December 21

This Day in History

Cold War

Dec 21, 1991:

Soviet republics proclaim the Commonwealth of Independent States

In a final step signifying the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, 11 of the 12 Soviet republics declare that they are forming the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Just a few days later, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev announced he was stepping down from his position. The Soviet Union ceased to exist.

The 11 republics-Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan-signed an agreement creating the CIS. Only Georgia, embroiled in a civil war, abstained from participation. Exactly what they created was open to debate. The CIS was not a new nation, but merely an "alliance" between independent states. The political meaning of the alliance was hazy. The independent states each took over the former Soviet government facilities within their borders. The military side of the CIS was even more confusing. They agreed to sustain any arms agreements signed by the former Soviet Union. The former Soviet defense minister would retain control over the military until the CIS could agree on what to do with the nuclear weapons and conventional forces within their borders. Complicating the situation were terrific economic problems and outbreaks of ethnic violence in the new republics.

For Gorbachev, the announcement was the final signal that his power—and the existence of the Soviet Union—was at an end. Four days later, on Christmas Day, he announced his resignation.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date

Shop HISTORY