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Why was Kazakhstan the last to leave the USSR? (Short Animated Documentary)

3 minutes 51 seconds

Speaker 1

00:00:00 - 00:00:29

In 1990, the USSR, already having a difficult time, started to fall apart in earnest. First, it was Lithuania who left, followed by all of these states until December 1991, when only the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republics remained. Belarus seceded on 10 December and 2 days later Russia, the main component, also left, leaving only the Kazakhs. Not just in the USSR, but effectively as the USSR for 4 whole days until it opted to secede too. Which raises an obvious question.

Speaker 1

00:00:30 - 00:00:56

Why? Why was Kazakhstan the last to leave the USSR? Well, as the Soviet Union was falling apart, there was a struggle for power between Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union who wanted to preserve the USSR, and Boris Yeltsin, the Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet who wanted an independent non-communist Russia. Yeltsin was in the process of dismantling the USSR's ministries and bureaucracies and was in contact with the Belarusian and Ukrainian leaders whilst doing so. And these discussions ended with the Belavezha Accords.

Speaker 1

00:00:56 - 00:01:28

This repealed the founding document of the USSR between the 3 countries and also created a successor state, the CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States. In the Kazakh Soviet Republic, this caused anger, since unlike Ukraine, they were still a member of the Soviet Union and nobody had asked them for their opinion. Furthermore, there were a lot of legal questions as to whether these 3 were allowed to dissolve a sovereign state or not. The Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev was sent to Moscow by the other Central Asian states to seek a compromise. You see, whilst all except the Kazakhs had left the USSR, many still wanted close cooperation with Russia.

Speaker 1

00:01:28 - 00:01:48

The problem was that their leaders were elected within the Soviet framework, and abolishing the USSR may have destroyed their legitimacy. As such, they tried to moderate between Yeltsin's independence and Gorbachev's return to the USSR as it was before. This never happened, and on the 12th of December, Russia left the USSR and only the Kazakhs remained. So what happened during this time? Well, the Kazakhs were doing 2 things.

Speaker 1

00:01:48 - 00:02:15

Negotiating with Russia to allow central states into the new CIS which was hoped would be closer to the USSR and its operation than a trading bloc. And also creating the framework to be an independent country just in case everything fell apart. This included changing the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic's name to the Republic of Kazakhstan, but again, it was still a technicality since it was the sole remaining state in the USSR. So how did things like foreign relations work? Did Kazakhstan have to represent the USSR at the United Nations or have to take on its foreign obligations?

Speaker 1

00:02:16 - 00:02:46

Well, no. The USSR's president and leader was still in the same Moscow office as before, and so all of the international discussions going on at the time were done there. Gorbachev was still the president of the USSR, if it still existed that was, and things were moving so quickly, very few people knew exactly what was going on. Internationally, many countries recognised the independence of Russia and Belarus from the Soviet Union, and thus, tacitly, they acknowledged that Kazakhstan was still a part of it. That said, nobody cared, and everybody knew that the Soviet Union was effectively finished and there was nothing that the Kazakhs could have done about it.

Speaker 1

00:02:46 - 00:03:21

Which is why, 4 days after Russia left, Kazakhstan did the same. It wasn't that they were holding out or trying to take on the USSR's mantle, it was just a vain hope that by remaining in the Soviet Union Kazakhstan would maintain a good relationship with Gorbachev, whose role in the future was an unknown. Nazarbayev was a close friend of the President and similarly wanted to preserve the Union. But when it became clear that this wasn't going to happen, Kazakhstan did the same as everyone else and they formally left the USSR. 10 days later, to formalise its dissolution, the leaders of the newly independent States met in the Kazakh capital and formally declared the USSR dead and buried, with Russia becoming its formal successor state.

Speaker 1

00:03:21 - 00:03:21

I hope you enjoyed this episode and a special thanks to my Patrons James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Sky Chappell, Corsha Wolf, Jerry Lambdin, Jordan Longley, Adam Stalter, Marcus Arsner, YNHockey, Spencer Lightfoot, Rod D. Martin, Words About Books Podcast, Captain Psydog, Gustav Swan, Marvin Casal, Camoon Yoon, Winston K. Wood, Boogily Woogily, Daniel Tobian, Miss Isette, Matthew Shipley, Aaron the White, Corey Turner, The McWhopper, Alex Schwin, Anthony Beckett, Copper Tone, Maggie Paskowski, Schuenin-Spinning 3 Plates and Charles I.