The Commonwealth of Independent States

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12886

Working together as a team is so much better than working against each other. That is one reason why countries like those of the former Soviet Union join together. Learn how they are getting along!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What countries are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States?
  • What is a commonwealth, anyway?

Not all coalitions are meant to last forever.

This was the case with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a former grouping of nations. In 1991, the USSR officially ended.

The USSR consisted of 15 nations. Over the years, economic and political decisions made by the USSR’s leaders caused the USSR's central government to weaken. On December 8, 1991, leaders from Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine met to discuss separating from the USSR and forming the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). They agreed that the new alliance would not be closed; rather, it would be opened to all nations that were part of the USSR. By the end of the month, eight other Soviet nations decided to leave the USSR and join the CIS, officially ending the USSR.

Those nations included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Georgia also joined the CIS in 1993, but left in 2008 due to military conflict between Russia and Georgia. Three of the 15 former Soviet nations decided not to join the CIS. Those countries were Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The map below shows the countries that are currently part of the CIS:

map of the countries in commonwealth of independent states

You will watch a video to get a better idea of the purpose of the CIS. As you watch Commonwealth of Independent States, from Century Old, answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  1. What is the purpose of the CIS?
  2. Which countries are not considered full members of the CIS?
  3. Why did Georgia leave the CIS in 2008?
  4. Where is the headquarters for the CIS located?

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The video said the purpose of the CIS is to promote the coordination of its members in trade, finance, lawmaking, and security. It also supports cooperation between the nations and works to enforce cross-border crime prevention.

Like the European Union (EU), the CIS passes laws and treaties to promote economic, political, and military prosperity in the Eurasian region. Some of those initiatives include the Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area, which removes import and export duties, or taxes, on certain goods. Many member nations also allow their citizens to move freely between countries. Finally, the CIS recently established the Eurasian Economic Union to compete with the EU.

You will watch a video to learn more about the Eurasian Economic Union. As you watch Newly established Eurasian Economic Union hopes to compete with EU, by CGTN America, take notes about the countries involved, the purpose of the Eurasian Economic Union, and the impact this alliance has on global affairs:

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The CIS acts like a Eurasian version of the EU, seeking to bring the region to the forefront of global policies and economics. While the region has mostly seen success in recent years, it has raised some questions. Many people favor the CIS over the former USSR, but fear that Russia still has too much control over the other nations.

Before moving on to the Got It? section, reflect on the following questions by writing your responses on a separate piece of paper:

  1. What role does the CIS play in global affairs?
  2. What impact(s) could the CIS possibly have on the region where you live?
  3. Should Western nations be fearful of the CIS gaining more power?

Share your responses with your teacher or parent.

Then, move on to the Got It? section to read about the dominance Russia has exerted over other CIS nations.

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