Staunton, Dec. 1 – As 1991 recedes into the past, the consensus view is that the decision at Beloveshchaya of the presidents of Belarus, the RSFSR, and Ukraine to disband the USSR led easily and inexorably to the formation of the CIS, with the other republics following the big three without question.
But that is not what happened, and as people in the region mark the 30th anniversary of these events, some Central Asians who played key roles in the period between Beloveshchaya on December 8 and the Almaty declaration on the founding of the CIS on December 21 are speaking out.
Among the most interesting are the observations of former Kazakhstan leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. He says that on his return from Moscow, the leaders of the other Central Asian countries asked him what they should do; and all of them agreed to assemble in Ashgabat on December 16 (tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/nazarbaev-rasskazal-predlojenii-sozdat-turkestanskuyu-455565/).
At that meeting, the now-late head of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov “proposed to us that we unite and create a Turkestan Republic,” Nazarabayev says. But “this would have been dangerous. This would have been a confrontation and a war with the Slavic republics.” The entire space would have been divided “between the Slavs and the non-Slavs.”
This was “only one of many proposals,” the Kazakhstan leader says. “I and the president of Uz bekistan spoke against” the Turkmenistan proposal. “While we were in Ashgabat,” he continues, “I telephoned Yeltsin several times and he asked me to persuade all those present to join the Beloveshchaya agreements.”
The Ashgabat discussions lasted two days. Finally, we agreed that we needed not confrontation but to be part of the CIS “as equal members,” Nazarbayev adds. “We proposed [to the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus] to come to us, and we will sign them.” That happened on December 21 in Almaty.