Commonwealth of Independent States Definition

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Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Definition

CIS, also referred to as Russian Commonwealth, is a regional organization comprising of 10 post-soviet republics in Eurasia. The organization was formed after the Soviet Union dissolved. The organization has an estimated area of 20,368,759 square kilometers with a population of 239,796,010. It was formed to encourage cooperation in economic, military and a political aspects and it possesses powers to coordinate trade, lawmaking, security and cross-border crime prevention.

A Little More on What is Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

CIS has its roots in the Soviet Union (USSR) which was started in 1922 following the Treaty and Declaration of Creation USSR by Russian SFSR, Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR. In 1991, USSR started to fail and the founding republics signed the Belavezha Accord and declared the end of USSR and the inception of CIS as its replacement.

A few days after signing the Belavezha Accord, the republics signed the Alma-Ata Protocol that saw the dissolution of USSR. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia (Baltic States) chose not to participate, Georgia withdrew its membership from 2008 and Ukraine ended its participation in 2018.

Eight CIS members participate in CIS Free Trade Area. CIS oversees the activities of three other organizations namely Collective Security Treaty, Eurasian Economic Union and Economic Space and the Union State. The first two are economic and military alliances and the third is a supranational union with a common government, currency and flag.

Mikhail Gorbachev tried to save the Soviet Union in 1991 by proposing a referendum to preserve the Union and refer to it as the Union of Sovereign States. However, the Communist Party attempted a coup in August 1991 and the Treaty was never signed.


The Inter-parliamentary Assembly started in 1992 in Kazakhstan. In 1995, CIS leaders came together and signed the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly Convention of CIS member nations which was endorsed by nine parliaments.

Under the convention, Inter-parliamentary Assembly was houses in Turide Palace in St. Petersburg and it plays the role of a consultative parliamentary wing of CIS. The Inter-parliamentary Assembly would discuss problems related to parliamentary cooperation and to review draft documents related to national legislatures in CIS for their use in lawmaking and law amendments. The assembly was also tasked with handling integration processes in CIS and to observe national elections.

Human rights

The idea behind CIS was to create a platform where nations would discuss social and economic development. To do this, members agreed that they have to protect human rights. While initially the nations used to protect human rights through statements of good will, in 1995, CIS adopted a CIS Convention on Human Rights & Fundamental Freedom.

The CIS Human Rights Treaty of 1995, which started being enforced in 1998, mirrors the European Convention on Human Rights. Even after the signing of the Treaty, CIS members still have poor human rights records. A good example is the Andijan Massacre in 2005. When President Vladimir Putin consolidated power, there was a steady improvement in the human rights cases.


Through the4 CIS Charter, the Council of Ministers of Defense was established to coordinate military coordination of CIS member states. The council is tasked with developing conceptual approaches to military and defense policies of CIS member states. They are also mandated with giving expert opinion on treaties and agreements related to military developments.

The council is also involved with approximating legal acts in defense and military development. The integration and cooperation of military powers in CIS member states saw military personnel grow two-fold along the western border and 1.5 times along the southern borders. The CIS Military Cooperation Coordination Headquarters was established after the abolishment of the CIS Armed Forces Headquarters in 1993.


The 1994, there were efforts CIS Free Trade Area but there was no agreement signed that year. In 2009, a new agreement was started, the CIS Free Trade Agreement, which was signed by all members. All members, except Azerbaijan, participate in Free Trade.

The Free Trade Area eliminates import and export duties on different goods and it also contain a number of exemptions that might soon be phased out. There was also an agreement signed and based on currency regulations and control in CIS in 2011. Even with the Free Trade Area, Corruption and bureaucracy remain a problem in CIS member countries. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, suggested that member nations adopt digitization to modernize economies.

References for Commonwealth of Independent States

Academic Research on Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

  • The emissions, energy consumption, and growth nexus: evidence from the commonwealth of independent states, Apergis, N., & Payne, J. E. (2010). Energy Policy, 38(1), 650-655. This paper examines the relationship between carbon dioxide and energy consumption and output in 11 CIS countries between 1992 and 2004. The study shows that while energy consumption is directly related to carbon dioxide emissions, output a U-shaped pattern associated with Environmental Kuznets Curve hypothesis.
  • Energy consumption and economic growth: evidence from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Apergis, N., & Payne, J. E. (2009). Energy Economics, 31(5), 641-647. In this paper, the author studies the relationship between energy consumed and economic growth rate in 11 CIS member states between 1991 and 2005. The results of the study suggest a unidirectional causality between energy consumed and economic growth in the short term and bidirectional causality between energy consumed and economic growth in the long term
  • Child well-being in Central and Eastern European countries (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Richardson, D., Hoelscher, P., & Bradshaw, J. (2008). Child indicators research, 1(3), 211-250. This paper examines the well-being of children in the CEE/CIS member nations. It shows that there are variations in the performance of different member countries in different domains. This paper places the domains into a single index comprising of Azerbaijan, Albania, Moldova and Tajikistan in the bottom index and Croatia, Herzegovina, Bosnia, Serbia and FYR Macedonia in the top index. This piece describes how the index was compiled while it explores its shortcomings and sensitivity.
  • International migration in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States., Frejka, T., & Bisi, R. (1996). This paper examines international migration from and within central and Eastern Europe. It shows that the main migration streams in 1990 in these two regions include large populations moving from Yugoslavia, Tajikistan, Chechnya and other states, immigration between Yugoslavia and CIS countries with the fear of discrimination, migrants from third world countries, CIS countries and Eastern Europe, Albanian and Romanians migrating to Western Europe, migration from CIS countries to the West and ethnic migrations from CIS countries.
  • The economics of customs unions in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Constantine, M., & David, T. (1997). Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, 38(3), 125-143. This paper looks at the economics of custom unions in CIS countries. It examines the effects of the Free Trade Area established by CIS member countries and how this takes the countries back to the old technology of Soviet Union. The paper analyzes the effects of trade regimes in CIS countries.
  • Sovereignty and the” near-abroad.”(Commonwealth of Independent States), Olcott, M. B. (1995). (Commonwealth of Independent States). Orbis, 39(3), 353-368. This paper examines the governance of CIS and how the sovereignty of different countries in the organization affects its role. It analyzes the role of CIS and relates it progress to economics of countries, lawmaking, military and general development in member countries.
  • Entrepreneurship and institutional change in transition economies: The Commonwealth of Independent States, Central and Eastern Europe and China compared, Smallbone, D., & Welter, F. (2012). Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 24(3-4), 215-233. This paper is an analysis of the relationship between entrepreneurship development and institutional changes in CIS member countries. The results from the paper assert that there are important differences in the relationships between state entrepreneurship in former Soviet republics and major institutional deficiencies. This paper demonstrates how entrepreneurs influence institutional changes.
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States, 1991-1998: stagnation and survival, Sakwa, R., & Webber, M. (1999). Europe-Asia Studies, 51(3), 379-415. This paper examines issues of management of CIS member countries. It focuses on the interactions between CIS member states and it addresses topics such as security, military and political obstacles.
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States: an example of failed regionalism?, Kubicek, P. (2009). Review of International Studies, 35(S1), 237-256.
  • The idea behind CIS was to manage the dissolution of Soviet Union and to foster cooperation in economic, political, security and financial spheres in member states. However, the organization is seen as a failure as most of the original Soviet Union member states do not participate in most of the ventures of CIS. This article examines CIS and its operations and shows that the organization is handicapped in many fronts including multi-polarity and domestic level political issues.
  • Barriers to the development of palliative care in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Lynch, T., Clark, D., Centeno, C., Rocafort, J., Flores, L. A., Greenwood, A., … & Wright, M. (2009). Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 37(3), 305-315. This paper examines barriers to palliative care development in Central and Eastern Europe, CEE and Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS, countries. The barriers to development included financial and material resources, opioid availability issues, lack of public awareness, and inefficient palliative care in education.
  • Russian investment in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Crane, K., Peterson, D. J., & Oliker, O. (2005). Eurasian Geography and Economics, 46(6), 405-444. This paper analyzes the extent, rationale and the role of Russian investment in CIS member states. The paper uses a comprehensive survey to compare Western and Russian investors.

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