In 1991, on this day the signing of the "New Union Treaty" by eight newly independent republics effectively dissolved the Soviet Union replacing it with a Federation with a common president, foreign policy, and military.
Future CountryThe ceremony was a personal triumph for Mikhail Gorbachev who for six long years had laboured to salvage and reform the Soviet state in order to avert a complete collapse of central government function. Launched at the Communist Party Congress of July 1990 as the logical successor to the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the USSR, the model of a less centralized federal system was a potential solution to the region's increasing ethnic problems.
Another perhaps more immediate problem was the political rivalry between Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin who only two months earlier had been elected to the newly created post of president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic with 57% of the vote, becoming the first democratically elected leader of Russia in history. For the past eight weeks, Gorbachev had been unable to fulfil domestic executive function, increasingly focusing on foreign affairs and the signing of the "New Union Treaty".
The establishment's determined efforts to forestall the rise of Yeltsin had caused a bitter animosity between the two men. And so the original issue of whether the die hard Soviets would permit Gorbachev to see out his programme of perestrokia was superseded by a new question. Was the new dual power structure of Union and Russian Presidents inherently unstable, or even if it was stable would personal rivalry prevent the new model from working effectively?
That very evening Gorbachev found out the answers to those questions when he was informed that Yeltin had been placed under house arrest by the KGB. To be continued..