At the UN's founding in 1945, the Soviet Union became one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

When in December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russia was arguably recognized as the legal successor state of the Soviet Union and maintained the USSR's position on the UNSC.

Here's how the events are usually described (highlights are mine):

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 11 Soviet republics […] signed the Alma-Ata Protocol on 21 December 1991 […]. The Protocol provided that the Russian Federation would assume Soviet Union's UN membership, including its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. […]

On 24 December 1991, the Soviet Permanent Representative to the UN Yuli Vorontsov delivered to the Secretary-General of the UN a letter from the Russian President Boris Yeltsin. The letter stated that […] Russia would continue the Soviet Union's membership in the UN and maintain the full responsibility for all the rights and obligations of the Soviet Union under the UN Charter.

The letter was circulated among the UN membership without any objection, and Russia formally took over the Soviet Union's seat in the UN General Assembly, in the Security Council and in other organs of the United Nations.

Here's the original text of Alma-Ata Protocol:

Unsurprisingly, Alma-Ata Protocol says nothing about UN or UNSC membership. Just noting. Not even stating membership in "international organizations" or something like that.

I also could not find any UNSC resolutions on this matter, but the quotation from Wikipedia suggests that the only valuable document there was Yeltsin's "letter" that "circulated without any objection".

Adopting an UNSC Permanent member seems to be a critical change. Even "less critical" actions, like admitting new UN members, went through adoption of a certain Resolution. For example, three Baltic states were admitted as UN members in the same year of 1991 via UNSC Resolutions 709, 710, and 711. Then, in 1992, more liberated states were also admitted via adopting corresponding UNSC Resolutions 735-739.


  1. Have the liberated states formally delegated Russia to continue the USSR's membership in the UNSC?
  2. Is there an UNSC Resolution confirming Russia's seat as an UNSC P5 Member in place of USSR? If so, based on what document(s)?
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    I think the change should not be considered a "critical one" from the UN point of view. From a legal view, it meant no internal change for the UN. From a political POV, Russia inherited most of the territory, population and the military power from the SU, so the change there was minimal too. As long as there was an agreement between all of the states that could claim succession rights, the UN only had to acknowledge the change. In a similar way, if my father has a mortgaged property and he dies, the bank only can acknowledge who has inherited the rights (and duties), it can not agree/disagree.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 10, 2016 at 16:50
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    @SJuan76, I understand this point, and that's why my question arose. (1) I could not find any evidence confirming that "As long as there was an agreement between all of the states that…"; (2) "UN only had to acknowledge the change" — this is very correct, that's why I'm asking for a legal document confirming such acknowledgment.
    – bytebuster
    Jan 10, 2016 at 17:03
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    I think this is a possible duplicate of What would happen if Russia declared itself the successor of the Russian empire?
    – nelruk
    Mar 1, 2016 at 19:32
  • @nelruk, unfortunately, not. The Russian Empire, nor any other flavors of Muscovian Kingdom, has no relation to Permanent Membership in UNSC.
    – bytebuster
    Mar 1, 2016 at 19:39
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2 Answers 2


It is just an excerpt. See NYT and for the entire protocol see 31 I.L.M 1992, page 147-155.

  1. Member states of the commonwealth support Russia in taking over the U.S.S.R. membership in the U.N., including permanent membership in the Security Council and other international organizations.
  • 1
    Hmm, interesting. It looks like a totally different paper. Can it be that the Russian TASS has occasionally "translated" another document?
    – bytebuster
    Jan 10, 2016 at 15:49

Selecting the successor of a UNSC member government is a matter for the GA: the PRC effectively bought their seat when their economic power became sufficient that they could demand a one-China policy in their favour instead of the RoC. (Whether that fits the intent of the Big Three or makes sense morally is a different debate.)

In the USSR's case, the Kazakhs could have tried to claim it as they were the last members of the USSR, but their economy was a disaster, the other republics wouldn't support it and no one was going to help them get the GA votes (especially not with all that "end of history" sentiment around and the hope that Russia would become another western country - the last thing they'd want is the Russian people deciding that Gorbachev's plan was a better idea). The only semi-plausible alternative was Ukraine, then still as nuclear nation and the only other one with a reasonably complete economy, but that would have been a stretch too.

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