Previously, from August to December, all the individual republics, including Russia itself, had either seceded from the union or at the very least denounced the Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union. The week before the union's formal dissolution, 11 republics signed the Alma-Ata Protocol formally establishing the CIS and declaring that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. Both the Revolutions of 1989 and the dissolution of the USSR also signalled the end of the Cold War.
Several of the former Soviet republics have retained close links with the Russian Federation and formed multilateral organizations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Economic Community, the Union State, the Eurasian Customs Union, and the Eurasian Economic Union to enhance economic and security cooperation. On the other hand, the Baltic states have joined NATO and the European Union.
Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary by the Politburo on March 11, 1985, three hours after predecessor Konstantin Chernenko's death at age 73. Gorbachev, aged 54, was the youngest member of the Politburo. His initial goal as general secretary was to revive the Soviet economy, and he realized that doing so would require reforming underlying political and social structures. The reforms began with personnel changes of senior Brezhnev-era officials who would impede political and economic change. On April 23, 1985, Gorbachev brought two protégés, Yegor Ligachev and Nikolai Ryzhkov, into the Politburo as full members. He kept the "power" ministries happy by promoting KGB Head Viktor Chebrikov from candidate to full member and appointing Minister of Defence Marshal Sergei Sokolov as a Politburo candidate.
This liberalisation, however, fostered nationalist movements and ethnic disputes within the Soviet Union. It also led indirectly to the revolutions of 1989, in which Soviet-imposed socialist regimes of the Warsaw Pact were toppled, all peacefully (with the notable exception of Romania), which in turn increased pressure on Gorbachev to introduce greater democracy and autonomy for the Soviet Union's constituent republics. Under Gorbachev's leadership, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1989 introduced limited competitive elections to a new central legislature, the Congress of People's Deputies (although the ban on other political parties was not lifted until 1990).
In May 1985, Gorbachev delivered a speech in Leningrad advocating reforms and an anti-alcohol campaign to tackle widespread alcoholism. Prices of vodka, wine, and beer were raised in order to make these drinks more expensive and to discourage consumption and alcohol rationing was introduced. Unlike most forms of rationing, which is typically adopted as a strategy to conserve scarce goods, this was done to restrict sales with the overt goal of curtailing drunkenness. Gorbachev's plan also included billboards promoting sobriety, increased penalties for public drunkenness, and censorship of drinking scenes from old movies. This mirrored Tsar Nicholas II's program during the First World War, which was intended to eradicate drunkenness in order to bolster the war effort. However, that earlier effort was also intended to preserve grain for only the most essential purposes, which did not appear to be a goal in Gorbachev's program. Gorbachev soon faced the same adverse economic reaction to his prohibition as did the last Tsar. The disincentivization of alcohol consumption was a serious blow to the state budget according to Alexander Yakovlev, who noted annual collections of alcohol taxes decreased by 100 billion rubles. Alcohol sales migrated to the black market and moonshining became more prevalent as some made "bathtub vodka" with homegrown potatoes. Poorer, less educated Russians resorted to drinking unhealthy substitutes such as nail-polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or men's cologne, resulting in an additional burden on Russia's healthcare sector due to the increased poisoning cases. The underlying purpose of these reforms was to prop up the existing centrally planned economy, in contrast to later reforms, which tended toward market socialism.