The Soviet Union covered
more than 15% of Earths land mass. It was incredibly diverse, with plenty of different
cultures and ethnicities. It consisted of 15 entities called Soviet Socialist Republics,
that became independent countries more or less instantly, when the Soviet Union collapsed. The world saw the new countries:
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania,
Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Despite their common Russian influenced upbringing,
these countries are very different and have moved in various directions. The Russian
language is still widely spoken, but most of the new states made policies to strengthen
their own languages. Azarbaijan, Moldova Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan even choose to change their
writing script from Cyrillic to the Latin after independence. Kazakhstan is currently
in the process of switching too. The Baltic languages was already written in Latin. Armenia
and Georgia has their own ancient scripts. There is a lot of different nationalities
living across the borders of the new states. More then a ¼’th of population of Estonia
and Latvia are Russians today. The different diasporas have caused quite a bit of tension.
Where should the country borders be drawn? Should it follow the pre-independence borders,
the ethnic groups or some other criteria? Also which places should be allowed to form
their own country? It was not only the 15 states that succeeded, who tried. A few placed
also declared independence, often leading to civil war. Like in Chechnya in Russia, Transnistria in Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Nagorno Karabakh
in Azerbaijan. Most of these disputed areas exists today, with limited- or no recognition. After their independence the Commonwealth
of Independent States or CIS was formed. It consisted all the former USSR countries, except
the Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, who saw their membership in the Soviet Union
as an illegal occupation and moved as far away as possible. They formed their own Baltic
Assembly. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization – CSTO. It can
sort of be thought of, as a CIS version of NATO. Russia and Belarus was seeking even
closer integration and started the Union State, with ideas of a common currency, military
and freedom of migration. In the end of 1997 Georgia, Ukraine, Azarbaijan and Moldova made
their own group – the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM – to get as far away from Russian influence. In 1999 Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan all left CSTO and Uzebekistan
also joined GUAM – making it GUUAM. In 2004 the Baltic states joined the European
Union and NATO. A move Russia was not to happy about. Oh, and Georgia decided a nice flag
was better than an ugly one. Turkmenistan wanted to be neutral in as many matter as
possible, and choose to downgrade from full membership in CIS. Uzbekistan,
left GUUAM again and reentered CSTO. Georgia was leaning towards the west and away from
Russia. In 2008 tensions over the two breakaway regions Abkhasia and South Ossetia lead to
war between Georgia and Russia, which made Georgia withdrew completely from CIS. Uzbekistan
left CSTO again. (Make up your mind Uzbekistan!) The remaining CIS Countries except Aserbaijan
entered the Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area or CISFTA.
Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia wanted even stronger integration when
it came to trade and formed the Eurasian Economic Union or the EAEU. It can sort of be
compared to the EU and it introduces the free movement of goods, services and people. It
provides for common policies in transport, industry, agriculture, energy and foreign
trade. The idea of a single currency have also been suggested
In 2014 the peninsula of Crimea in Ukraine, with a Russia majority declared independence.
It was annexed by Russia the very next day. The eastern regions Donetsk and Lugansk followed,
and also declared independence resulting in war between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist.
So Ukraine also left CIS. Today relations between the remaining CIS
members are overall quite good, but with a few points of tensions. Armenia and Azerbaijan
are still in a frozen, but bitter conflict. Both Kirgizstan and Tajikistan is having a
feud with Uzbekistan and Moldova is split between the west and Russia.
Right after soviet times, all the new countries saw economic recession. Production chains
across the state lines of the republics broke down. Most countries began right away a transition
to a market economy from a command economy. It took some time, but the GDP of almost all
the countries is now higher then at independence. Turkmenistan, who is rich in natural gas,
experienced the most growth, with an increase in GDP at more then 300% since independence,
followed by Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, while Ukraine today is still below Soviet times.
Russia is by far the biggest economy, with around 70% of the regions total GDP. In terms
of GDP per capita, the Baltic are leading, with Estonia taking the absolute lead. Next
is Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, the countries in the Caucasus, Ukraine and Moldova. In the
end we have Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and finally Tajikistan.
The Human Development Index tells a very similar, with the Baltic countries in front and Kyrgyzstan
and Tajikistan still coming in last. When it comes to politics some of the new
states have also had their problems with democracy and corruption. On the Democracy Index The
Baltic are in front and ranked as flawed democracies. Next comes Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgizstan
and Armenia who are all labelled as a hybrid regimes. And the remaining countries are considered
authoritarian. The leaders today of these have a tendency to hold on the power and not
let go. If you get the presidency, it’s often a job for life. Lukashenko in Belarus
and Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan have been in charge since independence. Rahmon of Tajikistan
also came to power soon after. Mirziyoyev in Uzbekistan and Berdimuhamedow in Turkmenistan,
became their countries second presidents only when their predecessors died. Aliyev in Azerbaijan
inherited the presidency from his father, who had been president since 93. Recently
he also made his wife the vice president. Then there is also of cause this guy in Russia.
It will be very interesting to see which directions these countries will move in the future.