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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

One Year On, Few Celebrate Formation of C. I. S.

The Commonwealth of Independent States celebrated its first birthday Tuesday, with a lack of fanfare that seemed appropriate for the unexpected way in which the new union arose.

In a country that usually puts on lavish celebrations for its political holidays, this newest anniversary was unusually quiet. There were no banners, nor any parades. In fact, it merited only a few cursory mentions in the press.

For those who remember last year's sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, the mood should come as no surprise.

On Dec. 8, 1991, the announcement

of a new union came very suddenly, when the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine emerged from a secret week-end meeting at Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a forest near the Polish border.

Unlike the August 1991 coup, whose effects were visible to most right away, Soviets did not know what to make of the news. Many simply shrugged it off, and newspapers joked about what the new commonwealth would be called.

Within three weeks, the Soviet Union had collapsed, its first and last president had resigned, and television news anchors, lacking a new word for the Soviet Union, were calling it"the country" or "the territory".

Kazakhstan, the Central Asian republics, Moldova and Armenia quickly joined the new Commonwealth, but the Baltic States and Georgia snubbed the offer. Azerbaijan joined but pulled out later.

Dismantling an empire, particularly one as interdependent as the Soviet Union, has been harder than any of the leaders of the 10 former republics had expected.

On its anniversary, Russian leaders and press were divided, on how the Commonwealth should be judged.

In an interview published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev called the Commonwealth a tremendous achievement "not only because we were able to stop a rapid downslide toward a Yugoslav version of events, but also because we have sown seeds which have gradually germinated over the year".

But an article in Pravda condemned the formation of the Commonwealth as "contrary to the will of the people". It called for the former republics to "restore normal federative relationships, to honor the will of the people, to create proper conditions for the work of the U. S. S. R. People's Deputies, and to convene an extraordinary Congress of the Union".