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The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Discussion in 'World History' started by Agent327, Aug 23, 2009.

  1. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Viewpoint: The Nazi-Soviet Pact



    In the second of a series of articles marking the outbreak of World War II 70 years ago, historian Orlando Figes analyses what the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact meant for Europeans in 1939 - and what it means today.

    Seventy years on, the pact between Hitler and Stalin still casts a shadow over Europe. Its memory continues to divide.
    For the Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Bessarabians, the pact began the reign of terror, mass deportations, slavery and murder which both the Nazi and the Soviet armies brought along with them when they co-ordinated their invasions of these countries in line with the pact's notorious secret protocols - by which Stalin and Hitler had agreed to divide Eastern Europe between their regimes.
    For the Jews of all these lands, the pact was the licence for the Holocaust. For the European Left, the idea that the leader of the USSR could sign a pact with Hitler symbolised the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet regime.

    We are not opposed to war [between Germany and the Western states] if they have a good fight and weaken each other

    Josef Stalin, speaking in 1939



    For a long time, apologists for Stalin tried to rationalise his ideological turn-around as a pragmatic necessity to "buy time" for the Soviet Union to arm itself against the threat of Germany.
    Certainly, by the summer of 1939, Stalin had good reason to be sceptical that France and Britain were serious about a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The Poles' understandable refusal to allow Soviet troops on to Polish soil was the major stumbling block. This drew the Soviet leader towards Hitler's offer of security.
    But Stalin did not see this as buying time for the war with Germany that finally occurred in 1941.
    He made no distinction between the liberal capitalist states and the fascist dictatorships - both were enemies.
    Through the pact he thought to play them off against each other by giving Hitler a free hand to invade Poland and go to war against its Western allies without intervention by the Soviet Union.
    "We are not opposed to war [between Germany and the Western states] if they have a good fight and weaken each other," Stalin said in 1939.

    Still an embarrassment

    Alongside the pact itself - signed by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Russian counterpart, Vyacheslav Molotov - were the secret protocols. For many years afterwards, the Soviet Union denied their existence.

    For many, the pact began a reign of terror, deportations and murder

    It was only in 1989, after mass demonstrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the pact, that a Soviet commission finally acknowledged their existence - though the document itself was not published in Russia until 1992.
    The pact remains an embarrassment for those in Putin's Russia who take pride from the Soviet achievement in the war.
    Its commemoration is a constant thorn in Russia's relations with its neighbouring European states, which, not surprisingly, recall the pact from the perspective of Soviet oppression after 1945.
    The European Parliament has called for 23 August to become a day of remembrance for all the victims of the totalitarian regimes - Hitler's and Stalin's. It is not a bad idea.
    Perhaps it would help to ease the tensions that are still created by the memory of the pact.

    Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of many books on Russian history, the latest of which is The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia (2007). His books have been translated into more than 20 languages.


    (Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8214391.stm. See also: Pact that set the scene for war )
     
  2. red_elk

    red_elk Chieftain

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    A few comments.
    About 300.000 of Polish Jews found asylum in Soviet occupation zone and survived.

    That the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace. At any rate, the line is there, and an Eastern front has been created which Nazi Germany does not dare assail. When Herr von Ribbentrop was summoned to Moscow last week it was to learn the fact, and to accept the fact, that the Nazi designs upon the Baltic States and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop.
    W. Churchill, 1 October 1939.


    He made no distinction - does it mean he did not see this as buying time for the war with Germany? Don't see logic.

    Exactly. Such principle was common for Britain, France and USSR - to redirect German aggression to the East (against USSR) and West, respectively.
     
  3. Tee Kay

    Tee Kay Challenge accepted

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    Churchill was not a leftist.
     
  4. red_elk

    red_elk Chieftain

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    Fixed, thanks's
     
  5. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Thought you might pick up on this.

    Only until June 22, 1941. That not all Jews were killed (even Berlin wasn't Jew-free when the war ended) was due to Nazi inefficiency - not for lack of trying. At any rate most Jews were killed exactly in Poland; most Jews lived there under Nazi rule.

    Obviously Mr Churchill was unaware of the secret protocol of the pact at the time. At any rate a very unappropriate quote as June 22, 1941 proved that the only one who one time was the Third Reich.

    Did you check the link to the 2nd article?

    The West was in no position to re-direct anything - Stalin was. No 'principle' was involved, BTW.
     
  6. red_elk

    red_elk Chieftain

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    Author seem to claim that pact was a license for Holocaust - which is incorrect, to say at least. IMO, Western Allies who had to help Poland in war with Germany are much more to blame on the fact that Hitler occupied Poland and got away with this. In the same time, USSR was not bound to help Poland, as they rejected all Soviet offers to give them security guarantees.

    The point is that he understood the reason for USSR to intervene in Poland - to restrict German occupation zone, to reincorporate Western Ukraine and Belorussia back to the USSR.
    "Necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace". I think, Polish Jews would agree that it was not so bad.

    Yes. Still not sure what you meant, why it was not an attempt to buy time.

    "the subsequent development of events after that would be unfavourable to the Soviet Union" - it means that European powers could eventually unite against USSR. Very unfavourable, I would say.

    What were the motives of Western Allies to sign Munich pact?
    Why they did not attack Germany in September 1939, having great advantage in power? Despite they were obliged to, according to agreement with Poland.
     
  7. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    Fun fact: my parents only learned that there was such a thing as M-R pact ofter the collapse of Communism in 1989 :) Commies were not big on educating people about Soviet blunders :lol:
     
  8. innonimatu

    innonimatu Chieftain

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    I'm sure that Churchill, with the contacts which british intelligence had among the german diplomatic corps and in the Abwehr, was very much aware of the whole pact.

    Concerning the effects of the pact on the "western leftists": the pact did cause some embarrassment to the western Communist Parties, but only on how to explain it to the rank-and-file which might not be aware of the strategic implications. The purpose of the pact and its usefulness was very well understood, and the belief that the Soviet Union would be the one nation capable of spreading communism along the world persisted on all western communist parties. Disillusionment would come only after the Hungarian Revolution.
    And by then the western leftists were mostly communists, as the anarchists had only had real influence in Spain and been already destroyed (many would shape the French Resistance later, though) and the most of the newer "leftist currents" which we have today would emerge only in the 1960s.

    Concerning the purpose of the pact: the USSR wanted to either cause the general collapse of the western governments, of failing that grab as much territory as possible to strengthen itself. Diverting german aggression westward was the best way to exploit the situation in Europe towards achieving any of those goals. The pact was secret not because of what western leftists might thing, but because of what the population in general on those western countries might think - Stalin understandably wanted to keep his diplomatic options open.
    What really made it am embarrassment to the USSR was the trouncing the germans gave it in 1941 - so much for the plan of furthering international communism by exploiting western wars...
     
  9. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Unlike the Baltic states - who got annexed as well. And indeed the pact de facto was a license for the subsequent Holocaust, as it doomed Poland as an independent nation (some earlier divisions come to mind here...) As said, most Jewish Holocaust victims were Polish citizens and the Poles were the first to experience Nazi 'subhuman' ideology in practice.

    The only reason to 'intervene' in Poland was to get the share of Eastern Europe agreed in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In this light, Churchill was either unaware of the secret protocol or simply chose to ignore such a brilliant piece of propaganda. Though Churchill could be erratic, somehow this seems an unlikely scenario. As for Western Ukraine and Belorussia: those were only incorporated into the USSR after the war was over; as the USSR was officially founded in 1922, they never were a part of it before. (In fact, the Soviets ceased large parts of Eastern Russia to the German Reich in accordance with the armistice and the status quo at the end of hostilities with imperial Germany in WW I.)

    It's not what I meant. But if Stalin was 'buying time' he wasted it thoroughly, provided Nazi Germany with ample support, mutual cooperation and intelligence (though this was largely wasted on the Nazis), in short made them apparently well prepared for Operation Barbarossa.

    Yes and no: it means the events unfolding on and after June 22, 1941. That "European powers could eventually unite against USSR" may indeed be unfavourable, but that happened during the Civil War and after 1945; inbetween it was an impossibility, both military and politically.
    I agree with your conclusion - which shows that both the USSR and the Western Allies completely misjudged Hitler (as did the German politicians that made the Machtergreifung possible). It seems that none of these gentlemen ever read - or took seriously - Mein Kampf (which already clearly outlined Hitler's intentions).

    The Western Allies did not sign the Munich Treaty: Chamberlain did for the UK, Hitler (reluctantly, because he really wanted war) for Germany and Mussolini (who had other plans) for Italy. Why did they not attack? First, they were not mobilized; second, their strategy was defensive; third, they could not violate Belgium's neutrality - unlike Hitler and Stalin, who had no regard for such matters. Poland was well aware of the virtual impossibility of Western aid during the invasion of Poland; all the Allies could do was declare war. (Note, BTW, that they did not declare war on the USSR when it invaded 16 days later. Again, not a hint of prescience of the secret protocol here.)
     
  10. sydhe

    sydhe King of Kongs

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    I rather like that. Better than the proposal a while back to turn May Day into an anti-communist holiday, which was an insult to labor movements. Maybe in a few years the UN can expand the August 23 remembrance and add Mao's and Pol Pot's victims.
     
  11. frekk

    frekk Scourge of St. Lawrence

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    Poland didn't sign the Munich Agreement to appease Hitler. The Poles and the Germans had together presented military ultimatums to Czechoslovakia (in Poland's case, they wanted the Zaolzie territory back), and Poland was one of the parties to be appeased by the Agreement, alongside Germany and Hungary. Nor did the Munich Agreement broach the subject of the Danzig Corridor.
     
  12. REDY

    REDY Duty Caller

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    Also you forgot Daladier.
     
  13. red_elk

    red_elk Chieftain

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    It was a licence for Holocaust much less than Allies' politics of pacifying Hitler and their agreements with Germany. Poland never considered USSR as friend and relied only on British and French support.

    Technically yes, but all what Mr. Churchill said about that is still applied.

    Doesn't matter - these territories were not Polish, they were Ukrainian and Belorussian parts of former Russian Empire.

    Stalin was actively preparing for war with Germany in 1939-1941.

    What you mean? Britain and France were not Western Allies?

    Totally wrong.
    They were ready for war and had much more forces on German border than Germany had.
    Power balance on German-French border in September 1939:
    --------------------------Allies--------Germany
    Divisions-------------------78------------44
    Manpower (thousands)----3253----------1000
    Artillery and mortars------17500----------8640
    Tanks--------------------2850-----------0 (!)
    Aircraft-------------------2421----------1359

    Britain and France gave security guarantees to Poland, and they were obliged to help them militarily.
    Polish plan of defence against Germany also assumed Allied strike from France.
     
  14. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Sorry about that...

    Not 'much less'; it was the 2nd necessary component for Hitler's extremist ideas to become reality. And ofcourse, given Polish-Russian history, Poland had good reason not to rely on Russian 'support'. (Just like the Baltic countries, but they were too small to resist Soviet demands. Finland, again, would not cooperate and ofcourse the USSR simply invaded.)

    Not really: Mr Churchill's September 1939 quote (if it's accurate) shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of the secret protocol. BTW, the fact that the protocol was secret had an obvious reason: it showed the betrayal of Poland's national integrity. As said, Stalin, like Hitler, had little regard for other nations' interests.

    So? The Russian empire died in the October Revolution.

    I'm guessing you're claiming the 1941 campaign showed a planned 'strategic withdrawal' all the way to Moscow? The reality is that Stalin didn't even believe Hitler had broken the pact and invaded the USSR when it happened. (Intelligence reports of imminent invasion were dismissed by him; military stragegists had pleaded for a more in-depth border defense, but Stalin flatly refused.)

    One word: Mussolini.

    Then the Poles were as badly informed on Western policy as they were on Soviet policy. You forgot to mention anything about the Allied strategy, which was defensive. So those, however accurate, numbers have little meaning in the September 1939 situation. Also, Western policies, while increasing military spending, were still set on preserving peace. It's nice to collect statistical data, but historical reality constitutes more than that.
     
  15. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Chieftain

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    France's reaction to the beginning of WWII was "we aren't ready to fight for Danzig". As it soon would be evident, they weren't ready to fight for Paris, too.
     
  16. Dachs

    Dachs Intelligence Officer

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    Iceburn. :lol:
     
  17. red_elk

    red_elk Chieftain

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    The article claims pact between USSR and Germany as license for Holocaust, in fact, blaming Stalin for Holocaust without mentioning all the other "heroes" who are probably more to blame on it. This is historically inaccurate and very much resembling propaganda articles.

    Look at the sentence I was replying to, quoting Churchill. Was there pragmatic necessity for the USSR to capture Western Ukraine and Belorussia? Churchill thought it was.
    "...apologists for Stalin tried to rationalise his ideological turn-around"
    It looks like now, Churchill became an apologist for Stalin :)

    It had special "rebirth from ashes" ability.
    Seriously, is it principal difference for you that country called USSR de-jure did not exist in 1920?
    Soviet Russia, predecessor of USSR existed.

    Tell me, how do you think, why Stalin launched forced industrialization of USSR in 1930-s, and greatly increased its military and industrial might? As everybody else, he was preparing for war in Europe - with whom? With Poland may be?

    So what? Did he frighten Chamberlain and Daladier (Western Allies representatives) so much that they could not refuse to sign this pact? Pact, which sold independent country, possessing serious military potential, to Hitler.

    Allies (Britain and France) had given security guarantees to Poland. They had obligation to help Poland militarily, in case of German attack, and Poland relied on those agreements strongly.

    How do you think, did Allies fully carried out their obligations, by declaring war to Germany and doing nothing else? Without even bombing Germany and without weapon deliveries to Poland, which they were asking for?
    "Defensive strategy"... :rolleyes:
     
  18. red_elk

    red_elk Chieftain

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    Dachs, what do you think about the article?
     
  19. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    That may be your personal opinion, but no historian will agree with you.

    Indeed. But it is a conclusion you make, which isn't in the article. Stalin isn't blamed for the Holocaust - althoug he can easily be blamed for lengthy interrogations of 300,000 Polish POWs in camps[121][122][122][123][124] that were, in effect, a selection process to determine who would be killed.[2] On March 5, 1940, in what would later be known as the Katyn massacre,[2][125][126] orders were signed to execute 25,700 Polish POWs, labeled "nationalists and counterrevolutionaries", kept at camps and prisons in occupied western Ukraine and Belarus.[127]


    Although there were negotiations going on with France and the UK when the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed, such thoughts were not considered, obviously. At any rate, after the pact was signed, Stalin broke off negotiations with the Western Allies - he had what he wanted: carte blanche in Eastern Europe.

    Seeing as there was a civil war going on from 1917 onwards, I fail to the relevance of your remark. One might also claim that White Russia existed until the end of the civil war. What's the point?

    Indeed, and with Finland, apparently. But the Soviet industrialization was not to serve miltary expansion (although it obviously made it possible), but simply to modernize the country. BTW, you forgot to mention the collectivization program.

    Try googling for the Munich Treaty. That should provide a sufficient answer.

    Interesting that you should bring this up: the UK signed a guarantee for Poland after the Nazi-soviet pact, being full aware of the consequences for Poland, urprising Hitler, Britain signed a mutual-assistance treaty with Poland that day, causing Hitler to delay the planned August 26 invasion of western Poland.[88]
    I cannot answer for the military choices of the UK and French governments - but I reckon (since, as I repeatedly explained, their stratgey was defensive), it was deemed to risky, for whatever reason. As for weapons deliveries to Poland, how do you visualize that? Across the Reich? (The initial Allied bombings carried out later took a heavy toll in losses of planes and valuable pilots; especially the latter could not be easily replaced.)
     
  20. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Chieftain

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    Yeah, these furious battles at the gates of Paris in 1940 are well known...
     

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