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This article is part of theHistory of Russia series.
Commonwealth of Independent States
During the collapse of the Soviet Union in the fall of 1991, the leaders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine met on December 8 in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Nature Reserve, about 30 miles north of Brest in Belarus, and signed an agreement establishing the CIS.
On December 21, 1991, the leaders of 11 of the 15 Soviet Socialist Republics met in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, and signed the charter. The three Baltic republics — Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia — refused to join, as did Georgia: all four countries took the view that they had been illegally incorporated into the USSR in the first place. The charter stated that all the members were independent states and thereby effectively abolished the USSR with effect from December 31, 1999.
The headquarters of the CIS is in Minsk, Belarus. The 11 original member states were Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. In December 1993, Georgia also joined the CIS in somewhat controversial circumstances, following a civil war in which Russian troops intervened to save the country's government.
Although the CIS has few supranational powers, it is more than a purely symbolic organization and possesses coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking and security. The most significant issue for the CIS is the establishment of a free trade zone / economic union between the member states, planned to become a reality in 2005. It has also promoted cooperation on democratization and cross-border crime.
During the Olympic Games of 1992 (in Albertville and Barcelona), the athletes from the CIS member states competed as the Unified Team. In other sports events in that year, such as the European Championships in football, athletes took part as representatives of the CIS. Since then, the member states have competed under their national banners.