Image by Giovana Fleck, used with permission.

December 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a country that lasted 79 years and covered about one sixth of the earth. Fifteen independent states have emerged from it, as well as a growing list of unrecognized territories that illustrate the difficulty of redrawing maps, (re)claiming independence, and building sustainable and sovereign societies. 

For some, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, now members of the European Union and NATO, the process has been smoother. For others, such as Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, territorial disputes are still ongoing, and, while many of these nations that emerged from the end of the USSR are often looking to the European Union for a closer relationship, the economic transition remains difficult. Belarus, which was enjoying a relatively peaceful transition, has been in turmoil for over a year now with a sharp increase in state violence. In Central Asia, the states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan (the only one in that region that suffered a civil war), Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are still struggling economically, while coming under greater Chinese influence and rediscovering their Islamic heritage. 

Three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, what does independence look like? And for whom? What part of the Soviet heritage, if any, is still relevant to people and younger generations? Why is nostalgia for the Soviet period a powerful political instrument in certain countries and for certain groups? What does the fall of the USSR represent for people who never experienced it? What part of the Soviet heritage is still alive or remembered today? What is the enduring legacy of the USSR in countries that never formed a part of it?

This Special Coverage seeks to explore those issues through the lenses of politics, unresolved conflicts, human rights, historical memory, visual art, music and architecture. Take a look at some of the stories we've already published about the region:

Stories about The USSR's legacy 30 years on

WATCH: Belarus 2020: Still uploading?

  15 December 2020

In this edition of our Global Voices Insights series, media analyst Maryia Sadouvskaya-Komlach, artist Rufina Bezlova and scholar Gregory Asmolov revisit the events in Belarus following the August 2020 presidential elections.