Confrontation versus Compromise: Dilemmas of Coexistence with Nazi Germany, 1935–1937

  • Geoffrey Roberts


By the middle of 1935 Soviet-German relations were in as bad a state as they had ever been. Moscow’s view of the cause of this state of affairs was summed up in a letter from Litvinov to Suritz, the Soviet ambassador in Berlin, on 3 June 1935: ‘Hitler continues to fight against all efforts to organise collective security, for the basis of his policy remains, in accordance with his book “My Struggle”, the building of power and preparation for aggression, in the first instance in a South-Eastern and Eastern direction.’1


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Dokumenty Vneshnei Politiky SSSR(DVPS),vol. 18, doc. 253.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    E. Gnedin, Iz Istorii Otnoshenii Mezhdu SSSR i Fashistskoi Germaniei(New York, 1977) pp. 34–5.Google Scholar
  3. Gnedin’s other recollections are in Katastrofa i Vtoroye Rozhdeniye(Amsterdam, 1977)Google Scholar
  4. and Gnedin ‘V Narkomindele, 1922–1939: Intervu s E. A. Gnedinym’, Pamyat: Istoricheskii Sbornik,no. 5 (Moscow, 1981; Paris, 1982).Google Scholar
  5. These memoirs are critically examined by P. D. Raymond, ‘Witness and Chronicler of Nazi-Soviet Relations: The Testimony of Evgeny Gnedin (Parvus)’, Russian Review,44 (1985).Google Scholar
  6. See also: T.J. Uldricks, ‘A.J. P. Taylor and the Russians’ in G. Martel (ed.), The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered(London, 1986), pp. 178–9.Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    E.g. J. Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, 1934–1938(Ithaca, NY, 1984), ch. 5.Google Scholar
  8. Also: G. Weinberg, who writes of this period: ‘Stalin clearly wanted a new form of alignment with Germany and repeatedly attempted to obtain it.’ See his ‘German Diplomacy Towards the Soviet Union’, Soviet Union/Union Sovietique,18, nos 1–3 (1991), 320.Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    E.g. J. Haslam, The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Security in Europe, 1933–39(London, 1984), pp. 80–2, 85–7, 89–93, 95–6, 100–1, 103, 106, 125–8.Google Scholar
  10. Also: P. D. Raymond, Conflict and Consensus in Soviet Foreign Policy 1933–1939,PhD thesis, Pennsylvania State University, 1976.Google Scholar
  11. 5.
    G. Roberts, The Unholy Alliance: Stalin’s Pact with Hitler(London, 1989), ch. 5, espec. pp. 101–8.Google Scholar
  12. 6.
    ‘Zapiska M. M. Litvinova I. V. Stalinu, 3 Dekabrya 1935g’, Izvestiya Tsk KPSS,no. 2 (1990) and, most importantly, ‘Osobaya Missiya Davida Kandelaki’, Voprosy Istorii,nos 4–5 (1991) (hereafter ‘Osobaya Missiya’).Google Scholar
  13. 7.
    These themes in Soviet foreign policy are explored further in Roberts, Unholy Alliance,ch. 3.Google Scholar
  14. 8.
    On the status and role of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade and its representatives abroad see the piece on ‘Soviet Foreign Trade’ in M. Bornstein and D. R. Fusfeld (eds), The Soviet Economy: A Book of Readings,rev. edn (Homewood, Ill, 1966)Google Scholar
  15. and E. H. Carr, Socialism in One Country, 1924–1926,vol. 1 (Harmondsworth, 1970), ch. 8(b).Google Scholar
  16. 9.
    On the April 1935 credit agreement see Hochman, Failure of Collective Security, 19348,pp. 100–1.Google Scholar
  17. 10.
    Cited in ‘Osobaya Missiya’ pp. 146–7. Note: all citations given from this article refer to Soviet foreign policy archive documents quoted or referred to by its author.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    The following citations in ibid. are relevant. On 14 January 1935 Suritz, the Soviet ambassador in Berlin, wrote to Litvinov: ‘As you know your German friend has told us that there has been powerful pressure from influential Reichswehr circles and those close to Schacht insisting on a reconciliation and agreement with us. According to him the biggest impression on them has been our preparedness to develop economic relations’(p. 146). There is no information on this ‘German friend’, who was presumably a confidential contact of some kind. On 24 April 1935 a Soviet journalist wrote to Bukharin, at that time editor of Izvestiya,that ‘recently the mood in German circles for an improvement in relations with the USSR has definitely grown stronger. At the same time Reichswehr circles often mention the names of Schacht and Goering in this connection’(p. 147). On 29 May 1935 Suritz wrote to Moscow that in a conversation with Schacht the German was ‘very friendly and spoke about the necessity of an improvement in mutual relations’ (p. 147).Google Scholar
  19. 12.
    DVPS, vol. 18 n. 157 and n. 160, pp. 646–7. The notes cited here, from which the information given in the text comes, refer to a telegram from Litvinov to the Soviet ambassador in Paris dated 26 June 1935 and a letter from Litvinov to Suritz dated 27 June 1935.Google Scholar
  20. 13.
    Documents on German Foreign Policy (DGFP), series C, vol. 4, doc. 211.Google Scholar
  21. 14.
    The quote is from a letter to Litvinov from K. Urenev dated 31 July 1937 in DVPS,vol. 20, doc. 276. I am grateful to Haslam, The Soviet Union, 19339,p. 145 for this reference. Urenev, formerly ambassador to Japan, replaced Suritz as Soviet ambassador in Germany in summer 1937.Google Scholar
  22. 15.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 4, doc. 386.Google Scholar
  23. 16.
    DVPS,vol. 18, doc. 424.Google Scholar
  24. 17.
    DVPS, vol.18, doc. 449.Google Scholar
  25. 18.
    Izvestiya Tsk KPSS,no. 2 (1990), pp. 211–12.Google Scholar
  26. 19.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 147.Google Scholar
  27. 20.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 4, doc. 439.Google Scholar
  28. 21.
    Ibid., doc. 453.Google Scholar
  29. 22.
    See ‘Moscow and the Nazis’, Survey(October 1963), 129–31.Google Scholar
  30. 23.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 4, doc. 472.Google Scholar
  31. 24.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, pp. 147–8. Also: DVPS,vol. 18, n. 261, pp. 671–2.Google Scholar
  32. 25.
    DVPS,vol. 18, n. 261, p. 671.Google Scholar
  33. 26.
    Ibid., doc. 450.Google Scholar
  34. 27.
    Ibid., vol. 19, doc. 12.Google Scholar
  35. 28.
    See DGFP,series C, vol. 4, doc. 472; DVPS,vol. 18, n. 260, pp. 670–1; DVPS,vol. 19, docs 12 and 45. Also: Haslam, The Soviet Union,1933–9, p. 96.Google Scholar
  36. 29.
    Haslam, The Soviet Union,1933–9, p. 98.Google Scholar
  37. 30.
    The text of the April 1936 credit agreement is in DVPS,vol. 19, doc. 143. See also Hochman, Failure of Collective Security, 19348,p. 102 and G. L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany(Chicago, 1970), p. 222.Google Scholar
  38. 31.
    See I. F. Maksimychev, Diplomatiya Mira protiv Diplomatii Voiny: Ocherk Sovetsko-Germanskikh Diplomaticheskikh Otnoshenii v 1933–1939 godakh(Moscow, 1981), pp. 135–6, 140–1 and ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 149.Google Scholar
  39. 32.
    For Molotov’s speech see J. Degras (ed.), Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy,vol. 3 (Oxford, 1953), pp. 151–8.Google Scholar
  40. 33.
    Ibid., p. 168.Google Scholar
  41. 34.
    Ibid., p. 84.Google Scholar
  42. 35.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 149.Google Scholar
  43. 36.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 5, doc. 312.Google Scholar
  44. 37.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 5, doc. 341.Google Scholar
  45. 38.
    DVPS,vol. 19, doc. 239.Google Scholar
  46. 39.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 149.Google Scholar
  47. 40.
  48. 41.
    According to Hochman, Failure of Collective Security, 19348,p. 102, by the end of 1937 the Soviets had used only 183 million marks out of the 200 million credit allocated to them in April 1935.Google Scholar
  49. 42.
    DVPS,vol. 19, n. 160, p. 762.Google Scholar
  50. 43.
    See ibid., doc. 266 (Suritz to Krestinsky, 13/9/36) and doc. 305 (Suritz to Krestinsky, 12/10/36).Google Scholar
  51. 44.
    On Soviet policy towards Spain and its diplomatic consequences of Soviet aid to Spain see Roberts, Unholy Alliance,pp. 75–9 and Haslam, The Soviet Union, 19339,ch. 7.Google Scholar
  52. 45.
    The Soviet-German economic negotiations of autumn 1936 are hardly documented at all. But see DGFP, series C, vol. 5, doc. 549 and Hochman, Failure of Collective Security, 19348,p. 113 and Weinberg, Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany,pp. 310–11. On the Soviet side there is only an exchange of telegrams between Alexandrovky and Litvinov (DVPS, vol. 19, docs 328 and 331). From Prague on 23 October Alexandrovsky reported rumours about a forthcoming Soviet-German reapprochment and sought information about Kandelaki’s activities in Berlin. Litvinov replied 2 days later that the rumours were untrue and that in this connection Kandelaki had been given no new directives.Google Scholar
  53. 46.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 150.Google Scholar
  54. 47.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 6, doc. 183. The date of the meeting is taken from ibid.Google Scholar
  55. 48.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 150.Google Scholar
  56. 49.
  57. 50.
    Ibid., pp. 150–1.Google Scholar
  58. 51.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 151.Google Scholar
  59. 52.
    This idea is derived from Haslam, The Soviet Union, 19339,pp. 120–8, who also deals with the background to Soviet fears and the political moves these inspired.Google Scholar
  60. 53.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 6, doc. 183.Google Scholar
  61. 54.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 151–2.Google Scholar
  62. 55.
    DGFP,series C, vol. 6, doc. 195.Google Scholar
  63. 56.
    ‘Osobaya Missiya’, p. 152.Google Scholar
  64. 57.
    The fortunes of Soviet collective security policy in 1935–7 are dealt with in Roberts, Unholy Alliance,pp. 72–81 and Haslam, The Soviet Union, 19339Google Scholar

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© Geoffrey Roberts 1995

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  • Geoffrey Roberts

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