The formal dissolution of the USSR in 1991
On the 26th December 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met for the last time to formally dissolve itself and the Soviet Union. This followed declaration no. 142-Н in which the Supreme Soviet announced that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist as a state and subject of international law. The declaration recognised that the former Soviet republics were independent, and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place.
The origins of the dissolution of the Soviet Union can be traced back to the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1985. He came to office intending to revive the USSR’s economy, but his reforms – most famously the policies of glasnost and perestroika – laid the foundations for the enormous popular demands for change that were to follow.
By August 1991, the Iron Curtain had fallen as a result of the toppling of Communist governments in former satellite states. This increased the pressure on Gorbachev to grant greater autonomy for republics within the Soviet Union. A failed coup by hardline members of the government who wanted to oust Gorbachev and reverse his reforms failed to derail the independence movements within the republics.
With some having already declared their independence from the USSR, a further 10 republics did so between August and December. As it became obvious that the USSR was falling apart, on the 25th December Gorbachev resigned as President. That evening the Soviet flag on the Kremlin was replaced by the Russian tricolour. The USSR was formally dissolved the next day.