Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – 1939 | Today In History | 23 Aug 17
Polish, Estonian and Russian historians talk about the role of the USSR and Germany in unleashing World War II
September 1 marks the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. And every year at the end of August, historians and political commentators in Russia, as well as in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, argue about what role the Soviet-German non-aggression pact concluded a week earlier and secret protocols to it played in unleashing the war..
Since the document bears the signatures of the USSR Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, it entered world history under the name “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact”.
Documented division of spheres of influence
Deputy Director of the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Accord Doctor Lukasz Adamski confirmed that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was still a hot topic of discussion in his country. As evidence, Dr.Adamsky referred to numerous publications in Polish newspapers and comments on social networks that appeared on the anniversary of the signing of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact..
“The participants in this discussion remind that at the end of August 1939 there was a division of Central and Eastern Europe into zones of influence. In addition, the publications note that there are still forces in Russia that are trying in every possible way to justify the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by comparing it with other non-aggression treaties, ”Lukasz Adamski told the Voice of America correspondent.
The words of the Polish expert are confirmed, in particular, by the interview with the candidate of historical sciences Dmitry Surzhik, which sounded on the air of Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda on 23 August. Thus, Surzhik notes: “Since the mid-1930s, the USSR has been trying to build a collective security system on the continent. On May 2, 1935, we signed an agreement with France, which provided for joint actions if an aggressor attacks any European country (meaning Germany). But this agreement was not fulfilled due to the fault of the French side “.
Further, the Soviet-Anglo-French negotiations in the spring-summer of 1939 are mentioned: “On June 2, the parties agree with the Soviet proposal to conclude a military alliance with clear obligations: if Germany attacks Poland, then Moscow, Paris and London come to the rescue.” However, these negotiations ended in vain, and then the Russian historian concludes that Stalin had no choice but to lend a hand of friendship to Adolf Hitler. At the same time, Surzhik confirms the idea expressed by Lukash Adamski that the additional secret protocols to the Pact of August 23, 1939 were about “delimiting spheres of influence.”.
For his part, the deputy director of the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Accord emphasizes that all interstate agreements concluded before World War II stated: – the parties agreed not to conduct military operations against each other, and not a single pact, except for the Soviet-German one, was supplemented secret protocols on the division of Europe into protectorates.
“Agreement between the two aggressors”
Another important aspect of the Polish discussion of the Soviet-German Pact, from Dr. Adamski’s point of view, is the following: “This was one of the factors that led Hitler to attack Poland, and in September 1939 Poland lost the defensive war to Germany. But everyone also understands that the result of the Pact was the Soviet aggression (against Poland) on September 17 of the same year “.
“The Soviet Union greatly contributed to the outbreak of World War II and, together with Germany, attacked Poland, therefore, it is also responsible for the outbreak of World War II.”.
The Voice of America interlocutor emphasizes that all the facts he mentioned have become part of the public consciousness in Poland. And professional historians argue only about whether Germany bears the main responsibility for the attack on Poland, while the Soviet Union is only an accomplice in the aggression, or are both countries equally guilty? Lukasz Adamski himself is a supporter of the first version, while Polish Foreign Minister Witold said literally the following: “The Soviet Union greatly contributed to the outbreak of World War II and, together with Germany, attacked Poland, therefore, he is also responsible for the outbreak of World War II. war “.
In response, in Russia today again there are statements that Poland itself is responsible for unleashing the Second World War, since in 1938 it annexed a part of Czechoslovakia..
In response, Lukasz Adamski recalls that the lands that were transferred to Poland after the Munich conference were a disputed territory for a number of previous years, and that the transfer of these lands was carried out on the basis of an agreement between Prague and Warsaw. “From a legal point of view, it was an ordinary cession, that is, the transfer of territory on the basis of an agreement. But, of course, it was, shall we say, not an elegant act, and it greatly spoiled the image of Poland. That is, of course, it was both a moral and political mistake..
But I want to remind you that in 2009 at Westerplatte, when the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II was celebrated, Polish President Lech Kaczynski apologized to the representatives of the Czech Republic and said that it was not only a mistake, but also a sin. And he added that Poland knows how to admit the sins it has committed.
And here we can add that this was a challenge to the President of Russia. Because Vladimir Putin was also in Gdansk these days, and – this can be verified – he justified the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by the fact that there used to be a Munich conference and the partition of Czechoslovakia. “.
In conclusion, Lukasz Adamski noted that in 1938, after the Munich conference, the leaders of many European countries were confident that it was possible to reach an agreement with Hitler “in an amicable way”, and that the main thing was to prevent war..
“That is, Munich happened because France and Great Britain believed that this was the only way to ensure peace in Europe for a long time and for this they wanted to give Germany a sense of equality with themselves. And the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was an agreement between two aggressors, ”concludes Dr. Adamski.
Estonia remembers what the loss of statehood is
If Poland became the first victim of the Stalinist-Hitler non-aggression pact, the Baltic states lost their independence a few months later. In particular, Estonia was incorporated into the USSR on August 6, 1940..
Professor of History at the Tallinn Academy of Arts David Vseviov believes that the discussion of the Pact itself has somewhat lost its sharpness in Estonia, since, in his words, “everything has been clear since the end of the 1980s”.
On the other hand, the memory of the division of Eastern Europe into spheres of influence remains relevant..
“Just on the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, German President Steinmeier was on a visit to Estonia. I attended his speech, and I can testify that it was largely dedicated to this very date. And it sounded like a warning from the past to us living today about what the consequences of this event might be, ”says Professor Vseviov.
And he adds that there are no discrepancies on this issue not only among professional historians: “although we have one million three hundred thousand people, opinions, of course, may be different. But here, it seems to me, there are no discrepancies “.
“If we take the political map of Europe at the beginning of 1939, we will see that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were separate and independent states.
Referring to the statements of Russian historians and political observers that the current Baltic states show ingratitude towards the Soviet liberators from Nazism, the interlocutor of the Voice of America notes: “If we take the political map of Europe at the beginning of 1939, we will see that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were separate and independent states. And what statehood is to Russian historians should be well known from the example of the events of 1612-1613, when there was a struggle against the invaders from the Lithuanian-Polish state and from Sweden..
So, the topic of statehood is just as important for Estonia. And if we take the political map of 1945, we find that the Baltic states were the only ones in Europe that simply disappeared from it..
Of course, who can argue that the Red Army played a decisive role in the defeat of Nazi Germany! This is not the question. But if it was only about the fact that the USSR liberated these countries from fascism and left them in the position in which they were before the start of World War II, then they would not feel anything but gratitude. But, as we remember, this did not happen, and the Baltic countries were able to regain their statehood only 46 years after the end of the war, ”recalls professor of history David Vseviov.
Hitler and Stalin: who will attack first?
Russian historian Boris Sokolov calls the allegations that the signing of the Non-Aggression Pact on August 23, 1939 allowed the Soviet leadership to better prepare for war “absolutely false”.
“Stalin, like Hitler, wanted war, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a prelude to World War II.
When Stalin concluded this treaty, he did not believe Hitler and expected that sooner or later Hitler would attack him. By the way, Hitler had the same feelings for Stalin, believing that sooner or later he would violate the non-aggression pact. So it was only a matter of timing – who will be ahead of whom, ”notes Boris Sokolov in a conversation with the Voice of America correspondent.
“In my opinion, Stalin was preparing an attack on Germany, sometime in the summer of 1940. That is, he hoped that the German troops, having launched a general offensive against France, would get bogged down on the Maginot Line and in a few weeks he would be able to stab them in the back on the Soviet-German demarcation line
And he continues: “In my opinion, Stalin was preparing an attack on Germany, sometime in the summer of 1940. That is, he hoped that the German troops, having launched a general offensive against France, would get bogged down on the Maginot Line and in a few weeks he would be able to stab them in the back on the Soviet-German demarcation line. And there at that moment there were only eleven German divisions against almost a hundred Soviet “.
In favor of this version, according to Sokolov, is the fact that at the end of February 1940, when the war between the USSR and Finland had not yet ended, the directive ordered the Soviet navy to consider Germany as the main enemy. And the deadline for demobilization of those who were called up for the war with Finland was postponed until July 1, 1940..
“In addition, I think that in preparation for the war with Germany, Polish officers and representatives of the intelligentsia in Katyn and other places were shot dead – a total of about 25 thousand people. This happened in April – early May 1940, and the decision on this at the level of the Politburo was, as is known, made on March 5. That is, if a war between the Soviet Union and Germany began, the Polish government, which at that time was in France, would become an ally of the USSR and this government would have to give up these Polish officers. And then a Polish army that was not under Stalin’s control would have arisen, which he could not allow. And then he decided to hastily shoot these Polish officers, “says Boris Sokolov.
“There is irrefutable evidence of this: in the plan of the deployment of the Red Army in the west of March 11, 1941, there is a resolution of the Deputy Chief of General Staff, General Nikolai Vatutin,” Start the offensive on June 12 ”
And he continues that, since the Wehrmacht managed to occupy France earlier than Stalin expected, the next attack of the Red Army on Germany was planned for 1941. “There is irrefutable evidence for this: in the plan for the deployment of the Red Army in the west of March 11, 1941, there is a resolution of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Nikolai Vatutin,“ Start the offensive on June 12 ”. And, as we understand, such a decision was not made by Vatutin, but he simply recorded Stalin’s decision. We mechanically counted three months from March 11, but did not have time to prepare, so the attack was postponed to July. And this is evidenced by another document: the decree of the Politburo of June 4, 1941 on the formation by July 1 of the 238th division of the Red Army from Poles and people who know the Polish language. That is, the Polish division, except for the war with Germany, was not needed for anything else. This means that somewhere in July they were going to attack Germany, ”the expert said..
And he concludes: “Stalin believed that Hitler would attack the USSR only in 1942, and before that he would try to land in England and put an end to it. And Hitler admitted that Stalin might attack in 1941, so he was in a hurry with Operation Barbarossa and appointed it first for May 15, and then for June 22, 1941, “the historian Boris Sokolov believes..