Tag Archives: Molotov-Ribentrop pact

The Three War Plans of the Comrade Stalin

This site, has discussed the Soviet foreign policy from 1939 to June 22 1941 in past. One of the reasons for this is to question and to break the one-sided explanation of Germany as the main perpetrator of the World War II and Soviet Union country striving to preserve peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union the dark shade over the Soviet history was lifted uncovering many  facts that showed the Soviet Union as no better than Nazi Germany. In terms of repressions, genocidal policy towards its own people and nations in Baltic states and Eastern Europe. What was almost impossible some 15 years before now is possible in western historiography to compare Stalinism to Hitlerism  and adequately judge the Soviet history of the WW2, without the “victorious side” guise.  What also begun 20 years ago and slowly starting to gain acceptance in the western and eastern historian cycles is the new understanding of the Soviet foreign policy. The Soviet propaganda showing the Soviet Union as nation struggling to preserve peace, Stalin afraid of Hitler with a weak army is not working anymore. The Soviet foreign policy was aggressive not defensive, despite the  slogan “Socialism within one state”. Stalin had not abandoned the Lenin’s quest for Worldwide Socialist Revolution and dragging Europe into a new global war was his personally defined quest. With so Stalin shares great responsibility of helping Hitler to stir up war in Europe and later holds even greater responsibility to his own people of dragging the Soviet Union in disastrous war with Germany. This article is a small summary based on the works of the Russian historians mainly Mark Solonin who created the theory of the Three Stalin’s War Plans. This topic is important for Latvian history as the Stalin’s aggressive policy affected Latvia directly.

The German attack on Soviet Union on June 22 1941 was completely unexpected turn of events for Stalin. It took some hours for Stalin to react and issue the first orders.  There were many foreign intelligence reports that were ignored by Stalin. The British diplomats in Moscow could not make contact with Soviet foreign commissar Vyacheslav Molotov for many hours. Why the Soviet leadership was so sure that Germany will not attack was a puzzle for many historians. Another puzzle for many is the fact that in May and June 1941 the Red Army was making a major strategical deployment – mobilization of reserves, strategical regroup and operative relocation of the army units. All this happened in depth secrecy.

The Soviet troops deployed near border only moved during the night-time, at daylight they took cover in the woods. The command staffs were moved to close border areas, in sealed trains and the even the commanders did not know where they will be taken and why. The reserves were gathered in covert ways, without no major announcements. Most were called personally for “practice muster”. Soviets gave no official complaints to Germany despite the quite uneasy mutual relations during the last months and military suspicion. Soviet Union on June 1941 was preparing for a major war, but tried to it secretly as possible. This all lead to one question – if Stalin was not expecting the German invasion, why he needed to deploy massive echelons of  troops and establish field front command posts nearby already at June 19?

This question was first answered by KGB defector Victor Suvorov. In his book the Icebreaker that is more a publicist work then an academic research, he explained that Stalin was preparing for war from the very first day. The massive centralization of economy, industrialization and collectivization that destroyed the successful Lenin’s NEP semi-capitalist economy was needed to create  a large war machine. The Great Purge was not just Stalin’s paranoia, but a needed action to gather his party and army for the coming war.   A nation unified by brutal force under the order of one man was set to face the whole capitalist world in final war that would realize the dream of the Socialist world order. On August 1939 Stalin made final decision to support Hitler in same matter as the table supports the hanged man. By dragging UK and France into destructive war with Germany, he then would pick an advantageous moment to strike from behind and finish the war as the victorious liberator. However, nor Stalin, nor UK and France did not expect such a swift German military success, that made him to fasten up the preparations for war. However, the German invasion was a heavy blow to his megalomania.

The Suvorov theory survived and was improved by historians such as V Kisilev, T Busheva, M Meltjukov, V Nevezhin and M Solonin and many others. For the theory was based on hundreds of facts and documents. Suvorov himself has given up on writing new books on his theory since other historians have done more work than him. No other alternative explanation was given, except the Rudolf Hess flight to UK conspiracy theories. Mostly its the traditional soviet explanation that is put against the so-called revisionist side   with lesser success every time.  Also an old arguments that revisionists have no documented evidence are no more relevant, for instance the latest Mark Solonin book “June 1941. The Final Diagnosis” is almost completely based on hundreds of documents from Soviet war archives. At the end the traditionalist side in Russia is showing signs of argumentative defeat by simply trying to punish historians, writers and even TV channels for falsely displaying the history of the Great Patriotic war and “insulting veterans”.

There is a little argument now that Stalin’s policy was aggressive. The date  of possible attack remains a question. For, the Stalin’s aggressive plan was not constant and changed three whole plans. Because the theory never works in practice in strategical political affairs. Neither Hitler was ever able to fulfill his foreign policy according to his Mein Kamph and his Second Book, because of real strategical situation and neither Stalin who also published many books and speeches about the coming war.

First Stalin’s war plan was quite simple based on his understanding of the Socialist Worldwide Revolution doctrine. It was nothing new as Lenin also predicted the next capitalist global conflict that would cause Socialist ultimate victory. According to Stalin’s speech on August 19 1939 that has now been recognized as true fact by historians such as Simon Sebag Montefiore a Stalins biographer who included this speech in his collection of the most important speeches of the XX century (his interpretation of this speech however serves the traditional soviet explanation), the pact with Germany would cause war within the capitalist states that would be long and destructive. And then Soviet Union would regain the lost territories of the Russian empire and play the decisive role in the end of the war. Stalin had real chance to sign a deal with UK and France to make a united front against Germany. It would possibly prevent Hitler from attacking Poland and place him into isolation. The Baltic States would  possibly still lose their independence or at least sovereignty.  But Stalin had clearly stated that such outcome would be disadvantageous  for the interests of the Soviet Union.

The plan brought its “fruits” – Eastern Poland was occupied, Baltic States and Bessarabia was taken without a force. The war in Finland although disastrous for the Red Army, allowed to gain many important industrial regions from Finland that she had to give up. Some documents like the note by executive of the Special Chamber of the NKVD Main Administration major Osterov in March 5 1940 claims that global conflict in the summer of 1940 will fought between USSR allied with Japan and Germany against the UK and France. The war will take a long time. However another document states when the British were considering sending a military support to Finland, the Soviet navy received directly that their main enemies are not British but Germany and Italy. Its shows a nature of double speak and deception within the official soviet communications.

Weather fighting the capitalists or the Nazis, Soviets made active preparations for the war right from 1939. The large strategical PE-8 (TB-7) bombers with bomb storage of 1 tons and maximal flight distance 3300 km (German HE-111 could reach 2700 km at that time), and that was not enough – a bomber with 5000 km was issued by Stalin. Such flight distance was not needed for defending Soviet Union, or even bombing Germany. Reaching London or Paris with them was more appropriate. Also a large paratrooper force was organized and PE-8 bombers were also meant as air landing party planes. A diving four motor heavy PB-4 bomber was in the works. Soviet war fleet was in the making. Soviets had 267 submarines, while Germany 57, Italy -68 and Japan 63. A such a large submarine force for country with less war ports on June 1941 showed a sign of weapons mania. On 1940-1941 the Soviet Air Force main Naval headquarters marked the Mediterranean ports as the main bombing targets. That were controlled by UK and France.

However, for many including Stalin, Nevil Chamberlain and French leaders was an unbelievable sight when weakened by the Versailles treaty and arms restrictions the German Wehrmacht managed to enter Paris no less than two weeks. Stalin had complained on April 17 1940 a month before the invasion in France that imperialist forces are not really fighting, but rather are playing cards. The German army on 1940 in technical sense was less advanced than France and UK. However, the France and UK soldiers and commanders had very less will to fight, while Germans had great discipline and high attack morale. In following months Germany had seized the control over the Eastern Europe and showed dissatisfaction with Soviets occupying and annexing the Baltic States and Romanian province of Bessarabia. The first Stalin’s plan had failed.

The Second War plan is more concrete and known to historians. The plan is preserved in documents and published. The two-volume “Russia XX Century.Documents of the 1941″ published on 1998 in Russian, holds important documents about Soviet strategical deployment and plan to fight against Germany on May 15 1940. The documents show that the plan for the major war existed and all of this plans were based only on major attack outside the Soviet borders. As on August 23 1939 Stalin had said to Ribbentrop that is important that Soviet Union establishes a common border with Germany – and on 1941 this was realized – the only two countries that would face such attack was Germany, Romania and Finland. The documents indicate targets like Lublin, Krakov, Vistula river and Warsaw all within German control. Two possible attack routes were made- the Northern path trough East Prussia and Northern Poland and the South path trough Lviv. At the end of the Lviv path was chosen. A war games was played out on both variants and contrary to self praising deceitful Zhukov memoirs no defensive games took place. It was Zhukov himself who was playing German side in the war games and lost to general Pavlov who was later shot after German invasion. One can say that this has no real significance – all major military powers conduct an attack plans just in case. However, Soviets were really trying to fulfill this plan and started to gather troops for the battle in masses. And that lead to disastrous events in June-July 1941 when millions of Soviet soldiers were killed and captured without a fight and massive stockpiles of tanks, airplanes and guns abandoned. The army was prepared for massive attack, of which the common soldiers and officers knew very less and were caught in disastrous rout after they were unexpectedly attacked.

At first soviet planners were still optimistic about the attack date. One document on March 11 1941 in bold text notes to “attack on 12.6.” Was this June 12 1941, or more likely June 1942. As some of the Red Army units mentioned in the document were still far from being fully deployed. The full tank deployment of KV and T-34 were still underway and could only happen on 1942 or later. Soviets had already a fast mobile tanks like BT-7 and T-26 and many heavy KV tanks. If used correctly in fast attack tactics even the small T-26 and heavy T-35 was a destructive force. There is some truth in Soviet propaganda saying that Stalin expected attack on 1942, because he was still doubtful about the German military capabilities and wanted to improve his already enormous army.

However, because of rapidly changing situation Stalin came to conclusion that there is no time, and the attack must take place on Summer 1941. Was the worsening relations with Germany or the intelligence reports that made him think so remains a question. Or it was growing impatience to realize his grand plan. The Third War plan had begun. The pro allied coup on March 26-27 1941 in Yugoslavia  and mutual assistance pact with Belgrade and Moscow on April 6 protested by Germany was a major trigger for it. In just few hours Germany invaded Yugoslavia. Soviet Union was supposed to help its new allies. Instead the Moltov told the German ambassador Shulenburg that he is sad that it all turned out this way.

Was the coup in Belgrade supported by Soviet or UK secret service. If by the first, the Stalin was surprised by this and could not react adequately, if the second – Soviets had managed to stir up Hitler against them even more. On April 13 1941 Soviets signed non aggression pact with Japan. The Eastern front was now secured, and Japan had fulfilled this pact right t0 very end of 1945, when Soviets broke it. Soviet and German relations had reached the lowest point. Both sides understood that and started to prepare for war. The German Plan Barbarossa was issued January 31 1941, but as noted to be realized only in the case of need. On April 30 Hitler realized that there is such need and made final decision.

On May 15 1941 Soviet command made final instructions on deployment of the Red Army forces. It was noted in the text that Germany is capable of strike  the Soviets first and made a surprise attack. The attack must took place when German army is having strategical deployment to gain first strike initiative. On May 24 1941 Stalin gathered all the main commanders, and Molotov and Beria a head of NKVD. There is no transcript or concrete info of what was said in the war conference. Possibly Stalin had possibly ordered to finish the deployment and start the war no earlier than middle June or late August 1941. If Stalin still wanted to attack on 1942, then holding a top secret meeting with all main officers in May 1942 would be irresponsible. It would be early and may result a leak of information. If during this meeting the general attack plan was laid out as indicated by the supreme secrecy the attack was meant to be on Summer of 1941. On the same time Germans wanted to attack too.

A large but secretive troop deployment took place. The troops were expected to be moved  to border areas at least to July 10. If so then the real attack must took place on 15-20 July when troops were deployed and ready. And that was too late for defensive actions. Hitler missed the chance to attack on May 15 because of the Balkan front. Hitler could only attack on no later than late July because of the climate conditions.

Both Stalin and Hitler were gambling on massive operation. German army despite well-trained and equipped was not greater in size and weapons power than Red Army and was tasked to reach Moscow in three-month time. Red Army had poor discipline and  morale, but large in numbers and heavy machinery. It was supposed to break trough Poland, then to Czechoslovakia, Balkans and to Berlin at the end. Both were short on time. If the Soviet attack was expected at the end of June or July, no later than September – then they also needed to face the winters of the Eastern Europe more harsher then now.

Was the attack intended on July or no less than August, or maybe even on June 23 as some claim, it was too late. Stalin had lost his Great game of 1939-1941. The outcome was horrific not fully deployed masses of the Red Army was running away, surrendering and leaving the whole airfields and tanks to enemy hands. It was not just the effectiveness of the German Blitzkrieg that made Germans reach Moscow in four months. It was again the inability to resist enemy invasion by the soviet troops who pushed the enemy more inwards in their land.  Red Army lost 900-1000 thousand man in summer while Germans 25-30 thousand men. 1 German to 35 Soviet soldiers. 3 million were captured. Large size of soldiers count in as Missing in Action. A great numbers of Soviet civilians perished. Stalin had sacrificed millions of his country men for the sake of megalomaniac insane dream of the Worldwide Socialist Revolution. Also blame of starting  World War II lays on Stalin’s just as Hitlers hands for the both dictators were genocidal megalomaniacs who  turned the whole Europe into bloodland. The lesson from this is to not allow the return of such people who holds control of such destructive forces in their hands.

Selected Sources:

Марк Солонин. (2013) Запретная правда о Великой Отечественной. Нет блага на войне! M. Яуза-Пресс

Марк Солонин. (2013) Июнь 41-го. Окончательный диагноз. – М.: Яуза, Эксмо

М. И. Мельтюхов (2000) Упущенный шанс Сталина. Советский Союз и борьба за Европу: 1939-1941 (Документы, факты, суждения). – М.: Вече, 200

Raack, R. (1995) Stalin’s drive to the west 1938-1945. The origins of the cold war. – Stanford.

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Molotov-Ribbentrop pact

The Nazi-Soviet pact and its results

71 years have passed since Germany and Soviet Union shocked the world by signing a mutual non-aggression pact. The majority of historians sees this as starting point for war. Many speculate if this would not happen; then there would be no war. Nevertheless this event was crucial for the history of the 20th century. It caused German-Soviet invasion of Poland, the erasing of Baltic states independence and start of bloody worldwide conflict. This article will take a detailed look why this pact was signed and who holds most responsibility for its signing.

The interwar period can be separated in two periods. First period between 1918-1929 was a time of economic boom in most Western countries. The victorious sides of the First World war hopped for restoration of prewar economic greatness however the breakdown that started in 1929  hindered these hopes. The second period after 1929 that led to 1939 was a time of economic and political crisis in Europe. The crisis was also diplomatic because the rise of anti-democratic powers disrupted the Versailles world order that was established in 1919 by the USA, Great Britain and France.

The interwar period was a time of major change in economic and political poles. Before the war Great Britain was the worlds financial leader and banker. After the war USA started to play major role in the world economy. In the many decades US diplomacy was based on Monroe Doctrine the dominance in the American continent. The US  president Woodrow Wilson was first who paved the way for US economic empire, the use of Monroe Doctrine in all parts of the world. US used its economic strength to take an important part in European trade and left behind Great Britain in race for economical greatness. Great Britain took heavy burden in the First World war. The high costs caused economic slowdown and therefore British leaders did not want any new international troubles in Europe that could cause even bitterer harm to the British empire economy. The empire still had large possessions in Africa and Asia and they wanted to avoid war at all costs to keep the empire’s stability. France suffered large-scale casualties in world war so France also they also desired stability in world affairs especially in affairs with Germany. This means that both victorious sides of the First World war was not ready for new conflict and tried to avoid it.

But that was not the case of two European powers Germany and Soviet Union. Germany did not enjoy much of economic boom and the crisis was even deeper that caused the rise of radical powers. In the early thirties Germany was a battleground between Communists and National socialists. Nazi ideology was based on revenge and a revision of the Versailles treaty. Soviet Union also suffered heavy losses after the civil war. Soviet leadership wanted to restore the past greatness of the Russian Empire. In order to do this Soviet leader Joseph Stalin issued “socialism in sole state doctrine”. That meant that the Soviet Union will refrain from hopes of quick world revolution and will rebuild its economy and will prepare for new war. Soviet leaders saw new international conflict inevitable. In the interwar period enormous efforts were done to industrialize war-torn country and collectivization of rural lands. Soviet people were gathered under iron fist control to make large masses ready for a new war. Stalin led massive repressions in the state apparatus to get completely  loyal government that will suit his every need.

This all led to breakdown of Versailles system. First massive blow to the system was the Japanese invasion in China that showed that the League of Nations and Western powers cannot stop aggressive country using diplomacy. The new Nazi government and Fascist Italy used this for their aggressive interests. In 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) again nothing cannot stop them. This encouraged Hitler to re-militarize district of Rhine. It was a venture since France could easily stop German army. German soldiers had been told if French would respond fire then they must retreat. But France did nothing. This meant that Germany had broken all past treaties and France lost its position in Europe. Hitler now was ready for more ventures.

Germany and Italy became allies. Great Britain and France started mutual cooperation. Both countries showed no interest in annexation of Austria by Germany. In 1937 when the crisis of Czechoslovakia started both countries instead  of helping Czechoslovakia was ready give its territories to Germany. Clearly both old empires did not want to involve themselves in war for troubles of Eastern Europe. This lead to Munich agreement when without any assent of Czechoslovakia it was stripped of its territories to favor of Germany. The British hoped that this will be the fundamental approach in British-German relations and will make a compromise in all matters in Eastern Europe. In reality this meant that British ”appeasement”  policy has reached its apogee and Versailles system has been completely destroyed. Hitler had fulfilled his first goal.

After Hitler had annexed all Czechoslovakia he wanted do the same with Poland. Poland got large territories inhabited by German ethnic minority. The port of Danzig and Polish Corridor was the key interest of Hitler. Hitler hoped to make a deal with Poland so they would fulfill his demands peacefully and became a protectorate of Germany. Before Hitler had successfully signed non-aggression pact with Poland.  But Poland was not willing to cooperate. Poland viewed itself as a major power. They even prepared for invasion in the Soviet Union at one time. The Polish stubbornness was an insult to Hitler. Previously he could force Austrians and Czechoslovakians to surrender without force. Hitler now wanted to resolve the Polish question with arms.

Poles asked for British support. Clearly British could not send any forces to Poland in case of invasion. France was not ready for war either. But Soviet Union had all chances to stop Hitlers intentions both diplomatically and militarily.  So now the both sides started to gamble to sign deal with Soviets. If the Soviets would sign pact with British then Hitler would be encircled and would risk two front war. If Stalin would agree with Hitler that the last could have a free hand on Poland.  This situation now made Soviet Union the arbiter of the Polish crisis.

Soviets played a double game with the Germans and British. While Soviet newspapers stated that the only way to stop the war would be an agreement with Britain and France, the Soviets made secret talks with Germans. Britain and France tried to sign agreement with Soviets in the summer of 1939. But Soviet demands halted the talks. Soviets asked for guarantees for the Baltic states and Poland in the event of aggression.  Such demands were turned down by Baltic States and Poland since it would mean the entry of Soviet troops in their land. They did not trust the soviet intentions. On the other hand Germans would not mind the Soviet influence in Baltic Region.  The Western Allies feared to give too much power to Soviets  so they also showed mistrust of Soviet intentions.

In August the Western Soviet talks went to halt. In August 19 in Politburo meeting Stalin analyzed the present situation. If the Soviets signed deal with British the war against Poland would be halted. Hitler would have to look for compromise. However this will be dangerous and disadvantageous for Soviet interests. Instead he recommended to sign deal with Germany, so the invasion in Poland will occur and Britain and France will declare war on Germany. In this situation Soviet Union could have a chance to choose the time of its own entry into the war, have a free hand on Baltic States and Eastern Europe. This speech leaked into the French press instantly. Stalin denied that he had said something like that. Most Russian and Western historians also deny the fact of this speech but there is proof that this speech may happen. Even if this speech was a falsification it showed the real situation of August 1939.

On this same day Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov contacted the German ambassador Schulenburg. He said that direct talks with German and Soviet foreign ministers is possible. He presented Soviet view of possible agreement and demanded that additional secret protocols must be added. On August 21 Hitler sent a letter to Stalin were he agreed to Soviet demands and proposed the signing on  August 22 because war with Poland is heading ever closer. Stalin replayed that agreement must happen on  August 23. This showed who was the real master of the pact. Even when German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was preparing for flight to Moscow, the Soviets did not halt the talks with Western allies.  Interesting fact is that early before the agreement Stalin removed the first foreign minister Maxim Litvinov simply because he was a Jew. Nazi Germany could have a resentment signing deal with a Jew.

In  August 23 Ribbentrop arrived in Moscow by airplane.  When British and French tried to sign deal with Soviets they traveled by ship and instead of sending their foreign ministers they sent low rank diplomats. The real pact was signed on the night of August 24. Ribbentrop and Stalin had a disagreement on Latvia because the Germans wanted one half of Latvia the Courland and Semmigallia. Stalin wanted the valuable ports of Ventspils and Liepaja for himself so he resisted signing anything until his demand was fulfilled. Ribbentrop telephoned Hitler and Stalin’s demands was met. Soviet Union got in their sphere of interest the whole Finland, Estonia, Latvia a large part of Poland and Bessarabia (Romanian possession present day Moldova). After the signing the pact Germans guests and Stalin had a celebration with alcoholic drinks. Stalin promised not to betray Germany. When celebration moved to more humble surroundings Ribbentrop  when entered the room gave the Nazi salute to Stalin “Hail Hitler!”. Everyone was confused but Stalin gave quintet in return. When Ribbentrop left the scene Stalin  apparently said “I think we have tricked him!”. Ribbentrop left Moscow barely moving on his two feet because his new Soviet friends were better drinkers than him.

Hitler wanted to invade Poland on August 25 but on the same day Poles and British signed an agreement and he ordered the invasion to stop. Some German formations already crossed the border but were forced to draw back. The next few days Hitler followed the talks with British and Poles and came to conclusion that the British won’t help the Poles in case of war. Hitler had no intentions of fighting with Great Britain; he believed in peaceful co-existence between two states. While Hitler could have free hand in Central Europe, Britain could keep its possessions in Africa and Asia. It was written in his Mein Kamph that Germany has no desire to fight against the British. He may potentially plan to go to war against France to revenge the defeat of 1918. In so Hitler hoped that war on Poland would be localized.

His illusions went to stray when France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. Stalin clearly had been right in his conclusions on August 19. Soviet Union invaded in Poland on September 17 but got no sanctions from the British. He attacked Finland in winter of 1939 but officially Soviet Union entered the war only in 1941. Stalin’s plan on setting war in Europe was successful.  However, Stalin could not choose his own time on entry in the war because Hitler finally guessed his intentions and surprised him on  June 22 1941. But that is a  another story.

Selected Sources:

Мельтюхов, Михаил. (2000) Упущенный шанс Сталина. Советский Союз и борьба за Европу: 1939-1941.Москва: Вече

Available here:http://militera.lib.ru/research/meltyukhov/index.html

Davies, Norman. (2006) Europe at war, 1939-1945 : no simple victory. London: Macmillan.

Feldmanis, Inesis (2012) Latvija Otrajā pasaules karā (1939-1945) : jauns konceptuāls skatījums.Riga : LU Akadēmiskais apgāds.  Available here: http://demoshistoria.lv/images/stories/serija/feldmanis_kars.pdf

Toland, John. (1976) Adolf Hitler. Garden City (New York) : Doubleday & Co, cop.

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Why Latvians don’t celebrate Victory day?

Every May 9 many people celebrate the victory day over Nazi Germany. However the excitement is not shared by all sides of the Latvian people.

On May 7 1945, Nazi Germany signed capitulation act with the Allied powers. At  May 9 separate act was signed with the Soviets. That’s why the end of World War II is celebrated in Russia at  May 9. Latvian territory at this time was still fighting zone. The German army was encircled in Courland along with Latvian SS Legionnaires.  Soviet army could not capture Courland and Germans only surrendered there after the capitulation in Berlin.

 May 9 was the beginning of second Soviet occupation. Latvia was an independent country until 1940 when it was occupied by the Soviet army. In August 23 1939 Latvia was included in the Soviet sphere of interest in secret protocols of the Nazi- Soviet pact. The Soviet army entered Latvia on  June 17 1940. Latvian President Karlis Ulmanis decided not to resist because Soviet force was overwhelming and Latvian Army had no chance to withstand the attack. The legitimate Latvian government was placed out-of-order and Karlis Ulmanis were deported and he died in Krasnovodsk (Turmenibashi, Turkmenistan at 1942. Soviet occupation regime staged new elections with only one election list. Communist parliament started socialist reforms and in August 5 Latvia was annexed in the Soviet Union. The Stalinist terror, deportations and killings made mainly negative Latvian stance on the Russians. When in 1941 the German army entered the Riga Latvian nation frightened by Soviet terror greeted the Germans as liberators.

1944 was year of return for the Soviets in Latvia. The German army retreated and Soviets pushed to Riga. Many Latvians were forced to fight in Soviet lines against their Latvian brothers in German side. World war brought enormous losses in Latvia. 150 000 Latvians left Latvia when Soviets returned. They resided in Western world mainly in US, UK and Australia. World war wiped away two important national minorities from Latvia. Baltic Germans emigrated at 1939-1940 90 000 Jews were killed in the holocaust. Gypsies also were killed in thousands. Latvia lost third of its population as a result of the war.

May 9 is not a victory day for Latvia, since Latvia did not win nothing in the war. It lost  her independence, third of its population  and was under Soviet occupation for 50 years.

However we cannot deny that for Russian speaking population living Latvia victory day is celebrated. Before the war 10% Russians lived in Latvia. Now there are about 30% Russians in Latvia. Such rise is because of Soviet enforced colonization and mass migration.  Many of  these people doesn’t share Latvian views on the history of World War II and prefer to worship  Russia rather than Latvia.

Latvia today is divided into two sides Latvian pro-Western side and Russian pro-Moscow side.  But the world must recognize that Latvians have their share of bloody world war past and take history slightly differently than the rest of the world.

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1939.23.08-2009. An anniversary of day that changed history

freundshaft 39

Frendship 1939

I am intending to follow historical articles by linear time line way from the old to the present, but date 39.23.08. is far too important to miss its 70 anniversary. For it was the Non-aggression pact between National socialist Germany and Socialist Communist Soviet Union that changed the lives of millions and continued to perceive its hard burden on generations to come. The pact inevitably lead to World War II and destruction of three Baltic republics, Poland and many other sovereign countries for years to come. Speculations of reasons signing this criminal agreement and theories of its importance continues on both academic and public fields. Since the fall of Soviet Union the discussion has become stronger with fanatical factions of historians and writers and movie directors who tries push their point of view on this agreement.

In the late thirties the danger of Nazi Germany has become the center of attention. Adolf Hitler was eagerly convinced that the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) needs to be terminated, and that included annexing of lost territories by any means necessary. First the Rheinland in 1936, then Austria in 1938, and finally the Czechoslovakia in 1939. This could be done because of rather slowminnded British-French appeasement policies who tried to ”appease” Hitler by filing  his demands. After occupation of Czechoslovakia it was clear that Hitlers appetite for more lands has not gone weaker and now he was committed to get even larger peace of land namely Poland. British and French politicians now begun to look for a way to stop Hitler. And thats were the Moscow came in. Since Germans would fear from two front war the British-French agreement with Soviets it was the only possible solution to avoid war. But de facto leader General secretary of Communist Party Joseph Stalin had other plans.

After the death of Wladimir Lenin in 1924. slowly and steady Stalin took power of whole Communist party and the Soviet Union. Before him the main goal by leaders such as Lenin or Trotsky was to trigger world scale socialist revolution. This was attempted in 1917.-1922. but ended in failure. Stalin took more pragmatic approach on “building Socialism in sole state”. However the hope for new world revolution newer vanished from Stalin’s mind and the speech made by Stalin in 1939. 19. august showed that Stalin has a point of view of present events on its own. The speech is considered fabricated by some, but most modern historians agree that it actually took place.

In the speech Stalin rightfully acknowledges the position of Soviet Union in the possible war and peace solution as the primary. If Soviet Union makes deal with France and UK the Germany will be forced to cancel its invasion plans on Poland. The Germans would be forced to look for modus vivendi with Western powers. But that would be disadvantageous for Soviet Union or even dangerous. Instead he proposed signing agreement with Germany. On this basis the Germany will attack Poland and war between Germany and France and UK would be inevitable. On this scenario the Soviet Union could wait for suitable moment to enter war itself, but before it can have free hand on Baltic nations and Romanian ex-Russian possession the Bessarabia (nowadays Moldova) and more nations in Eastern Europe. In conclusion he emphasized again that war between The Reich and capitalist French-British block is in the “interest of workers motherland” and that the war “must continue as long it can and exhausts the both sides” If this speech has taken place and by most word it has than its clear explanation why Soviets signed the pact with Germans not with British.

There were a attempts of making talks with western powers before the 23. august, French and British diplomats arrived by ship to Leningrad but no progress was made since Stalin showed little interest and delayed the talks making them dead-end. British and French were also not ready sign any agreement if it would meant the annexation of Baltic states and making border with Germany even thought the Poland was still in between.

After the western-soviet talks failed in 19. august the Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov met the German ambassador Verner Fridrich fon der Shulenburg and stated that the Soviet government is ready to meet German Foriegn Minister Joahim fon Ribentrop in Moscow. He gave him project of non aggression pact which gave anything Germany could wanted, but only if a secret protocol regarding foreign issues would be included. Ribentrop was to welcomed at 26. august. But Hitler was not fully satisfied for his plan was to attack Poland on 26. august. So he wrote a personal letter to “mister Stalin” informing him that he supports the project of the agreement but wishes to arrange Ribentrops arrival on 22. or 23. august for the situation between Germany and Poland is “tense and unbearable”. The last phraze was intended to make Stalin believe that war could occur any moment.

On afternoon of 23. august Ribentrop arrived on Moscow by plane and the talks begun. The “polish problem” was solved easily but Baltic states made some difficulties. Hitler set the border of the ”sphere of interest” across river Daugava therefore splitting Latvia in half between Germans and Soviets. This was not tolerated by Stalin who wanted all ports of Curland. Ribentrop was forced to send telegram asking Hitler what to do. Hitler did not bother to argue on Baltic problem and gave rest of Latvia to Soviets. Lithuania was left to Germany. So now everything was ready to sign one of the criminal deal of the history of mankind. Finland, Estonia, Latvia and part of Poland and Romania was sold by Hitler to Stalin to make his desired attack on Poland. These nations were marked as a ”Soviet sphere of interest”, meaning that they are free for invasion, occupation and annexation. It was dead pact for Poland and for Baltic states in the next year. It is an open question what would Hitler do if there is no non-aggression pact signed. Would he still risk to attack Poland even if could mean war in two fronts? Other question was the Hitler was aware that attack on Poland could cause declaration of war from France and UK. Numerous sources states that Hitler was convinced that Brits and French would stay neutral and when he learned that they have declared war, he in deep shock asked “What now?”.

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Poland divided by secret protocols

But what we know is that the secret protocol of 23. august and two later signed which changed the borders, by adding more land to Soviet Union, destroyed Poland in 1939. causing the outbreak of Second World war, took 10% of territory from Finland in a result of Winter war in 1939.-1940. That the protocols caused the end of three Baltic nations annexing them in Soviet Union for next 50. years, that it caused the annexation of Bessarabia from Romania which is now an independent country of Moldova. The Moldova is direct result of Molotov-Ribentrop pact. And that a large lands now in Belarus and Ukraine once belonged to Poland. The protocols affected life’s of millions for they made World War II possible. The effects of Molotov-Ribentrop pact will probably will newer be fully repaired. The only success is restoration of Baltic states independence. In 1989. 23. august marking the date a large protest demonstration called the “Baltic Way” took place. People from all three Baltic nations gathered in live chain from Vilnius to Tallin showing unity against unjustified Soviet regime. That showed that the end of Soviet Union a country that helped to cause the Second World war is drawing near.

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The Baltic Way demonstration in 1989

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