The stroke of a pen in a snowy Belarussian forest changed the world 30 years ago


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The previous gents who had come to Vienna have been visibly emotional as they recounted within the circumstances surrounding the signing of the treaty that officially dissolved the Soviet Union in December 1991.

4 of the still-living signatories to the “Settlement Establishing the Commonwealth of Unbiased States” met at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna on November 17. They recounted what precisely happened at a state-run nation house situated in a Belarussian forest three many years ago. The agreement that was signed by Russia, Belarus and Ukraine was not initially deliberate by the members. There was no agenda in any respect.

The Belarussian contingent had come to the Belovezhskaya Forest to discuss power supplies from Russia, stated Stanislav Shushkevich, unbiased Belarus’ first president.

The leaders – Russia’s Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk from Ukraine and Shushkevich – already agreed that the Soviet Union had already ceased to exist before their meeting. What was nonetheless missing, nevertheless, was only a de jure dissolution treaty.

In the snowy forest that they discovered themselves in, neither a type of treason nor conspiracy occurred, recalled former Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitold Fokin. “We went there considering of our homeland and its welfare.”. Shortly earlier than, nevertheless, there had been strain from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to signal a new union alliance that might permit the Soviet Union to continue to exist beneath a new structure. “It occurred to me that Ukraine had an actual probability of turning into an unbiased and sovereign state,” he described, but, in fact, the dying of the Soviet Union saddened him, Fokin added.

Fokin additionally denied a rumor that the three politicians had determined the destiny of a world power while intoxicated. “We have been concentrated. In fact, after a hard day’s work, we additionally drank whisky and vodka. However we have been 30 years younger then,” he stated. Within the morning, nevertheless, “everyone was utterly sober once more.“

The then-Russian Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Burbulis, who co-signed the settlement for Russia with Yeltsin, spoke of the central position that Ukraine played in ending the Soviet Union. In presidential elections and a referendum on December 1, 1991, through which 90 per cent of the Ukrainian population supported their country’s independence, Ukraine acquired a “resounding legitimacy for its centuries-long quest for sovereignty,” Burbulis careworn. 

Earlier than the trip to Belovezh, Yeltsin had assured Soviet President Gorbachev that he was in favor of a renewed Soviet Union, however that the Ukrainians had publicly declared that this was not potential. “Ukrainian President Kravchuk stated that he didn't know the place the Kremlin was and who Gorbachev was alleged to be. By declaring independence, the Ukrainians had also ruled out any sort of confederation. Towards this background, the three finally agreed to determine a commonwealth of ex-Soviet republics, Burbulis explained, who added that at that time the speak was of future cooperation without obligations, one that was based mostly on friendship and trust.

Despite the Ukrainian place, Yeltsin was the driving pressure behind the settlement of December 8, as former Belarussian Overseas Minister Pyotr Kravchenko stated. His Russian counterpart at the time, Andrey Kozyrev, an in depth comrade-in-arms of Yeltsin, had informed him concerning the deliberate settlement on December 7 while on the aircraft to Belarus, which had stunned him.

A text of the settlement was then drafted on the night time of December 8. Kravchenko also famous that the Ukrainian delegation had only claimed one change in the agreement. The Ukrainians needed the textual content to alter a reference to a “group of democratic states” in favor of “unbiased”, as an alternative of “democratic”, with a purpose to connect the soon-to-signed declaration with Ukraine’s independence referendum.

One participant was astonished to hear that the settlement had already offered for the transfer of nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to the Russian Federation, which had already declared itself because the authorized successor to the Soviet Union. At the time, the preamble also agreed on mutual respect for the territorial integrity of the new states. 

This had ensured a largely peaceable end to the Soviet state, a uncommon prevalence in the historical past of the disintegration of empires. Shortly after the Belovezh Accords have been signed, the dissolution of Yugoslavia led to a collection of bloody wars within the coronary heart of Europe that left tens of hundreds lifeless.

Definitely, the signers of the Belovezh Accords weren't at first conscious that a major occasion in world historical past was happening in a snow-covered Belorussian forest. Once they heard the Soviet anthem on the radio the subsequent morning, tears have been shed. For despite all its errors, the Soviet Union had been “an awesome state” for whose well-being Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Shushkevich had gladly worked.

The Soviet Union had additionally been a counterweight to the opposite world powers, above all america. Shortly after the assembly within the Belovezh Forest, the Soviet Union disappeared from the map and 15 new states emerged. 


Soviet President Gorbachev, who had tried desperately for months to save lots of the Soviet Union in a renewed type, resigned on December 25, 1991, and the Soviet purple flag, with the hammer and sickle over the Kremlin, was taken down.

The writer of those strains was a correspondent in Brussels at the time. In mid-December 1991, a gathering of NATO overseas ministers befell in Brussels. As had been the case for a while, the representatives of the nations of the Partnership for Peace have been invited, including the ambassador of the Soviet Union. He learn out a letter from Yeltsin by which he held out the prospect of cooperation with the Western alliance, which might later even embrace membership for Russia.

Afterwards, the ambassador requested to remove all symbols of the pale Soviet Union and to hoist the new flag of the Russian Federation, for which he was now the ambassador. This was not solely attainable, nevertheless, however NATO officers hurriedly took down the purple flag of the Soviet Union from its flagpole. 

In 2008, Vladimir Putin described the dissolution of the Soviet Union because the “biggest catastrophe of the 20th century”. He later stated his one political want can be to convey the Soviet Union again into existence if it have been potential. 

That idea, 30 years in the past, would have been the furthest from the minds of the three males who put the ultimate nail within the coffin of the Soviet experiment. It is really unimaginable just how much issues have changed in the last three many years.