The post-Soviet states, also commonly known as the Former Soviet Union (FSU) or Former Soviet Republics, are the 15 independent states that emerged from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in its dissolution in December 1991. The three Baltic states restored their independence on the basis of state continuity; while the remaining 12 republics are deemed to have seceded from the Soviet Union and are thus referred to as the Newly Independent States (NIS). The NIS subsequently formed the CIS and most joined CSTO, while the Baltic states eschewed that path and instead joined both the European Union and NATO.
States and geographical groupings
The 15 post-Soviet states are typically divided into the following five groupings. Each of these regions has its own common set of traits, owing not only to geographic and cultural factors but also to that region's history in relation to Russia. In addition, there are a number of de facto independent, but internationally unrecognized states (see the section Separatist conflicts below).
The dissolution of the Soviet Union took place as a result and against the backdrop of general economic stagnation, even regression. As the Gosplan, which had set up production chains to cross SSR lines, broke down, the inter-republic economic connections were also disrupted, leading to even more serious breakdown of the post-Soviet economies.
Most of the formerly Soviet states began the transition to a market economy in 1990-1991 and made efforts to rebuild and restructure their economic systems, with varying results. The process triggered a severe transition decline, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropping by more than 40% between 1990 and 1995. This decline in GDP was much more intense than the 27% decline that the United States suffered in the wake of the Great Depression between 1930 and 1934. The reconfiguration of public finance in compliance with the principles of market economy resulted in dramatically reduced spending on health, education and other social programs, leading to a sharp increase in poverty.
The initial transition decline was eventually arrested by the cumulative effect of market reforms, and after 1995 the economy in the post-Soviet states began to recover, with GDP switching from negative to positive growth rates. By 2007, 10 of the 15 post-Soviet states had reached GDP greater than what they had in 1991.[not in citation given] Only Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan had GDP significantly below the 1991 level. The recovery in Russia was marginal, with GDP in 2006-2007 just nudging above the 1991 level. This could be perceived as failure of capitalism to improve the standard of living in Russia, and combined with the aftershocks of the 1998 economic crisis it led to a return of more interventionist economic policies by Vladimir Putin's administration.
Change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in constant prices, 1991-2007
|Eastern European states|
*Economy of most Soviet republics started to decline in 1989-1990, thus indices for 1991 don't match pre-reform maximums.
**The year when GDP decline switched to GDP growth.
The post-Soviet states listed according to their Human Development Index scores (2013).
Very High Human Development:
High Human Development:
- Belarus: 0.793
- Russia: 0.788
- Kazakhstan: 0.754
- Georgia: 0.745
- Ukraine: 0.740
- Azerbaijan: 0.734
- Armenia: 0.729
Medium Human Development:
A number of regional organizations and cooperating blocs have sprung up since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Only organizations that are mainly (or completely) composed of post-Soviet states are listed in this section; organizations with wider memberships are not discussed. The 15 post-Soviet states are divided in their participation to the regional blocs:
- Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in December 1991. It was conceived as a successor organization to the USSR, and as of December 1993 it included 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics (except the three Baltic states).
- The three Baltic states have not sought membership to any of these post-Soviet organizations, seeking and achieving membership in the European Union and NATO instead (only their electricity and rail systems remain closely connected with former Soviet organizations). The sole exception to the above has been their recent membership in the Community of Democratic Choice.
- The Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan (as well as Belarus) are members of the CIS and participate in several regional organizations that have Russia as a primary mover. Such organizations are the Eurasian Economic Community (merged with Central Asian Cooperation Organization), Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The last two groups only became distinct once Uzbekistan withdrew from GUAM and sought membership in EurAsEc and CSTO.
- Ukraine, Moldova, and Azerbaijan participate in the CIS but other than that they mostly cooperate within regional organizations that are not dominated by Russia. Such organizations are GUAM and the Community of Democratic Choice. Although Ukraine is one of the three founding countries of the CIS, it is legally not a member because it has never ratified the 1993 CIS Charter.
- Turkmenistan is an associate member of CIS (having withdrawn from full membership in August 2005) and a member in the Economic Cooperation Organization; it has not sought closer integration in any of the other Western or post-Soviet organizations.
- Georgia notified (on August 18, 2008) the CIS executive organs of its decision 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.
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) consists of 11 former Soviet Republics that differ in their membership status. As of December 2010, 9 countries have ratified the CIS charter and are full CIS members (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), one country (Turkmenistan) is an associate member, one country (Ukraine) is a founding and participating country, but legally not a member country, and one country (Georgia) left the organization in 2009.
Eurasian Economic Community
The Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), formerly the CIS Customs Union, was established by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Ukraine and Moldova have observer status in the community; however, Ukraine has declared its desire not to become a full member state. Because having common borders with the rest of the community is a prerequisite for full membership, Moldova is barred from seeking it. Uzbekistan applied for membership in October 2005 , when the process of merging Central Asian Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Community began; it joined on 25 January 2006.
Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia
CIS free trade area
In 1994, the CIS countries agreed to create a free trade area, but the agreements were never signed, so in 2009 a new agreement was reached to create an FTA by the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011.
Collective Security Treaty Organization
Seven CIS member states, namely Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Armenia, have enhanced their military cooperation, establishing the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), this being an expansion of the previous Collective Security Treaty (CST). Uzbekistan which (alongside Georgia and Azerbaijan) withdrew from the CST in 1999, joined GUAM. Then in 2005 it withdrew from GUAM and currently it is again seeking closer ties with Russia (thus in 2006 it has joined EurAsEc and later CSTO). CSTO and EurAsEc are closely related organizations.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Three former Soviet states are members of NATO: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Georgia, where both public opinion and the ruling government favor NATO membership, is in the Intensified Dialogue program with NATO. In Ukraine after the 2009 electoral victory of Viktor Yanukovych, the government officially declared neutrality and no longer seeks NATO membership, as it did after the Orange revolution and the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko.
Four member states, namely Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova established the GUAM group that was largely seen as intending to counter Russian dominance in the region. Notably, these four nations do not participate in any of the other regional organizations that sprang up in the region since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (other than the CIS).
Union of Russia and Belarus
The Union of Russia and Belarus was originally formed on April 2, 1996 under the name Commonwealth of Russia and Belarus, before being tightened further on December 8, 1999. It was initiated by the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. On paper, the Union of Russia and Belarus intends further integration, beyond the scope of mere cooperation, including the introduction of the ruble as a common currency.
Other regional organizations
Economic Cooperation Organization
The Economic Cooperation Organization was originally formed in 1985 by Turkey, Iran and Pakistan but in 1992 the organization was expanded to include Afghanistan and the six primarily Muslim former Soviet republics: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Community of Democratic Choice
The Community of Democratic Choice (CDC) was formed in December 2005 at the primary instigation of Ukraine and Georgia, and composed of six post-Soviet states (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and three other countries of Eastern Europe (Slovenia, Romania and the Republic of Macedonia). The Black Sea Forum (BSF) is a closely related organization.
Just like GUAM before it, this forum is largely seen as intending to counteract Russian influence in the area. This is the only international forum centered in the post-Soviet space in which the Baltic states also participate. In addition, the other three post-Soviet states in it are all members of GUAM.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), is composed of China and five post-Soviet states, namely Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The organization was founded in 2001, though its predecessor, the Shanghai Five grouping, has existed since 1996. Its aims revolve around security-related issues.
For economic cooperation
- Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) with Moldova (it includes also non post-Soviet countries of the former Yugoslavia; previously, also included other Central European countries that left CEFTA when joining the European Union ; CEFTA plays a role in Central Europe similar to what EFTA provides in Western Europe for non EU-members; this alliance an economical organization with strong cooperation with the European Union, for countries that do not want to participage in EurAsEC centered on Russia but that are seeking alliances to the West); even if Moldova is the only CEFTA country that is still within a weakening CIS, it no longer participates to the CSTO for most of the common security policy (but cannot join the EU because of incompatibility with WEU stability rules and the unsolved problem of Transnistria) but can still benefit from the Free Trade Area notably with Romania and Bulgaria (in the EU).
- Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) with Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkey, Albania, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Armenia (an economic organisation closely related to the SCO but more focused regionally to include also Armenia; it also aims for the hamonious development of democracy for increasing the commerce in South-East Europe and includes some EU members, so it cannot be a regional free-trade union).
- The European Union (EU) with the three Baltic countries that were the first ones to declare independence from the former USSR and have never joined CIS after the collapse of USSR (it includes also now some post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe, that have left CEFTA when entering the EU : Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia)
For political integration and security alliances
- Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (SPforSEE) with Moldova (similar in structure to CEFTA, but does not focus on economy but security, for those countries that are not NATO members ); this organization largely cooperates with NATO, and is related to the group of observers at Western European Union (WEU).
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), for Baltic countries, Poland, and Central European countries that have also joined the EU (the EU membership includes also WEU membership because they follow the Common Foreign and Security Policy and European Security and Defence Policy policies shared now by the EU, the WEU and all European NATO members).
- The other remaining countries are those part of the former Yugoslavia, but their recent conflict and political tensions still does not allow them to cooperate efficiently for their political integration and for their mutual security; in addition, they still do not have full sovereignty in this domain (some of them are still under surveillance by EU or NATO, as mandated by UNO). They still need to find an internal stability and they can collaborate economically with the help of other organizations focusing on economy or political cooperation and development. However a more limited cooperation for security is possible through their membership to the larger Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
- The only exception is Belarus (whose post-soviet democratic transition did not occur) that still rejects political integration, and all security alliances with NATO, OSCE, WEU or other countries in Europe other than Russia (which the process of reintegration of Belarus has been tightened in almost all domains).
In other domains
- Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) with Moldova (similar to SPforSEE, but focuses on political integration than cooperation for security, and to CEFTA but does not focus on trade).
- Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) with Moldova (closely related to SEECP).
- Central European Initiative (CEI) with Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus (and also Central and South-Western European countries in the European Union; it aims at helping Central European countries to reach the EU standards and cooperate politically and find a better economic development and a strong, working but more democratic legal system); it is the only regional organization where Belarus is still a member (but the political cooperation with Belarus is almost stalled, as it is the only Central European country that balances in favor of stronger cooperation with Russia and against integration with EU and NATO ; however Belarus remains isolated and still does not cooperate too in the SCO group led by Russia and China).
- Black Sea Forum for Partnership and Dialogue (BSF) with Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Armenia (also non post-soviet countries that are NATO members, interested in their maintaining political stability and avoiding conflicts in the region: Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, whose first two are also now EU and CEI members, using EU rules for their political development); however this organization does not focus on helping countries to join the EU, but reaching common standards and good governance and internal stability and democracy like in the CEI.
- (None of these organizations are incompatible with the policy required for accessing EU membership in the domain of political cooperation and development).
- Merging the CEI and BSF is desired by Central European countries, that are members of both (often in addition to EU with stronger objectives) that would like to simplify the development process, and also members of the Council of Europe that federates (but at very slow pace) all European efforts of political cooperation and development through the various regional organizations).
- Commonwealth of Unrecognized States
- Community for Democracy and Human Rights
- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as "free" countries
- Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Ukraine were listed as "partly free"
- Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were listed as "not free."
- A good situation in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
- Noticeable problems in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan
- A difficult situation in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan
- A very serious situation in Turkmenistan
It has been remarked that several post-Soviet states have not changed leadership since their independence, such as Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan and Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. All of these had originally more limited terms but through decrees or referendums prolonged their stay in office (a practice also followed by Presidents Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Emomalii Rahmon of Tajikistan). Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan had likewise served as President since its independence until he was forced to resign as a result of the Kyrgyz revolution of 2005. Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan ruled from independence until his death in 2006, creating a personality cult around himself.
The issue of dynastical succession has been another element affecting the politics of some post-Soviet States. Heydar Aliyev, after constructing an extensive and ongoing cult of personality, handed the Presidency of Azerbaijan to his son, Ilham Aliyev. Theories about the children of other leaders in Central Asia being groomed for succession abound.  The participation of Akayev's son and daughter in the 2005 Kyrgyz parliamentary elections boosted fears of dynastic succession being used in Kyrgyzstan as well, and may have contributed to the anti-Akayev climate that led to his overthrow.
Economic, political, national, military, and social problems have all been factors in separatism in the Post-Soviet space. In many cases, problems due to factors such as ethnic divisions existed before the fall of the Soviet Union, and upon the fall of the union were brought into the open. Such territories and resulting military conflicts have so far been:
- Abkhazia, which is de facto independent from Georgia. Tensions in the area broke out when Georgia sent in troops in 1992 to control groups who wanted separation. The troops and most of the Georgian-speaking population were forced out in 1993, and the region declared independence in 1999. The 2008 war between Georgian forces and the separatist and Russian forces led to Russia's recognition of Abkhazia's independence.
- Adjara was run independently by Aslan Abashidze, an autocrat with strong ties to Russia, from the breakup on the Soviet Union until May 2004. After claiming Georgian forces were going to invade, Abashidze blew up bridges connecting Adjara to the rest of Georgia, leading to a popular revolt against him. Upon his leaving, his post was abolished and the region was integrated with Georgia.
- Chechnya, where Dzhokhar Dudayev declared independence from Russia in 1991, leading to a violent war between local separatist forces and the Russian army. Russia first invaded in 1994, withdrawing after a deal for increased autonomy was granted in 1996. Tensions have continued in the years since then, and the conflict has spilled over into neighbouring regions such as Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia–Alania. Russia claims that the situation in Chechnya has normalised.
- Nagorno-Karabakh, which is de facto independent from Azerbaijan. Ethnic conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis began in 1988, and expanded into war which lasted till a ceasefire in 1994. Sporadic attempts at negotiating a final peace and sporadic bursts of violence have continued since then.
- South Ossetia, which is de facto independent from Georgia. The region declared its intent to seek independence in 1990, leading to a conflict which led to a ceasefire in 1992. Separatism became powerful after the election of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in 2004, and a referendum in 2006 was in favour of declaring independence. The 2008 war between Georgian forces and the separatist and Russian forces led to Russia's recognition of South Ossetia's independence.
- Transnistria, which is de facto independent from Moldova. It declared independence in 1990, due to its majority Russian-speaking population fearing union with Romania. A ceasefire between Transnistrian forces and Moldovan forces has been in place since 1992, enforced by the presence of Russian forces in Transnistria.
Civil wars unrelated to separatist movements have occurred twice in the region:
- The Georgian Civil War between the forces of Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Eduard Shevardnadze. The war ended after Russian forces intervened in support of Shevardnadze's government, which in turn agreed to join the Commonwealth of Independent States.
- The Tajikistan Civil War that lasted between 1992 and 1997.
Since 2003, a number of (largely) peaceful "colour revolutions" have happened in some post-Soviet states after disputed elections, with popular protests bringing into power the former opposition.
- The Rose Revolution in Georgia, leading to the fall from office of Eduard Shevardnadze.
- The Orange Revolution in Ukraine, bringing into power Viktor Yushchenko.
- The Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, leading to the resignation of Askar Akayev.
Russian population in post-Soviet states
There is a significant Russophone population in most of the post-Soviet states, whose political position as an ethnic minority varies from country to country. While Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, in addition to Russia, have kept Russian as an official language, the language lost its status in other post-Soviet states after the end of the Soviet Union. It maintains semi-official status in all CIS member states, because it is the organisation's official working language, but in the three Baltic States, the Russian language is not recognized in any official capacity. Georgia, since its independence from the CIS in 2009, has begun operating its government almost exclusively in the Georgian language.
While under the Soviet system religious intellectual life was eliminated, traditions continued to survive. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Islamic movements have emerged alongside ethnic and secular ones. Vitaly Naumkin gives the following assessment: "Throughout the time of change, Islam has served as a symbol of identity, a force for mobilization, and a pressure for democracy. This is one of the few social disasters that the church has survived, in which it was not the cause. But if successful politically, it faces economic challenges beyond its grasp."
Ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union a certain number of people have expressed a longing for the Soviet regime and its values. The level of post-Soviet nostalgia varies across the former republics. Russia as well as the Caspian Sea countries are inclined to be pro-Soviet, whereas the Baltic States have traditionally been the least nostalgic towards the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, there are certain groups of people even in the Baltic States who on their daily basis continue to blend the Soviet and post-Soviet experience[clarification needed].
- Van Elsuwege, Peter (2008). From Soviet Republics to Eu Member States: A Legal and Political Assessment of the Baltic States' Accession to the EU. Studies in EU External Relations 1. BRILL. p. xxii. ISBN 9789004169456.
- Smith, David James (2001). Estonia. Routledge. p. 20. ISBN 0-415-26728-5.
- Transition: The First Ten Years – Analysis and Lessons for Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, The World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002, p. 4.
- GDP decline: transition and Great Depression compared, Kalikova and Associates Law Firm, Kyrgyzstan. Retrieved 13 January 2009.
- Study Finds Poverty Deepening in Former Communist Countries, New York Times, October 12, 2000
- IMF online database
- World Bank data
- Ratification status of CIS documents as of 15 January 2008 (Russian).
- Turkmenistan reduces CIS ties to "Associate Member", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 29 August 2005.
- Georgian parliament votes to withdraw from CIS on BBC News, 14 August 2008.
- Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on Georgia's withdrawal from CIS, 18 August 2008.
- CIS Charter, 22 January 1993 (unofficial English translation).
- RIA Novosti report, July 6, 2010, "Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan to become fully operational", retrieved December 22, 2010]
- RIA Novosti report, November 26, 2010, "Ukraine eyes customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus", retrieved December 22, 2010
- "Regions and territories: Abkhazia". BBC News. 12 March 2012.
- "Regions and territories: Ajaria". BBC News. 22 November 2011.
- "Regions and territories: Chechnya". BBC News. 22 November 2011.
- "Regions and territories: Nagorno-Karabakh". BBC News. 10 January 2012.
- "Regions and territories: South Ossetia". BBC News. 25 April 2012.
- "Trans-Dniester profile". BBC News. 26 December 2011.
- Robert Greenall, Russians left behind in Central Asia, BBC News, 23 November 2005.
- Naumkin, Vitaly (November, 1992). "Islam in the States of the Former USSR". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 524: 131–142. doi:10.1177/0002716292524001011
- Восприятие населением и молодежью новых независимых государств истории советского и постсоветского периодов Евразийский монитор, 2009.
- See: Kaprans, M. (2009) Then and now: Comparing the Soviet and Post-Soviet experience in Latvian autobiographiesKeywords 2.
- The language question, the results of recent research in 2012, RATING (25 May 2012)
- Candid photos of the Eastern Bloc September–December 1991, in the last months of the USSR
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- Discovering The Centuries-Old State Tradition, professor Pål Kolstø, University of Oslo
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