What is the Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is also known as the Russian Commonwealth. It is an organization formed by nine of the fifteen former Soviet states after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Ukraine and Turkmenistan are associate members while Georgia withdrew from the organization in 2008. The Baltic countries including Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are not members by choice. The purpose of the organization is to coordinate authority in areas such as trade and security and to promote joint prevention of armed conflict and crime.

Belonging to the CIS

Although the CIS was formed for the first time by three countries to which nine other countries have joined, the organization currently has nine member states including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Georgia withdrew its membership in 2008 when it joined NETO, claiming it could not be part of two military organizations. The Charter of the CIS, which formalized the concept of membership, was adopted in January 1993. In order for a country to be considered a member of the CIS, it must ratify the charter of the CIS. Turkmenistan and Ukraine are considered associated members as they have yet to ratify the charter. The two countries therefore participate in the CIS on a selective basis.

Associated organizations

The CIS member countries agreed to create a free trade area in 1994 but the agreement was not approved until 2011 when CISFTA was signed by 8 of the 11 members. However, starting in 2013, the agreement was ratified by five countries including Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. Other organizations include the Eurasia Economic Community (completed in 2015), Organization of Central Asian Corporation, Common Economic Space and Community for Democracy and Rights of Nation.

Meaning of the CIS

One of the main objectives of the CIS is to promote the social and economic development of its members, in particular the new independent states by promoting and protecting human rights. CIS member states adopted a convention on human rights and fundamental freedom on May 26, 1995, strengthening their commitment to the protection of human rights. The Charter of the CIS established the Council of Defense Ministers which coordinates the military cooperation of the Member States. The council develops proposals to prevent armed conflicts within the territory of member countries. Other activities include election monitoring and sports promotion in the region.


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