December 8, 1991 in the village of Viskuly, Belarus, the Heads of State and Governments of the three republics: Boris Yeltsin and Gennady Burbulis (RSFSR), Stanislav Shushkevich and Vyacheslav Kebich (Belarus), Leonid Kravchuk, and Witold Fokin (Ukraine) signed the so-called "Belovezha Accords" on the demise of the USSR and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
In the middle of 1980's the USSR included 15 Soviet republics; its territory housed over 270 million people - representatives of more than a hundred nations and nationalities. In the late 1980's - early 90's in the Soviet republics began a movement for the proclamation of national independence and secession from the union state.
In spring and summer of 1990, the Baltic republics followed by other Soviet republics, including Russia, adopted the declaration of national sovereignty. To stop the disintegration of the Union, 17 March 1991 a referendum was held on the maintenance of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (76.4% of voters were pro the maintenance of the Union).
However, 8 December 1991 the heads of the Russian Federation (RSFSR), the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine signed the Agreement on the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which marked the demise of the Soviet Union.
The preamble of the document stated that "the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality no longer exists." Article 1 of the Agreement read: "The High Contracting Parties shall constitute the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)”. The agreement stated a desire to develop cooperation in political, economic, humanitarian, cultural and other fields. Parties guaranteed their citizens equal rights and freedoms, irrespective of their nationality or other differences; accepted and respected the territorial integrity of each other and the inviolability of existing borders within the Commonwealth, as well as the openness of borders, free movement of citizens and transfer of information within the Commonwealth. Article 14 determined the city of Minsk the official seat of the coordinating bodies of the Commonwealth.
The Accords and other signed documents were ratified by the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR on Dec. 12, 1991. At the same time Russia dissolved the Union Treaty of 1922.
December 21, 1991 the Accords were joined by Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. In the city of Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan), the heads of these countries, along with Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, signed the Declaration on the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on an equal footing. In December 1993 the Accords on the establishment of the CIS were joined by Georgia. Three former Soviet republics, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, did not join the CIS.
December 25, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR approved the Law of the RSFSR "On renaming of the state of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic", which took effect immediately The new name of the state was the Russian Federation (Russia).
Lit.: Ельцин Б. Н. Мы обречены быть вместе: интервью Российской газете // Российская газета. Федеральный выпуск. 7 декабря 2006. № 4241; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.rg.ru/2006/12/07/yeltsin.html; Соглашение о создании Содружества Независимых Государств [Электронный ресурс] // WorldCourts. 1999-2015. URL: http://www.worldcourts.com/eccis/rus/conventions/1991.12.08_Agreement_CIS.htm.
From the Presidential library materials:
История Российского государства: территории и границы. СПб., 2010.