Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Reference work entry
Part of the The Statesman's Yearbook book series (SYBK)

The Commonwealth of Independent States, founded on 8 Dec. 1991 in Belarus, is a community of independent states that proclaimed itself the successor to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in some aspects of international law and affairs. When negotiations on its founding began in 1990, it sought to embrace all the 15 constituent republics of the USSR at that date. The founding members—Russia, Belarus and Ukraine—were subsequently joined by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. However, Turkmenistan withdrew as a permanent member in 2005 to become an associate member and Georgia withdrew altogether in 2009.

Member states are committed to recognizing the independence and sovereignty of other members, to respecting human rights including those of national minorities and to observing existing boundaries. Members agreed that Russia should take up the seat at the United Nations formerly occupied by the USSR. In March 1994 the CIS was accorded observer status at the UN. Ukraine’s continued involvement with the CIS (as a participating state rather than as a full member) was thrown into doubt after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, with some politicians calling for a complete withdrawal. In Aug. 2016 Ukraine protested to the CIS over its plans to send monitors to Russian State Duma elections in Crimea.

The principal organs of the CIS, according to the agreement concluded in Alma-Ata on 21 Dec. 1991, are the Council of Heads of States and the Council of Heads of Government. There is also a Council of Defence Ministers, established in Feb. 1992, and a Council of Foreign Ministers (Dec. 1993). The Secretariat is the standing working organ.

  • Headquarters: 220030 Minsk, Kirova 17, Belarus.

  • Website (Russian only):

  • Email:

  • Executive Secretary: Sergei Lebedev (Russia).

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