Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Now There are Eight in the CIS – Russia, Belarus and Six Muslim Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 14 – Except for Belarus, all the remaining non-Russian members of the Commonwealth of Independent States are Muslim, close to the situation that Russia took the leading in creating the CIS at the end of 1991 to prevent and one that will now lead ever more Russians to question its continuing utility.

            Many may have forgotten that the CIS was created not immediately but only after the Central Asian republics moved to form a regional grouping following the Slavic meeting at Beloveshchaya lest the looming post-Soviet space be dominated by two groups, one Slavic and one Muslim.

            Of the 15 places Moscow counted as Soviet union republics – the formerly occupied Baltic states were never part of this equation because they had recovered their independence earlier and in a different way – the Russian authorities wanted to avoid such an outcome and, following the Central Asian move, orchestrated the establishment of the CIS.

            Georgia initially refused to sign on but was then compelled to do so by pressure from Moscow and from the West, it must be conceded. That meant that by 1993, the CIS had all 12 former union republics in its ranks. But in the years since, these ranks have thinned, with the departure of Georgia and Ukraine and moves in that direction by Moldova and now Armenia.

            Moldova has announced plans to leave step by step, and Armenia is clearly on the brink, with its leader Nikol Pashinyan not attending the most recent CIS summit and making it clear that he is anything but happy by Moscow’s policies in the South Caucasus and may even insist on the closure of the Russian base in his country.

            Some in Moscow are clearly alarmed by this prospect and that will undoubtedly spark more discussions in the Russian capital about doing away with the CIS entirely and relying on other structures to maintain or possibly recover Russian influence over much of the former Soviet space (


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