THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE
Ellen Jones and James Brusstar
On 8 December 1991, leaders of the three Slavic republics signed an agreement in the Belarus capital of Minsk establishing a Commonwealth of Independent States and declaring "that the USSR as a subject of international law and a geopolitical entity has ceased to exist." 1 On 21 December, the three Slavic states were joined by Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and the four Central Asian republics, whose leaders agreed to name Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov as Commonwealth Commander. 2 The decree naming Shaposhnikov to his new post heralded the demise of the USSR Ministry of Defense. 3
The Ministry of Defense, to be sure, lived on under a different name: the Commonwealth Command. Former Deputy Defense Minister and Commander in Chief of the Navy Vladimir N. Chernavin became known simply as the Commander of the Navy. 4 General Staff officers still made their way each morning to General Staff headquarters at the end of the old Arbat market place in downtown Moscow. The Defense Ministry's numerous components still functioned much as they had in the past.
Despite these continuities, the legal demise of the old USSR Defense Ministry-- an event made necessary by the collapse of the old USSR itself--is an appropriate marker to the end of an era. As the old Defense Ministry leadership struggles to find a place for the old Armed Forces in the new political environment, now is a fitting time to assess an organization that finds itself without a mission and without a country.
The USSR Defense Ministry was part of a huge bureaucracy and cannot be understood without a knowledge of how that bureaucracy functioned within the