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How Kazakhstan Became The Entire Soviet Union For 4 Days

map of soviet union on a globe

1991 was a notable year in the geopolitical history of the world. It was the year the Gulf War started marking the beginning of America’s constant military presence in the Middle East. That same year Cambodia made peace with Vietnam bringing an end to a decade-long war. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia collapsed, and clashes between Serbia and the other Yugoslav republics launched another war which ran through the rest of the decade. 1991 also saw India abandon its policies of socialism and self-sufficiency, and the country started to open up for the first time to participation from foreign entities. 1991 was also the year the Soviet Union broke up. This was perhaps the single most important thing to happen that year.

For several years before, things had begun to change within the Soviet Union with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev. Although he vowed to preserve the Soviet state and its socialist ideals when coming to power, Gorbachev felt that significant reform was necessary. Gorbachev sought to bring social and political reforms to his country by bestowing more rights and freedoms upon the Soviet people—the so-called “glasnost” policy, while his “perestroika” policy attempted deep restructuring of the political and economic system to bring the Soviet Union at par economically with the West. When many countries of the Eastern Bloc, such as Poland, Hungary and Romania, which were once satellite states of the Union, started to reject the communist government, Gorbachev declined to intervene.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

Threatened by Gorbachev’s inaction, and fearing the collapse of the Communist Party, a couple of hard-liners of the party, the KGB, and military officials attempted an ill-conceived, ill-planned, and poorly executed coup on August 19, 1991, inadvertently accelerating the movement to disband the Soviet Union. Five days later, Gorbachev stepped down as the party's general secretary, but retained his presidency. In the months that followed republics began to leave the Union rapidly and claim their independence. Ukraine declared independence the same day Gorbachev resigned. The next day Belarus followed. Two days later, it was Moldova. A couple of Baltic states like Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia had already left the Union before the coup had even begun. By December 1991, only two states remained in the Soviet Union—Russia and Kazakhstan.

On December 8, representatives from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine met in Brest, Belarus, and declared that the Soviet Union no longer existed. Four days later, on December 12, Russia abandoned the Union leaving only Kazakhstan as the sole member of the Soviet Union. This situation persisted for four days, before Kazakhstan officially seceded from the Union, becoming the last Soviet republic to declare independence.

The Soviet Union itself was not formally disbanded until 26 December, 1991, which means that during these ten days, it existed as a country with no territory.

Countries of the Soviet Union

Countries of the Soviet Union. Image credit: imgur.com

Gorbachev formally resigned as Soviet President one day prior, on 25 December, before vacating his office for Boris Yeltsin to take over. After Gorbachev left the Kremlin, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time, and the Russian tricolor was raised in its place, symbolically marking the end of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin moved into Gorbachev's former office the next day. All former Soviet embassies became Russian embassies, and the few remaining Soviet institutions that had not been taken over by Russia ceased operation. By midnight of 31 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Leading image of a 1970s’ globe with the map of USSR by BioMellie/Shutterstock.com

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