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The Collapse of the USSR

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations since 1945.

The fall of communism in the USSR led to the dissolution of the Union. The Baltic States were the first to proclaim their independence in 1990, and others followed suit in 1991. The ex-USSR’s European territories – Belarus, Moldavia and Ukraine – have proclaimed the dissolution of their links to the Federal Government.

Russia, Ukraine and Belarus then proposed the creation of the Community of Independent States (CIS), but this remained, by and large, an empty shell, as most of other ex-Soviet Union states preferred to establish bilateral agreements amongst themselves.

The collapse of the Soviet Union created new tensions and difficulties:

- With the independence of the Baltic States, the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, created by the division of Eastern Prussia between Poland and USSR in 1945, was now isolated from the rest of Russia.

- Russia and Ukraine argued about who would control the navy based in the Black Sea and the Crimean region which had been under Soviet rule until 1954.

- In Moldavia, Romanians, who represented two-thirds of the population, wanted to move closer to Romania, but this was opposed by the Russian minority.

- Everywhere in the ex-Soviet Union republics, the presence of Russian minorities often gave Moscow a pretext for trying to re-establish its authority over its “close neighbours”.  

However, these crises never degenerated into armed conflict: a peaceful transition was no doubt made possible by Russia’s weakness and the growing influence of the American superpower.