On December 8, 1991, the USSR became history when the Soviet leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus concluded an agreement on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The leaders of the three founding states – President of RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus – met at a government retreat in Belavezha outside of Brest in Belarus to sign the so-called Belavezha Accords.
The document stated that the USSR ceased to exist as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality. However, based upon the historical community of peoples, relations between them, given the bilateral treaties, the desire for a democratic rule of law, the intention to develop their relations based upon mutual recognition and respect for state sovereignty, the parties agreed on the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The CIS was a free association of former Soviet republics, with common defense forces and a common economic front. Its charter stated that all fifteen members were sovereign, independent nations, meaning they no longer regarded themselves as part of the Soviet Union (established in 1922).
In the end, the dissolution of the USSR and establishment of the CIS was formally endorsed on December 21, 1991, in Almaty, as leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine signed the Protocol to the Agreement on the Establishment of the CIS.
The Soviet government had previously recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on September 6, 1991 and the three Baltic nations, as well as Georgia, chose not to join the CIS (Georgia joined two years later, in December 1993).