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Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Background Information for the Anniversary

Prior to anniversaries of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the outbreak of World War II a closer look at the historic background of the events is appropriate. A remarkable source of information would be the speech by Jossif Stalin, the Soviet leader, to the Members of the Politbureau on 19 August 1939. The following is a translation of the alleged text.

The transcription of the speech is an archival record in the fund of the 2nd Bureau of General Staff of French Army and probably also in Moscow, in the Centre for the Preservation of Collections of Historical Documents, former Soviet Special Archives. In Russian the speech has been published in journal "Novõi Mir" 12/1994, pp 232-233 (Tatjana Bushuyeva's survey of books by Viktor Suvorov, see ). In English the speech has been published in "Stalin's Other War. Soviet Grand Strategy, 1939-1941" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), a book by professor Albert L. Weeks. The text is available at

According to these sources, on 19 August, four days prior to the conclusion of the Soviet-German non-agression treaty, Stalin convened selected members of the Politbureau and Comintern and delivered a speech, never published in the Soviet Union but which through French intelligence spread quickly in Western Europe.

On 28 November 1939, the agency Havas published in French press the text of a "sensational" speech (Revue de Droit International, de Sciences Diplomatiques et Politiques, 1939, Nr. 3, Juillet-Septembre. P. 247-249). On 30 November 1939, on the day when the Soviet Union launched Winter War against Finland, a counterstatement on the highest level followed - Stalin's criticism in reply to a question by the editor of Pravda what was Stalin's opinion of this information.

The authenticity of the speech has made historians argue at the international level. Viktor Suvorov argues in his books Icebreaker and M-Day that "the exact date when Stalin started World War II was 19 August 1939". In his popular approach Suvorov in not always consistent in his conclusions for the academic schools of history and draws scepticism.

However, a vigorous denial of the secret protocols to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact for fifty years remains a fact. We should also mention that another speech in a similar spirit held to graduate officers on 5 May 1941 is considered increasingly authentic. Thereby historians refer to the fact that several original sources of the era are more freely accessible now and confirm Stalin's plans to "outwit" Hitler and go to war.

Historian Sergei Sluch has critically analysed this issue in his article "Stalin's speech that never existed" in magazine "Otetschestvennaya istoriya" 1/2004, pp 113-139 (see in Russian

Stalin's Speech to the Members of the Politbureau on 19 August 1939

"The question of war and peace has entered a critical phase for us. The solution will fully depend on the position the Soviet Union will take. 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 thus be prevented, but further events could take a serious turn for the USSR

If we accept Germany's proposal to conclude a non-aggression pact with her, she will of course attack Poland, and the intervention of France and England is then unavoidable. Europe will be thrown into serious upheavals and disorder. In this case we will have a great opportunity to stay out of the conflict, while being able to hope for our own timely entrance into war. This would be in our interests.

The experience of the last 20 years has shown, that in peacetime it is impossible to maintain a Communist movement throughout Europe that would be strong enough for a 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 politely send the Anglo-French delegations back home. It is not so difficult to see what we gain through such an action. For us it is evident that Poland will be crushed before Great Britain and France can come to her rescue. Our immediate advantage will be the destruction of Poland up to the very approaches to Warsaw, including Ukrainian Galicia.

Germany has given us full leeway in the Baltic States and has no objection to our claim on Bessarabia. Germany is also prepared to accept our interests in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. The question of Yugoslavia remains open, its solution will depend on the position taken by Italy.

If Italy were to side with Germany, the latter would demand from Italy that Yugoslavia remained in its zone of influence; and in addition from Jugoslavia - access to the Adrian Sea. If Italy were not with Germany, the latter would secure access to the Adrian Sea at the expense of Italy. Whereas Yugoslavia would be in our zone of influence, at least in case Germany wins the war.

At the same time, we must anticipate what will ensue from the destruction of Germany in war as well as from a German victory. If she is destroyed, the sovietization of Germany follows inevitably and a Communist government will be established. We should not forget that a sovietized Germany would face great danger, if the sovietization occurred after a short war. England and France would then be strong enough to seize Berlin and to destroy a Soviet Germany. We would not be able to aid our Bolshevik comrades in Germany.

Therefore, our task consists in helping Germany wage war as long as possible, with the aim in view that fatigued and exhausted England and France should not be able to defeat a sovietized Germany. Maintaining neutrality and waiting for the right time, the USSR will lend aid to today's Germany and supply her with raw materials and foodstuffs. Of course, we will not allow such shipments to jeopardize our economy or weaken our armed might.

At the same time we must carry on active Communist propaganda in the Anglo-French block, and especially in France. We must be prepared for the fact that in wartime the French Communist Party must abandon legal activities and go underground. We realize that such work will demand great sacrifice in lives. However, our French comrades will not hesitate. The main task will be to break up and demoralize the army and the police. If this preparatory work is fulfilled properly, the security of a Soviet Germany will be assured. This will likewise ensure the sovietization of France.

For the realization of these plans it is essential that war continue for as long as possible, and all efforts should be made, both in Western Europe and the Balkans, to see that this happens.
Now let us consider the second possibility, namely that Germany becomes the victor. Some propose that this would present us with a serious danger. There is some truth to this notion, but it would be erroneous to believe that such a danger is as near and as great as they assume. If Germany achieves victory in the war, it will emerge from it in such a depleted state that to start a war with the USSR will take ten years at very least.

Germany's main task would then be to keep a watch on the defeated France and England to prevent their restoration. On the other hand, a victorious Germany would have at her disposal a large territory. Over the course of many decades, Germany would be preoccupied with the 'exploitation' of these territories and establishing in them a German order. Obviously, Germany would be too preoccupied to move against us. There is still another factor that enhances our security. In the defeated France, the French Communist Party would be very strong. A Communist revolution would follow inevitably. We would exploit thin order to come to the aid of France and win her over as an ally. Later, the nations who fell under the 'protection' of a victorious Germany would also become our allies. We should have a large arena in which to develop the world revolution.

Comrades! It is in the interest of the USSR, the Land of the Toilers, that a war breaks out between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French bloc. Everything must be done so that the war lasts as long as possible in order that both sides become exhausted. For this reason we must agree to the pact proposed by Germany, and use it so that once this war is declared, it will last for a maximum amount of time. We must step up our propaganda within the combatant-countries, in order to be prepared when the war ends'.".

(Centre for the Preservation of Collections of Historical Documents, former Soviet Special Archives; fund 7, list 1, file 12239.)

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