The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a document that became the "last prelude" before the outbreak of World War II. After 80 years, we’ll try again to look back into the past and remember how it all happened.
Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. From the very beginning of his reign, various anti-Soviet and anti-communist excesses began within the country.
As a result of this, the Soviet Union broke all economic and military relations with Germany. Example: the closure of an aviation school in Lipetsk and other German facilities on the territory of the Soviet Union.
In December 1933 there was an attempt to conclude a collective security treaty in Europe. The governments of France and the Soviet Union were its initiators. However, in the end, they failed to sign this “Eastern Pact” due to the refusal of Germany and Poland.
In March 1935, Germany finally ceased to comply with the military articles of the 1919 Versailles Peace Treaty.
In November 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact directed against the Soviet Union. In 1937, Italy joined it.
In March 1938, Germany implemented the Anschluss of Austria and began to put forward territorial claims against Czechoslovakia.
At the end of September 1938, the Munich Agreement was signed, providing for the transfer of Germany to the Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) and the areas bordering Austria.
Czechoslovakia held consultations with the Soviet Union, and the Soviet government promised to provide military assistance to Prague in the event of a German attack. Poland immediately declared that it would not let the Red Army through its territory. Due to the position of Poland, France, and the UK, Czechoslovakia was forced to reject the Soviet offer for help.
At the end of September 1938, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and France signed the Munich Agreement providing for the transfer of Germany to the Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) and the areas bordering Austria.
On the eve of the pact
Contacts between Germany and the Soviet Union intensified. This happened against the backdrop of attempts by the UK and France to establish contacts with the Soviet Union.
At the end of June 1939, negotiations on the normalization of relations between the Soviet Union and Germany began. In July, there was the talk of a trade agreement and a plan to improve relations between countries, which included political rapprochement.
During a meeting with the military on August 14, Adolf Hitler announced his intention to start a war with Poland, since "UK and France will not enter the war if nothing forces them to do this."
August 15 was the first time when the question of the arrival of German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop to Moscow was raised. The Soviet Union put forward a response proposal - to conclude a full-fledged pact instead of a joint declaration on the non-use of force.
Two days later, on August 17, Germany accepted all the Soviet proposals and again proposed speeding up the negotiations by sending Ribbentrop to Moscow.
A few days later, the Soviet Union transferred to Berlin a draft of a non-aggression pact and agreed to the arrival of Ribbentrop on August 26-27.
This date did not suit Hitler (he was going to attack Poland and did not plan to delay this business), and he invited Stalin to accept Ribbentrop no later than August 23.
As a result, Stalin agreed on August 23.
Ribbentrop flew to Moscow at noon on August 23. At the same time, his plane was mistakenly fired by Soviet anti-aircraft gunners.
Ribbentrop's meeting with Stalin and Molotov lasted three hours.
Vladimir Pavlov, Stalin’s personal translator, who was present at the meeting, later recalled that at the beginning of the meeting, Stalin said the following:
"Additional agreements are needed for this pact, but we will not publish anything about them."
After that, he outlined the content of the future secret protocol.
The secret protocol
It described the division of territories of other countries. In particular, the Baltic states and Poland. Based on the protocol, Lithuania received Vilnius (at that time, it was Polish). Moreover, the question of Poland’s independence, according to the protocol, “could be finally clarified later”, by the parties agreement.
The Soviet Union also emphasized its interest in Bessarabia.
Moscow has denied the very existence of this secret protocol for decades.
For example, at the Nuremberg trials in 1946, former state secretary of the German Foreign Ministry, Ernst von Weizsäcker, spoke about the existence of the protocol, but in the Soviets denied it.
A few years later, the document was published by the US State Department. But in the Soviets continued to assert that this was falsification.
The existence of the protocol was recognized only in 1989. Then the German version of the text was published.
In early June this year, Soviet originals were published.
Signing of the contract
Soviet People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop shake hands after signing the pact, August 23, 1939
Seven short articles:
Article I obliged the parties to refrain from aggression against each other;
Article II obligated the parties not to support the aggression of third countries against the other side;
Article IV obligated the parties not to join military alliances directed against the other side;
Article V proposed ways of a peaceful resolution to conflicts;
Article VI described the duration of the contract (ten years with automatic renewal each time for five years);
Articles III and VII were purely technical.
The agreement was ratified by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union a week after its signing.
German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Indications at the Nuremberg trials in 1946:
"When I came to Moscow in 1939 to Marshal Stalin, he did not discuss with me the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the German-Polish conflict under the Briand-Kellogg Pact, but made it clear that if he did not receive half of Poland and the Baltic countries, even without Lithuania with the port of Libau, then I might go back immediately."
The day after the ratification of the treaty, September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland. Thus the Second World War began.