common wealth of independent states

Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (Содружество Независимых Государств (СНГ), transliterated Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv (SNG)) is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics. The organization was founded on December 8, 1991 by Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, when the leaders of the three countries signed an agreement on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of CIS as a successor entity to the USSR. On December 21, 1991, the leaders of eight additional former Soviet Republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – joined the Creation Agreement, thus bringing the number of participating countries to 11. Georgia joined two years later, in December 1993. As of that time, CIS included 12 of the 15 former Soviet Republics. The three Baltic statesEstonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – had decided not to join, seeking strategic affiliation with the European Union.

The Creation Agreement (Соглашение, Soglasheniye) remained the main constituent document of the CIS until January 1993, when the CIS Charter (Устав, Ustav) was adopted. The charter introduced the concept of membership: a member country is a country that ratified the CIS Charter (sec. 2, art. 7). Ukraine, one of the three founding countries that signed and ratified the Creation Agreement in December 1991, has never ratified the CIS Charter and it is thus legally not a member country to this day. Turkmenistan changed its CIS standing to associate member as of August 26, 2005 from considerations of consistency with its UN-recognized international neutrality status. Georgia notified (on August 18, 2008) the CIS executive organs of the unanimous decision of its parliament to leave the regional organization, and according to the CIS Charter (sec. 1, art. 9) this decision will come into force 12 months after the notification date. Thus, as of September 2008, the 12 countries that form the CIS differ in their membership status: 9 countries have ratified the CIS charter and are full CIS members, one country (Turkmenistan) is an associate member, one country (Georgia) has declared its decision to leave the CIS, and one country (Ukraine) is a founding and participating country, but legally not a member country.

The CIS is not a superstate, and it is comparable to a loose confederation similar to the original European Community rather than today’s European Union. 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 or economic union between the participating states, to have been launched in 2005. It has also promoted cooperation on democratization and cross-border crime prevention. As a regional organization, CIS participates in UN peacekeeping forces.

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. Sergei Lebedev is the current executive secretary, and has been since October 2007.

CIS countries

Ratification status of basic CIS agreements as of September 2008

Country Creation Agreement
Creation Agreement
CIS Charter
December 21, 1991 February 18, 1992 March 16, 1994
December 21, 1991 September 24, 1993 December 14, 1993
December 8, 1991 December 10, 1991 January 18, 1994 Founding member country
December 3, 1993 April 19, 1994 Notice of withdrawal from CIS served on August 18, 2008;
becomes effective on August 17, 2009 (CIS Charter, sec. 1, art. 9)
December 21, 1991 December 23, 1991 April 20, 1994
December 21, 1991 March 6, 1992 April 12, 1994
December 21, 1991 April 8, 1994 June 27, 1994
December 8, 1991 December 12, 1991 July 20, 1993 Founding member country
December 21, 1991 June 26, 1993 August 4, 1993
December 21, 1991 December 26, 1991 Not ratified Associate member as of August 26, 2005
December 8, 1991 December 10, 1991 Not ratified Founding country
December 21, 1991 April 1, 1992 February 9, 1994

Governing bodies

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

  • Executive Committee - Website
  • Council of the Heads of States
  • Council of the Heads of Governments
  • Council of Foreign Ministers
  • Council of Defense Ministers
  • Council of the Interior Ministers

Note. In the CIS countries (as in many European nations) the Interior Minister is the head of a national law enforcement agency.

  • Council of the Member-State Permanent Representatives
  • 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 defence and security issues; on culture, science, education and information issues; on foreign policy affairs; on state-building and local government; on control budget.

Military cooperation

  • Staff for Coordinating Military Cooperation. Established as the CIS Joint Armed Forces High Command in March 1992 and then reorganised as the Coordinating Staff in August 1993. Reduced quickly to a very weak body as national authorities asserted their control over their own armed forces. May now have been wound up after a CIS conference in Kazan in August 2005.

The following bodies also govern defence and security issues:

  • Council of the Heads of Security and Special Services
  • Joint Consultative Commission on Disarmament
  • Anti-Terrorism Center
  • Council of Border Troops Commanders

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 would not 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 five-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 Chişinău, expanding it and renaming to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Nikolai Bordyuzha was appointed secretary general of the new organization. On 23 June 2006, Uzbekistan rejoined CSTO.

Economic cooperation

In addition to the Economic Council, the following agencies are involved in economic issues.

  • Interstate Statistical Committee - Website
  • Interstate Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification - Website

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
  • Electric Power Council - Website
  • Council for Cooperation in Health Care
  • Interstate Council for Anti-Trust Policies
  • Interstate Council for Industrial Safety - Website
  • Council of the Heads of Statistical Services

Mongolia is an observer in several of the economic activities listed above.

Eurasian Economic Community

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 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.

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 of a Union of Russia and Belarus with or without the participation of Ukraine. This was confirmed in August 2006 - initially a customs union will consist of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan with the other EurAsEC members joining later.

Chartered organisations

  • Interstate Bank - Website
  • MIR Interstate Television and Radio Broadcasting Company
  • Council of the Heads of the Chambers of Commerce
  • International Association of Exchanges - Website
  • Leasing Confederation - Website
  • 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 member countries of 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 organisations 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.

Russian language

Russia has been urging for the Russian language to receive official status in all 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 region of Transnistria, as well as the semi-autonomous region of Gagauzia in Moldova.

Viktor Yanukovych, 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, Viktor Yushchenko, the winner, did not do so as he was more closely aligned with the Ukrainian-speaking population.



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 miles) north of Brest in Belarus, and signed an agreement establishing the CIS. At the same time they announced that the new alliance 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 eleven of the fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union met in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, and signed the CIS charter. The Soviet government had already recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on September 6, 1991, and the three Baltic nations refused to join the CIS. Georgia and Azerbaijan were initially reluctant to join the CIS but eventually did so in 1993. The CIS charter stated that all the members were sovereign and independent nations and thereby effectively abolished the Soviet Union.

The nine original member states were Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Azerbaijan joined the CIS in September 1993 and Georgia joined in December though under somewhat controversial circumstances, following the Georgian Civil War.

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.


Between years of 2003 and 2005, the 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, lastly, Askar Akayev was toppled in Kyrgyzstan. The new government in Ukraine has taken an especially clear pro-Western stance, in contrast 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:

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 as part of the Eurasian Economic Community , 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". 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.

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 defence ministers. 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". As tensions heightened with Russia due to the latter's ban on several Georgian wine and water brands, the Government of Georgia began to consider withdrawing from the CIS, its membership in which was largely unpopular within Georgia. President Mikheil Saakashvili said on May 2, 2006 that the government would review whether the country was benefiting from being a CIS member. Following the South Ossetian war in 2008, President Saakashvili announced during a public speech in the capital city Tbilisi that Georgia would leave the CIS and the Georgian Parliament voted unanimously (on 14 August 2008) to withdraw from the regional organization. On August 18 2008 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia sent a note to the CIS Executive Committee notifying it of the aforesaid resolutions of the Parliament of Georgia and Georgia’s withdrawal from CIS.

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 has never ratified the CIS treaty and, therefore, is not a member of the organisation. 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. Ukraine had historically become one of the CIS founding countries. At the same time Ukraine is the participant and not the member of CIS as it did not sign the Rules (Statute) of CIS. Ukraine is against turning of CIS into the "superstate" entity and against delegating to such entity of any authority to override the national governments decisions. Ukraine is against delegating to CIS of the status of the international law subject and does not recognize the CIS right to represent its interests in the international arena or in the international organizations. Ukraine does not support any attempts to revive in the post-soviet territory any new amalgamations of federative or confederative character, is against creation on the CIS basis of political, military or economic union around mutual center. Ukraine departs from the fact that each of the countries - participants of CIS conducts its foreign policy independently and determines the scope of its activities within CIS. Ukraine does not take part in the CIS military-political structures. Ukraine is currently gradually further "wrapping up" the scope of its participation in the CIS activities. Ukraine's strategic target is integration into the European and Euroatlantic structures.

In August 2005, Turkmenistan downgraded its CIS status to an associate member from considerations of consistency with its international neutrality status.

In March 2007, Igor Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, expressed his doubts concerning the usefulness of CIS, and emphasizing that the EurAsEC became a more competent organization to unify the biggest countries of the CIS.

Executive Secretaries of CIS

Name Country Term
Ivan Korotchenya December 26, 1991 - April 29, 1998
Boris Berezovsky April 29, 1998 - March 4, 1999
Ivan Korotchenya (acting) March 4 - April 2, 1999
Yury Yarov April 2, 1999 - June 14, 2004
Vladimir Rushailo June 14, 2004 - October 5, 2007
Sergei Lebedev since October 5, 2007

Alternative organizations

As the CIS doesn't meet all members' expectations, several alternative organizations involving the former Soviet republics have been created:

There are also organizations which consist of unrecognized states:

In several other organizations the former Soviet republics constitute a large part of members:

See also


External links

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