Belovezha Accords

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Agreement establishing the
Commonwealth of Independent States
RIAN archive 848095 Signing the Agreement to eliminate the USSR and establish the Commonwealth of Independent States.jpg
The signing ceremony at Viskuli Government House
TypeTreaty establishing a loose regional organisation
Signed8 December 1991
LocationViskuli, Belovezh Forest, Belarus
(de facto)
Minsk, Minsk Oblast, Belarus
(de jure)
Effective
  • Belarus 10 December 1991
  • Russia 12 December 1991
  • Kazakhstan 23 December 1991
  • Tajikistan 25 December 1991
  • ArmeniaTurkmenistan 26 December 1991
  • Uzbekistan 4 January 1992
  • Kyrgyzstan 6 March 1992
  • Azerbaijan 24 September 1993
  • Georgia (country) 3 December 1993
  • Moldova 8 April 1994
Signatories
Parties
DepositaryBelarus Republic of Belarus
LanguagesBelarusian, Russian, Ukrainian

The Belovezha Accords (Belarusian: Белавежскае пагадненне, Russian: Беловежские соглашения, Ukrainian: Біловезькі угоди) are accords forming the agreement declaring that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had effectively ceased to exist and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place as a successor entity. The documentation was signed at the state dacha near Viskuli in Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus) on 8 December 1991, by leaders of three of the four republics which had signed the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the USSR:

The original document could not be found as of 2013 (see below).

Name[edit]

The name is variously translated as Belavezh Accords, Belovezh Accords, Belovezha Accords, Belavezha Agreement, the Belovezhskaya Accord, the Belaya Vezha Accord, etc. A reason of the discrepancy is the difference between Russian and Belarusian transliteration of the eponymous forest's name on the Belarus-Polish border that used to have General Secretary Brezhnev’s hunting lodge.[1]

Key points[edit]

The text of the Belovezh Accords contains an introduction and 14 Articles. The original text is available in official translation on the Council of Europe website.

The main obligations of the parties to the Agreement, ratified by all former Soviet republics except Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, includes the following:

  1. The end of the existence of the USSR, with the "setting up of lawfully constituted democratic… independent states… on the basis of mutual recognition of and respect for State sovereignty".[2]
  2. Establishing on the territory the "right to self-determination" along with "norms relating to human and people’s rights".[2]
  3. "Parties guarantee to their citizens, regardless of their nationality or other differences, equal rights and freedoms. Each of the Parties guarantees to the citizens of the other Parties, and also to stateless persons resident in their territory, regardless of national affiliation or other differences, civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights and freedoms in accordance with the universal recognized international norms relating to human rights" (Article 2).[2]
  4. "The Parties, desirous of facilitating the expression, preservation and development of the distinctive ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious characteristics of the national minorities resident in their territories and of the unique ethno-cultural regions that have come into being, will extend protection to them" (Article 3).[2]
  5. "Equitable cooperation" (Article 4).[2]
  6. "Territorial integrity" along with "freedom of movement of citizens" (Article 5).[2]

Legal basis and ratification[edit]

The preamble of the document stated that "the USSR, as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality, is ceasing its existence". It also invited other republics to join the three founding members. While there was some dispute over the authority of the leaders of three of the 12 republics to dissolve the entire Union, individual union republics had the right to secede freely from the Union according to Article 72 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution; since 1990, the procedure for the withdrawal of republics from the Union was regulated by a special law.[3]

Xerography of Accords

On 10 December, the agreement was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine[4] and the Supreme Council of Belarus.[5] On 12 December, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR formally ratified the Belovezh Accords,[6] denounced (that is, withdrew from)[a] the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union, and recalled the Russian deputies from the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Some members of the Russian parliament disputed the legality of this ratification, since according to the Constitution of the RSFSR of 1978, consideration of this document was in the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR.[8][9][10][11]

What remained of the Soviet federal government also argued that the purported dissolution was illegal and ineffective. Gorbachev described the moves thusly:

The fate of the multinational state cannot be determined by the will of the leaders of three republics. The question should be decided only by constitutional means with the participation of all sovereign states and taking into account the will of all their citizens. The statement that Unionwide legal norms would cease to be in effect is also illegal and dangerous; it can only worsen the chaos and anarchy in society. The hastiness with which the document appeared is also of serious concern. It was not discussed by the populations nor by the Supreme Soviets of the republics in whose name it was signed. Even worse, it appeared at the moment when the draft treaty for a Union of Sovereign States, drafted by the USSR State Council, was being discussed by the parliaments of the republics.[12]

The question as to whether the Belovezh Accords were enough in and of themselves to dissolve the Soviet Union with the agreement of only three republics (albeit three of the largest and most powerful republics) was resolved on 21 December 1991, when the representatives of 11 of the 12 remaining Soviet republics[b]—all except Georgia—signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which reiterated both the end of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the CIS. Given that 11 of the republics now agreed that the Soviet Union no longer existed, the plurality of member-republics required for its effective continuance as a federal state was no longer in place. The Alma-Ata signatories also provisionally accepted Gorbachev's resignation as president of the Soviet Union and agreed on several other practical measures consequential to the extinction of the Union. Gorbachev stated that he would resign as soon as he knew the CIS was a reality. Three days later, in a secret meeting with Yeltsin, he accepted the fait accompli of the Soviet Union's dissolution.

Although Gorbachev had long since lost the ability to influence events outside Moscow, a rump Soviet federal government continued to exist for four more days, and Gorbachev continued to hold control over the Kremlin. This ended in the early hours of 25 December 1991 when Gorbachev resigned and turned control of the Kremlin and the remaining powers of his office over to the office of the president of Russia, Yeltsin. Soon afterward, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Kremlin Senate for the final time, and the flag of Russia was hoisted in its place.

Later that day, President of the United States George H. W. Bush gave a short speech on national television in the United States to mark the end of the Cold War and to recognize the independence of the former states of the Soviet Union.[13]

Also on 25 December 1991, the Russian SFSR, now no longer a sub-national entity of the Soviet Union but a sovereign nation in its own right, adopted a law renaming itself the "Russian Federation" or "Russia" (both being equally official with the ratification of the Russian constitution in 1993).

Gorbachev's speech, as well as the replacement of the Soviet flag with the Russian flag, were all seen around the world, and marked the de facto end of the Soviet Union. However, the final legal step in the dissolution came a day later, when the Soviet of Republics, the upper house of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, recognized the collapse of the Union and voted both itself and the Union out of existence. The lower house, the Soviet of the Union, had not met since 12 December when Russia recalled its deputies from both chambers, leaving it without a quorum.[8]

The Summit of Alma-Ata also issued a statement on 21 December 1991, supporting Russia's claim to be recognized as the successor state of the Soviet Union for the purposes of membership of the United Nations. On 25 December 1991, Russian President Yeltsin informed UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar that the Soviet Union had been dissolved and that Russia would, as its successor state, continue the Soviet Union's membership in the United Nations. The document confirmed the credentials of the representatives of the Soviet Union as representatives of Russia and requested that the name "Soviet Union" be changed to "Russian Federation" in all records and entries. This was a move designed to allow Russia to retain the Soviet Union's permanent Security Council seat, which would not have been possible if the former republics were all reckoned as equal successors of the Soviet Union, or if the Soviet Union was regarded as having no successor state for the purpose of continuing the same UN membership (see Russia and the United Nations). The Secretary-General circulated the request, and there being no objection from any Member State, the Russian Federation took the Soviet Union's UN seat. On 31 January 1992, Russian Federation President Yeltsin personally took part in a Security Council meeting as representative of Russia, the first Security Council meeting in which Russia occupied the permanent Security Council seat originally granted to the Soviet Union by the UN Charter.[14][15]

Aftermath[edit]

Military conflicts amid violations of some provisions of the agreement[edit]

The right to self-determination provisioned[16] in the Belovezhskaya Accords instantly granted independence or autonomous rights by the end of 1991 of various regions of the former USSR, whose population expressed their correspondent will in various Gorbachev votes.[17] The opposition to these rights of these regions by the former members of the USSR caused a number of subsequent armed civil conflicts.[18][19]

Crimea, the majority of whose population voted for independence from Ukraine in a Gorbachev's referendum on 20 January 1991 (see 1991 Crimean sovereignty referendum), received de jure sovereignty at the time Ukraine ratified the Belovezhskaya Accords.[16] However, a majority of Crimean voters, along with a majority of voters in every other oblast in the Ukrainian SSR voted to succeed from the Union and form the Republic of Ukraine. Crimea's status as a Ukrainian oblast was repeatedly acknowledged by the Russian Federation in subsequent agreements,[citation needed] such as Budapest Memorandum and the 1997 Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty. Russia unilaterally abrogated this status quo via its 2014 Annexation of Crimea and the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine.

1993 Russian constitutional crisis[edit]

According to some Russian politicians, one of the reasons for the political crisis of 1993 was the repeated refusal of the Congress of People's Deputies of Russia to ratify the Belovezhskaya Agreement[20] and to exclude the mention of the Constitution and laws of the USSR from the text of the Constitution of the RSFSR.[21][11]

Original document missing[edit]

Stanislav Shushkevich, the former leader of Belarus, was told by the country's foreign ministry that the original accords have gone missing as of 7 February 2013. He tried to obtain the original copy to assist in writing his memoirs.[22]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In international law, the term denounce or denunciation means "a unilateral act by which a party seeks to terminate its participation in a treaty."[7]
  2. ^ Twelve republics remained in the USSR at the time, including the three parties to the Belovezh Accords. The three Baltic republics had separately seceded in August 1991.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BOOK: Firebird: The Elusive Fate of Russian Democracy". WILSON CENTER. 15 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "AGREEMENTS OF THE END OF SOVIET UNION. "The Belovezh Accords". [Done at Minsk, December 8, 1991, and done at Alma Alta, December 21, 1991]". Council of Europe. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  3. ^ Закон СССР от 3 апреля 1990 года № 1409-I «О порядке решения вопросов, связанных с выходом союзной республики из состава СССР»
  4. ^ Про ратифікацію Угоди про створення Співдружності Незалежних Держав
  5. ^ Постановление Верховного Совета Республики Беларусь от 10 декабря 1991 г. № 1296-XII «О ратификации Соглашения об образовании Содружества Независимых Государств»
  6. ^ Постановление Верховного Совета РСФСР от 12 декабря 1991 года № 2014-I «О ратификации Соглашения о создании Содружества Независимых Государств»
  7. ^ "Treaties, Termination". Oxford Public International Law. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  8. ^ a b V.Pribylovsky, Gr.Tochkin . Kto i kak uprazdnil SSSR
  9. ^ Из СССР В СНГ: подчиняясь реальности
  10. ^ Бабурин С. Н. На гибель Советского Союза
  11. ^ a b Воронин Ю. М. Беловежское предательство
  12. ^ Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev (2000). On my country and the world. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-11514-8.
  13. ^ "Bush on the Commonwealth of Independent States". Encarta. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.
  14. ^ Johnson, Larry D. (1 March 2022). "United Nations Response Options to Russia's Aggression: Opportunities and Rabbit Holes". Just Security. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  15. ^ Blum, Yehuda Z. (1992). "Russia Takes Over the Soviet Union's Seat at the United Nations". European Journal of International Law. 3 (2): 354–361. doi:10.1093/ejil/3.2.354.
  16. ^ a b Wikipedia (2023). "Key points of Belovezha Agreement".
  17. ^ Wikipedia. "Parade of sovereignties prior to and following the Dissolation of the Soviet Union".
  18. ^ Wikipedia. "Georgian Civil War".
  19. ^ Wikipedia. "Transnistria War".
  20. ^ "Илья Константинов: «Додавить гной пока не получается»". rusplt.ru. Archived from the original on 7 December 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  21. ^ Павлов Н. А. Незаконченный переворот: причины и последствия
  22. ^ "Document proclaiming death of Soviet Union missing". The Daily Telegraph. London. 7 February 2013.

External links[edit]