The Belovezha Accords: Not the Worst Option for Soviet Dissolution


25 years ago, in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian SSR President Leonid Kravchuk and Byelorussian SSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislav Shushkevich made the decision to end the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the USSR and signed a document on the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). According to Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov, the Belovezha Accords were not the worst option for the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The 25-year anniversary of the Belovezha Accords marks a very important historical date: this is an event, which determines the new Russia’s path of development.

On the one hand, it is subjected to plentiful criticism. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union is the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. And in the context of the negativity in which it is now customary to evaluate policies of the 1990s, the Belovezha Accords are one of the key reasons for criticism.

On the other hand, it makes sense to not give in to the temptation of demonizing the Belovezha Accords, as it is obvious that after the August 1991 putsch and the failure of the Novo-Ogaryovo process to create a renewed USSR, the Soviet Union really was doomed, and the question was only in the form and time of its dissolution.

What If… the Soviet Union Had Not Collapsed? Valdai Paper Special Issue
At the 13th Annual Meeting the Valdai Discussion Club holds a special session titled "What If… the Soviet Union Had Not Collapsed?" The Centenary of the October Revolution is approaching. And this anniversary, naturally, presumes a serious and thoughtful understanding of the Soviet experience in the development of Russia, not only from a historical point of view but also in terms of the projection into the future.

In this context, it should be recognized that the Belovezha Accords are not the worst option for the Soviet Union’s dissolution. At the very least, they did not provoke direct military face-offs between former Union republics. The accords secured the principle of inviolability of borders that formed between them.

The Belovezha Accords became a very mild path through the USSR’s collapse. They can be viewed as the start of the new post-Soviet Russia’s development. Here, the conversation should be about not the Belovezha Accords themselves being bad, but about our society and our leadership of the 1990s not completely utilizing the chance to build a new, full-fledged state, a chance, which the Accords gave.

Right now, it is important to depoliticize the issue of the Belovezha Accords’ history because they have become the center of a serious ideological struggle. It is important to leave history to the historians.

It should be understood that there will not be a single appraisal of the Belovezha Accords that is acceptable to all, no matter what. Because of that, it is important to not pit various parts of society against each other, and to evaluate this event in a moderate historical context without excessive ideologization and, even more so, demonization of the participants of this process, who were carrying out the objective tasks that stood before them in 1991.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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