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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 8th and signed an agreement on establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Nature Reserve (also known as Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Belarus about 30 miles north of Brest near the border with Poland. On December 21st 1991, 11 of the 15 Soviet Socialist Republics met in Alma-Ata Kazakstan and signed the charter. The three Baltic republics (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) refused to join as did Georgia. The headquarters of the CIS is in Minsk.

The charter stated that all the members were independent states, and thereby effectively abolished the USSR.

The 11 original member states were Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. In December 1993, Georgia also joined the commonwealth.

Although the CIS has few supranational powers, the commonwealth is more than a purely symbolic organization. It has coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking and security. The most significant issue for CIS is the establishment of a free trade zone / economic union between the member states, planned to be created in 2005.

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 CIS.

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