CIS could be viewed a successor entity to the Soviet Union, insofar as one of its original intents was to provide a framework for the disassembly of that state. However, the CIS is emphatically not a state unto itself, and is more comparable to the European Community than to its "predecessor". However, although the CIS has few supranational powers, it is more than a purely symbolic organization, possessing coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking, and security. The most significant issue for the CIS is the establishment of a full-fledged free trade zone / economic union between the member states, to have been launched in 2005. It has also promoted cooperation on democratisation and cross-border crime prevention.

During the 1992 Olympic Games (in Albertville and Barcelona), athletes from the CIS member states competed as the Unified Team for the last time. In other sports events in that year, such as the European Championships in football, athletes took part as representatives of the CIS. Since then, the member states have competed under their national banners.

CIS Governing Institutions

Statutory Bodies

The affairs of CIS member states are governed by the following statutory bodies:

  • Council of the Heads of States
  • Council of the Heads of Governments
  • Council of Foreign Ministers
  • Council of Defense Ministers
  • Council of Border Troops Commanders
  • Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (IPA)
Established in March 1992 as a consultative institution, the first participants were Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Between 1993 and 1996, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova also joined. Ukraine joined in 1999.
IPA sessions are held twice a year in Saint Petersburg, and are composed of parliamentary delegations of the member states. The IPA has nine permanent commissions: on legal issues; on economy and finance; on social policy and human rights; on ecology and natural resources; on defense and security issues; on culture, science, education and information issues; on foreign policy affairs; on state-building and local government; on control budget. [7]

Executive Bodies

  • Economic Council
  • Council of the Member-State Permanent Representatives
  • Executive Committee (legal successor of the Executive Secretariat)

Agencies for Economic Cooperation

Also known as the Euro Asian Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification (EASC). Recognized as a regional standards organization by ISO Council Resolution 40/1995.
  • Interstate Council for Emergencies Caused by Natural Phenomena and Industrial Activities
  • Interstate Ecological Council
  • Interstate Council for Hydrometeorology
  • Interstate Council for Geodesy, Cartography, Cadaster and Remote Earth Probing
  • Interstate Council for Coordination of Scientific Information
  • Inter-Governmental Council for Cooperation in the Construction Industry
  • Council for Cooperation in Health Care
  • Interstate Council for Anti-Trust Policies
  • Interstate Council for Industrial Safety
  • Council of the Heads of Statistical Services
  • Anti-Terrorism Center
  • Council of the Interior Ministers
Note. In the CIS countries, the Interior Minister is the head of a national law enforcement agency.
  • Council of the Heads of Security and Special Services
  • Joint Consultative Commission on Disarmament

This list is not inclusive. As of April 2006, the total number of the CIS agencies was about 70.

Chartered Organizations

  • Interstate Bank
  • MIR Interstate Television and Radio Broadcasting Company
  • Council of the Heads of the Chambers of Commerce
  • International Association of Exchanges
  • Leasing Confederation
  • International Consumer Cooperatives Council
  • International Union for Agricultural Production
  • International Academy of Wine Growing and Wine Making

Election Observation Missions


Since 2002 the CIS has been sending observers to elections in countries belonging to the CIS. Several of these observation missions have been extremely controversial, as their findings have been that the elections are "free and fair" only when the pro-Kremlin or ruling-party wins, and therefore has often been in contradiction with the findings of other international organizations from Western liberal-democracies - such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, or the European Union - which normally label those same elections as having many irregularities.

After the CIS observer mission disputed the final (repeat) round of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election which followed the Orange Revolution and brought into power the former opposition, Ukraine suspended its membership in the CIS observer missions.

Moves for further integration

CIS Collective Security Treaty

The CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST) was signed on May 15, 1992, by Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in the city of Tashkent. Azerbaijan likewise signed the treaty on September 24, 1993, Georgia on December 9, 1993 and Belarus on December 31, 1993. The treaty came into effect on April 20, 1994.

The treaty reaffirmed the desire of all participating states to abstain from the use or threat of force. Signatories wouldn't be able to join other military alliances or other groups of states, while an aggression against one signatory would be perceived as an aggression against all.

The CST was set to last for a 5-year period unless extended. On April 2, 1999, the Presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, signed a protocol renewing the treaty for another five year period -- however Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan refused to sign and withdrew from the treaty instead.

On October 7, 2002, the six members of the CST, signed a charter in Chisinau, expanding it and renaming to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Nikolai Bordyuzha was appointed secretary general of the new organization.

Russian Language

Russia has been urging for the Russian language to receive official status in all 12 of the CIS member states. So far Russian is an official language in four of these states: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russian is also considered an official language in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and Transnistria, as well as the semi-autonomous region of Gagauzia in Moldova.

Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-supported presidential candidate in the controversial Ukrainian presidential election, 2004, declared his intention to make Russian an official second language of Ukraine. However, Victor Yushchenko, the winner, did not do so as he was more closely aligned with the Ukrainian-speaking population.

Common Economic Space

There has been discussion about the creation of a "common economic space" between the 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 February 23 2003.

The Common Economic Space would involve a supranational commission on trade and tariffs that would be based in Kiev, would be initially 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 organization that would be open for other countries to join as well, and could eventually lead even to a single currency. [8]

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.

With the revival of the Eurasian Economic Community in 2005 there is a possibility for the "common economic space" agenda to be implemented in its framework with or without the participation of Ukraine.

See also



External links

Image:Flag of the CIS.svg Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Image:Flag of the CIS.svg
Armenia | Azerbaijan | Belarus | Georgia | Kazakhstan | Kyrgyzstan | Moldova | Russia | Tajikistan | Ukraine | Uzbekistan
Associate Member: Turkmenistan
an:Comunidá de Estatos Independiens

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