1985-03-10 to 1991-12-26
U.S.S.R.The dissolution of the Soviet Union occurred on 26 December 1991, officially granting self-governing independence to the Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was a result of the declaration number 142-Н of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although five of the signatories ratified it much later or did not do so at all. On the previous day, 25 December, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the USSR, resigned, declared his office extinct and handed over its powers—including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes—to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That evening at 7:32 p.m., the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.
On August 23, 1987, the 48th anniversary of the secret protocols of the 1939 Molotov Pact between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin that ultimately turned the then-independent Baltic states over to the Soviet Union, thousands of demonstrators marked the occasion in the three Baltic capitals to sing independence songs and attend speeches commemorating Stalin's victims. The gatherings were sharply denounced in the official press and closely watched by the police but were not interrupted.
On October 21, a demonstration dedicated to those who gave their lives in the 1918–1920 Estonian War of Independence took place in Võru, which culminated in a conflict with the militia. For the first time in years, the blue, black, and white national tricolor was publicly displayed.
On February 20, 1988, after a week of growing demonstrations in Stepanakert, capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (the Armenian majority area within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic), the Regional Soviet voted to secede and join with the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia.
On April 26, 1988, about 500 people participated in a march organized by the Ukrainian Cultural Club on Kiev's Khreschatyk Street to mark the second anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, carrying placards with slogans like "Openness and Democracy to the End".
In Ukraine, Lviv and Kiev celebrated Ukrainian Independence Day on January 22, 1989. Thousands gathered in Lviv for an unauthorized moleben (religious service) in front of St. George's Cathedral. In Kiev, 60 activists met in a Kiev apartment to commemorate the proclamation of the Ukrainian People's Republic in 1918.
On April 7, 1989, Soviet troops and armored personnel carriers were sent to Tbilisi after more than 100,000 people protested in front of Communist Party headquarters with banners calling for Georgia to secede from the Soviet Union and for Abkhazia to be fully integrated into Georgia.
On April 9, 1989, troops attacked the demonstrators; some 20 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. This event radicalized Georgian politics, prompting many to conclude that independence was preferable to continued Soviet rule.
On May 30, 1989, Gorbachev proposed that nationwide local elections, scheduled for November 1989, be postponed until early 1990 because there were still no laws governing the conduct of such elections. This was seen by some as a concession to local Party officials, who feared they would be swept from power in a wave of anti-establishment sentiment.
On June 23, 1989, Gorbachev removed Rafiq Nishonov as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Uzbek SSR and replaced him with Karimov, who went on to lead Uzbekistan as a Soviet Republic and subsequently as an independent state.
On March 4, 1990, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic held elections for the Congress of People's Deputies of Russia. Boris Yeltsin was elected, representing Sverdlovsk, garnering 72 percent of the vote.
Yeltsin was supported by democratic and conservative members of the Supreme Soviet, who sought power in the developing political situation. A new power struggle emerged between the RSFSR and the Soviet Union. On June 12, 1990, the Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR adopted a declaration of sovereignty.
On January 14, 1991, Nikolai Ryzhkov resigned from his post as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or premier of the Soviet Union, and was succeeded by Valentin Pavlov in the newly established post of Prime Minister of the Soviet Union.
On June 12, 1991, Boris Yeltsin won 57 percent of the popular vote in the democratic elections, defeating Gorbachev's preferred candidate, Nikolai Ryzhkov, who won 16 percent of the vote. Following Yeltsin's election as president, Russia declared itself independent.
On August 19, 1991, Gorbachev's vice president, Gennady Yanayev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov and other senior officials acted to prevent the union treaty from being signed by forming the "General Committee on the State Emergency", which put Gorbachev – on holiday in Foros, Crimea – under house arrest and cut off his communications.
Faced with growing separatism, Gorbachev sought to restructure the Soviet Union into a less centralized state. On August 20, 1991, the Russian SFSR was scheduled to sign a New Union Treaty that would have converted the Soviet Union into a federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy and military. It was strongly supported by the Central Asian republics, which needed the economic advantages of a common market to prosper.
Estonia had officially restored its independence during the coup in the dark hours of August 20, 1991, at 11:03 pm Tallinn time, many Estonian volunteers surrounded the Tallinn TV Tower in an attempt to prepare to cut off the communication channels after the Soviet troops seized it and refused to be intimidated by the Soviet troops. When Edgar Savisaar confronted the Soviet troops for ten minutes, they finally retreated from the TV tower after a failed resistance against the Estonians.
On September 17, 1991, General Assembly resolution numbers 46/4, 46/5, and 46/6 admitted Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the United Nations, conforming to Security Council resolution numbers 709, 710, and 711 passed on September 12 without a vote.
On December 8, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus secretly met in Belavezhskaya Pushcha, in western Belarus, and signed the Belavezha Accords, which proclaimed the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and announced formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a looser association to take its place.
On December 17, 1991, along with 28 European countries, the European Economic Community, and four non-European countries, the three Baltic Republics and nine of the twelve remaining Soviet republics signed the European Energy Charter in the Hague as sovereign states.
Doubts remained over whether the Belavezha Accords had legally dissolved the Soviet Union, since they were signed by only three republics. However, on December 21, 1991, representatives of 11 of the 12 remaining republics – all except Georgia – signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which confirmed the dissolution of the Union and formally established the CIS. They also "accepted" Gorbachev's resignation. While Gorbachev hadn't made any formal plans to leave the scene yet, he did tell CBS News that he would resign as soon as he saw that the CIS was indeed a reality.
On the night of December 25, at 7:32 p.m. Moscow time, after Gorbachev left the Kremlin, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time, and the Russian tricolor was raised in its place at 11:40 pm, symbolically marking the end of the Soviet Union.