Economic and political conflict led to increasing tension within the Soviet Union (USSR) in the late 1980s. Economic stagnation led to frustration with the centrally managed system. Political pressure to end (or win) the war in Afghanistan led to military frustration with the political regime.
Much of the emerging national identification was around ethnic-linguistic groups. This was complicated by the fact that there was a lot of internal migration in the Soviet Union, and there are now a lot of Russians in Georgia, and a lot of Armenians in Azerbaijan (Hanson, 2003, 66).
In March 2000 Russian troops claimed to have pushed rebel forces out of their strongholds in Chechnya, a Russian republic in the south. The Russian army treated this as a significant victory. The Russian military action in Chechnya took place against a background of economic decline and political uncertainty as long-time Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, transferred power to his successor, Vladimir Putin. Further to the south, the mandate of Russian peacekeepers in the Abkhaz region of Georgia was extended to keep warring factions apart. The former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan rejected yet another proposal for peace in a long series of Russian-mediated discussions over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, while Tajikistan held its first presidential elections after years of civil war.
On December 7, 1991, three leaders from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus signed an agreement for the creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and rejected the legitimacy of a 1922 treaty that was the corner stone of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), also referred to as the Soviet Union. Within a week this agreement was ratified by the parliaments of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Fearful of being left out of the new organization, leaders of the five Central Asian republics declared their intention to join the CIS in the following days. By December 21, the process of the Soviet collapse was complete as leaders from 11 republics signed the Almaty Declaration on the foundation of the CIS. Signatories to the declaration were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. Georgia and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania refused to join the CIS. Soviet Union officially ceased to exist at 12:00 P.M. December 21, 1991 (MacKenzie¸2006, 74).
The Soviet collapse was not accompanied by widespread conflict. With the exceptional case of Armenia and Azerbaijan, there were no border clashes between emerging states. This was largely due to the Soviet federal structure. By the 1980s all member republics of the Soviet Union had a clearly demarcated territory that was to reflect the traditional homeland of the largest ethnic community that gave its name to the territory. Latvians were the titular community in Latvia and Uzbeks in Uzbekistan, although this did not exclude other ethnic groups from living there. These republics also had all the trappings of sovereign states. They had a republican parliament, a council of ministers, and their ...