1939 01 The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and a Recap of 20 Years of Conflict in Eastern Europe (including the Heimosodat)

Author: Not Decided
Status: In Research

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1920 04

I did some digging and holy shit, i found a good source in English written by a Finnish guy.

Here’s the link. It goes very in-depth by the way!

As for pictures, the Finnish National Archive is happy to help.


1920 04

And here’s a great video about the Estonian War of Independence in English made by a Estonian dude.


For one of the 1923 episodes I would recommend that you mention Klaipėda Revolt.

It happened when the Lithuanian government organised a revolt against the French occupation of the city which led to it being re-united with Lithuania.


I think I could try to cover that topic. For obvious reasons, I had to learn about it since my youngest days.


Ok, I’ll start with events leading to the signing of this pact.

I. I’ll start with the Munich agreement as it’s curse and outcome had a significant role in laying the foundation for the German-Soviet cooperation.

The foreign policy of Reich developed in a different way than Hitler wanted. From 1933 to 1939, Hitler was striving for a guarantee for open hand policy from London. These aspirations, however, failed. UK indeed have chosen the policy of appeasement as British government wanted to avoid military conflict, yet, that policy of appeasement did not mean a total indifference to Central and Eastern Europe.

With the eruption of the Sudeten crisis the Soviet Union itself proposed to call for the conference of power states. In the end, Soviet Union wasn’t invited to the meeting between the democratic and fascist states in Munich. Such turn of events had a significant impact on the Soviet foreign policy as the doctrine of collective security developed and advocated by Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Maksim Litvinov seemed to be impossible to implement. The Litvinov’s idea of collective security, in short, boils down to tightening relationships with Western democracies (France and Great Britain) and forging anti-German alliance.

March 10, 1939, during the meeting of the XVIII Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow, Joseph Stalin made a speech that went down in history under a name “the chestnut speech”. During the Congress, Stalin, to the surprise of the gathered party members, he presented the Third Reich for better material for a friend and ally than Western democratic states. The leader of the Soviet Union at the same time criticized the Western capitalist states in his speech, which he accused of inciting war and attempts to draw the USSR into a conflict against the German Reich.

The name “chestnut speech” came directly from the words of Stalin, who stated that he would not allow the Soviet Union “to be dragged into conflicts by warmongers who were used to others pulling out chestnuts from the campfire for them” Stalin in his speech also claimed that the anti-Comintern pact wasn’t directed against the USSR, but against Western capitalist countries like England, France, and the USA.
“Chestnut speech” met with an enthusiastic reaction from Berlin and was a turning point in improving Germany’s relations with Soviet Russia immediately before the outbreak of World War

In May 3rd, 1939 Joseph Stalin dismissed Maksim Litwinow from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and on the same day, he appointed Vyacheslav Molotov in his place. Molotov was one of the Joseph’s most trusted men and just like Stalin he too was in favor of working together with Germans. Stalin and Molotov did not intend to conclude agreements with Western democracies, and as consequence, take on the main burden of fighting against the Third Reich.

II. The Prague operation how it affected the foreign relations between IIIrd Rech, Poland, and Soviet Union.

The Plan to extend the occupation over the r whole territory of Czechoslovakia was followed by intensifying contacts with Warsaw. Poland received a proposition of alliance against the Soviet Union. For obvious reasons Soviets were concerned about this situation and were determined to prevent the Polish-German cooperation from happening.

In fact, it wasn’t completely new situation, Hitler, and politicians of IIIrd Reich were aiming towards tightening the relations with Poland for quite some time, which had to cause concerns among the Soviet leaders.

Some examples of German propaganda/satirical drawings:


German satirical political magazine “Kladderadatsch”. Caricature from December 10, 1933. The inscription at the top: “German-Polish pact of non-aggression”, bottom: “or Gallic pouring of bile”.


“Overcoming prejudices (part of the French press is still questioning good German-Polish relations).” Symbolizing Germany, Michel says to a Polish girl: “You see, Marinko, they do not mind even crowing a cock!” Kladderadatsch, July 28, 1935

Ok, back to the case:

III. The Pact

Thankfully for the Soviet Union, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Józef Beck, was following the “balance” doctrine proposed by Józef Piłsudski. Assumptions of this doctrine were that Poland should not take any decisive actions against Germany and the USSR trying to simultaneously balance between both powerful neighbors. Its primary goal was to maintain equal relations with Berlin and Moscow, a kind of political balance while maintaining a safe “distance” from them.

Józef Beck was trying to delay the negotiations and to give a definitive answer. This undefined situation was retained until 31 March 1939 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced British unilateral guarantees to Poland. Following this, as well as Poland’s refusal to join Third Reich as (temporary or not, I won’t speculate about this here) ally Germany decides to push the issues of the exterritorial corridor to East Prussia and the Danzig question in order to lay a foundation for future casus belli against Poland.

All these events lead to the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. It was formally a non-aggression pact, however, the Secret Additional Protocol constituting an annex to the official document, it concerned the partition of territories or regulation of the independence of sovereign states: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Romania. In Polish literature, this document is often referred to as “The Fourth Partition of Poland”. British historian Norman Davies referred to it in a similar manner.

The main document is composed of seven articles:

Article I
Both High Contracting Parties obligate themselves to desist from any act of violence, any aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other Powers.

Article II
Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third Power.

Article III
The Governments of the two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to exchange information on problems affecting their common interests.

Article IV
Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties, neither shall participate in any grouping of Powers whatsoever that is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party.

Article V
Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.

Article VI
The present Treaty is concluded for a period of ten years, with the proviso that, in so far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not advance it one year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this Treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years.

Article VII
The present treaty shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement shall enter into force as soon as it is signed.

As well as additional four articles of the Secret Additional Protocol:

Article I
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection, the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.

Article II
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San.

The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish state and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.

In any event, both governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.

Article III
With regard to Southeastern Europe, attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinterest in these areas.

Article IV
This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.

Uff, it took me way more time than I expected. It is way too detailed to fit into an episode but I trust you to fish out the most interesting stuff.

Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 David G. Williamson
God’s Playground: A History of Poland vol. 2 Norman Davies
Między Berlinem a Moskwą. Stosunki niemiecko-sowieckie 1939–1941, Warszawa 2007 (Between Berlin and Moscow. German-Soviet relations 1939-1941, Warsaw 2007) Sławomir Dębski


@Veles I’m starting to feel a huge debt of gratitude to your broad range of contribution!


The thing is, I like doing this research. Well, and since I’m studying I have to do this kind of stuff anyway.


I would add that it is very difficult to estimate the number of Finns who took part to the Heimosodat. What i mean by this is that the phases of the Heimosodat did not occur simultaneously and many activists took part into several of the different operations (or expeditions). So just adding the number of participants together doesn’t really work. The reality simply is that there is no way to tell accurately the number - it is somewhere between 5 000 and 9 000 men.

Other aspect is that there exist a number of biographies and memoirs of the die hard activists - like that of Jaeger Colonel Ragnar Nordström (worth noting that all those Finnish soldiers who had served in the 27th Jaegers carried prefix ‘jääkäri’ or ‘jaeger’ to their rank) who was a veteran of the 27th Jaegers. His memoir lists what would be in modern era understood as hostile expeditions or raids into Soviet Russia during his time as commander of Finnish border guards in a certain region of Ladoga Karelia. He also describes rather eloquently the means and deceptions used by the activists to get Finland involved in some of the expeditions and the open disappointment of the activists when official Finland refused to be involved after their plot had been exposed.

Book referred to: Ragnar Nordström: Victory or death (Voitto tai kuolema) - https://www.amazon.com/Voitto-tai-kuolema-Jääkärieverstin-perintö/dp/9510212504


Hello Spartacus,

I’m currently reading the book “Speeches that changed the world” and I have stumbled across that given by Joseph Stalin gave to the Politburo on 19 August 1939. It explains that the primary reason for their signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was less about buying time than a cynical calculation that a long, exhausting war between France, Great Britain and Germany would exhaust them and open the door to Soviet expansion. Here is a text I found on the Web. Cheers and continue the great work!

Stalin’s speech to the Politburo on 19 August 1939, reconstructed from renderings in Novyi Mir, Moscow, and Revue de Droit International, Geneva

The question of war and peace has entered a critical phase for us. Its solution depends entirely on the position which will be taken by the Soviet Union. We are absolutely convinced that if we conclude a mutual assistance pact with France and Great Britain, Germany will back off from Poland and seek a modus vivendi with the Western Powers. War would be avoided, but further events could prove dangerous for the USSR.

On the other hand, if we accept Germany’s proposal, that you know, and conclude a non-aggression pact with her, she will certainly invade Poland, and the intervention of France and England is then unavoidable. Western Europe would be subjected to serious upheavals and disorder. In this case we will have a great opportunity to stay out of the conflict, and we could plan the opportune time for us to enter the war.

The experience of the last 20 years has shown that in peacetime the Communist movement is never strong enough for the Bolshevik Party to seize power. The dictatorship of such a Party will only become possible as the result of a major war.

Our choice is clear. We must accept the German proposal and, with a refusal, politely send the Anglo-French mission home.

It is not difficult to envisage the importance which we would obtain in this way of proceeding. It is obvious, for us, that Poland will be destroyed even before England and France are able to come to her assistance. In this case Germany will cede to us a part of Poland… Our immediate advantage will be to take Poland all the way to the gates of Warsaw, as well as Ukrainian Galicia.

Germany grants us full freedom of action in the Pribaltic/three Baltic States and recognizes our claim on Bessarabia. She is prepared to acknowledge our interests in Romania Bulgaria and Hungary.
Yugoslavia remains an open question, the solution of which depends on the position taken by Italy. If Italy remains at the sides of Germany, then the latter will require that Yugoslavia be understood as her zone of influence, and it is also by Yugoslavia that she will obtain access to the Adriatic Sea. But if Italy does not go with Germany, then the latter will depend on Italy for her access to the Adriatic Sea, and in this case Yugoslavia will pass into our sphere of influence.

This in case that Germany would emerge victorious from the war. We must, however, envisage the possibilities that will result from the defeat as well as from the victory of Germany. In case of her defeat, a Sovietization of Germany will unavoidably occur and a Communist government will be created. We should not forget that a Sovietized Germany would bring about great danger, if this Sovietization is the result of German defeat in a transient war. England and France will still be strong enough to seize Berlin and to destroy a Soviet Germany. We would be unable to come effectually to her assistance/to the aid of our Bolshevik comrades in Germany.

Therefore, our goal is that Germany should carry out the war as long as possible so that England and France grow weary and become exhausted to such a degree that they are no longer in a position to put down a Sovietized Germany.

Our position is this. Maintaining neutrality and waiting for the right time, the USSR will presently assist Germany economically and supply her with raw materials and provisions. It goes without saying that our assistance should not exceed a certain limit; we must not send so much as to weaken our economy or the power of our army.

At the same time we must carry on active Communist propaganda in the Anglo-French bloc, and predominantly in France. We must expect that in that country in times of war, the Party should quit the legal means of warfare and turn underground. We know that their work will demand much money/great sacrifices, but we must agree without hesitating to these sacrifices/our French comrades will not hesitate. Their first task will be to decompose and demoralize the army and the police. If this preparatory work is fulfilled properly, the safety of Soviet Germany will be assured, and this will contribute to the Sovietization of France.

For the realization of these plans it is essential that the war continue for as long as possible, and all forces, which we have available in Western Europe and the Balkans, should be directed toward this goal.

Now let us consider the second possibility, a German victory. Some think that this would confront us with a serious danger. There is some truth in this, but it would be a mistake to regard the danger as so close at hand or as great as has been proposed.

If Germany should prove to be victorious, she will leave the war too weakened to start a war with the USSR within a decade at least. She will have to supervise the occupation of France and England and to prevent their restoration/restore herself.

In addition, a victorious Germany will have vast colonies/territories; the exploitation of those and their adaptation to German methods will also absorb Germany during several decades.

Obviously, this Germany will be too busy elsewhere to turn against us. There is one additional thing that will strengthen our safety. In a conquered France, the French Communist Party will always be very strong. A Communist revolution will unavoidably break out, and we will be able to exploit the situation and to come to the aid of France and make her our ally. In addition, all the nations that fall under the “protection” of a victorious Germany will become our allies. This presents for us a broad field of action for the initiation of world revolution.

Comrades, I have presented my considerations to you. I repeat that it is in the interest of the USSR, the workers’ homeland that a war breaks out between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French bloc. It is essential for us/Everything should be done so that it drags out as long as possible with the goal of weakening both sides. For this reason, it is imperative that we agree to conclude the pact proposed by Germany, and then work in such a way that this war, once it is declared, will be prolonged maximally. We must strengthen our economic/propaganda work in the belligerent countries, in order to be prepared when the war ends.

(For the original text published in Revue de Droit International, see Stalin’s August 1939 Speech, French version; and for the version published in Novyi Mir, see Stalin’s August 1939 Speech, Russian version. The essence of the speech agrees with the arguments presented in the circular published in the Svenska Pressen, Helsinki, on 8 September 1939, see Stalin’s politburo explains Ribbentrop pact.)