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The post-Soviet states, also referred to as the former Soviet Union (FSU) or the former Soviet republics, are the independent sovereign states that emerged/re-emerged out of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Prior to their independence, they existed as Union Republics — top-level constituents of the Soviet Union. There are 15 post-Soviet states in total: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Each of these countries succeeded their respective Union Republics: the Armenian SSR, the Azerbaijan SSR, the Byelorussian SSR, the Estonian SSR, the Georgian SSR, the Kazakh SSR, the Kirghiz SSR, the Latvian SSR, the Lithuanian SSR, the Moldavian SSR, the Russian SFSR, the Tajik SSR, the Turkmen SSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and the Uzbek SSR. In Russia, the term "near abroad" (Russian: ближнее зарубежье, romanized: bližneye zarubežye) is sometimes used to refer to the post-Soviet states other than Russia.
Following the end of the Cold War, the international community de facto recognized Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union as a whole, rather than to just the Russian SFSR. In contrast, the other post-Soviet states were recognized as successors only to their corresponding Union Republics. However, Russia's status as the sole legitimate successor in this capacity has been disputed by Ukraine, which has proclaimed by law that it is the successor state to both the Ukrainian SSR and the Soviet Union as a whole. The question of whether Russia or Ukraine succeeded the Soviet Union in 1991 arose due to a comprehensive dispute between the two countries over what had been collective Soviet state-owned properties.
The Union Republics of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) were the first to break away from the Soviet Union by proclaiming the restoration of their national independence between March and May 1990; they cited legal continuity from the original Baltic states, asserting that Baltic sovereignty had continued on a de jure basis due to the belligerent nature of the 1940 Soviet annexation. Subsequently, the 12 remaining Union Republics seceded, with all of them jointly establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and most of them later joining the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). On the other hand, the three Baltic states pursued a policy of near-total disengagement with the Russian-dominated post-Soviet sphere, instead focusing on integrating themselves with the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). They successfully attained NATO membership in March 2004, and were granted EU membership two months later. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the integration of the Baltic states with the EU and NATO, many EU officials have stressed the importance of establishing EU Association Agreements with the other post-Soviet states. Since the 2000s, Ukraine and Georgia have actively sought NATO membership due to increasingly hostile Russian interference in their internal affairs. However, the prospect of NATO's eastward enlargement further escalated regional tensions, culminating in the Russo-Georgian War since 2008 and the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014.
Due to the post-Soviet conflicts, several disputed states with varying degrees of international recognition have emerged within the territory of the former Soviet Union. These include Transnistria, an unrecognized Russian-backed state in eastern Moldova; Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two partially recognized Russian-backed states in northern Georgia; and Artsakh, an unrecognized Armenian breakaway state in southwestern Azerbaijan. The United Nations (UN) has historically considered Russian-backed states in the "near abroad" to be illegitimate, instead viewing them as constituting Russian-occupied territories. The aftermath of the Maidan Revolution saw the emergence of Russian-backed states in Ukraine in 2014: the Republic of Crimea in southern Ukraine briefly claimed independence before being annexed by Russia in 2014; and the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic, both located in Ukraine's Donbas, declared independence in 2014 before being annexed by Russia in 2022, amidst the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.