Advertisement

Molotov pp 146-165 | Cite as

1939 — Molotov Becomes Foreign Minister

  • Derek Watson
Part of the Studies in Russian and East European History and Society book series

Abstract

After the Great Terror, Molotov, like Stalin’s other lieutenants, became more preoccupied with trying to retain the leader’s confidence and repel possible rivals to ensure their own survival.1 Moreover, after 1936, Stalin no longer took long vacations: he was a constant presence as he consolidated his tyrannical authority. The increase in his despotism was reflected in a decline in the number of meetings of top-level institutions: the Politburo met only six times in 1937, on four occasions in 1938, and only twice in 1939 and 1940.2 Sovnarkom convened on 19 occasions in 1938, but met only 9 times in 1937, and there were only 12 meetings in 1936, 1939 and 1940. In addition, compared to the early years of the decade, when there could be twenty or thirty items on a Sovnarkom agenda, the number of agenda items was normally less than ten,3 and discussion was often replaced by use of the opros procedure.4 The new tyranny was reflected in the way that Molotov conducted Sovnarkom business. Nikolai Kuznetsov, who became Commissar for the Navy in 1939, wrote:

When I was appointed … in my ignorance I at first attempted to bring all questions to V. M. Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. But it was very difficult. Minor, daily affairs, still moved, but important ones got stuck. Whenever I was persistent it was suggested that I turn to Stalin.5

Keywords

Foreign Policy Foreign Affair Foreign Minister British Government French Government 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Rees, E. A., ‘Stalin as Leader, 1937–1953: From Dictator to Despot’, in Rees, ed., The Nature of Stalins Dictatorship, p. 207.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Kuznetsov, N. G., ‘Voenno-Morskoi Flot nakanune Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny’, Voenno-istoricheskii Zhurnal, no. 9, 1965, pp. 65–6.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Belevich, Y. and Sokolov, V. ‘Foreign Affairs Commissar Georgy Chicherin’, International Affairs, no. 3, 1991, pp. 94–96.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    Raymond, P. D., Conflict and Consensus in Soviet Foreign Policy 1933–1935, Pennsylvania State University D.Phil. thesis, 1979, pp. 190–242.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    Such a dual strategy was not unique, see Gorodetsky, G., Grand Delusion; Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia, New Haven: 1999, p. 59.Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    Hilger, G. and Meyer, A. G., The Incompatible Allies: A Memoir-History of German-Soviet Relations 1930–1941, New York: 1983, p. 255; Haslam, J., The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Security in Europe, 1933–39 (hereinafter The Struggle for Collective Security), London: 1984, pp. 19–20.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Ibid., pp. 476–81; Carr, E. H., The Twilight of Comintern, p. 98, cites this document to illustrate the decline in Soviet-German relations, but Haslam, The Struggle for Collective Security, p. 22, stresses Molotov’s pro-German attitude.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Sweet, P.R. et al., eds, Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918–1939 (hereinafter DGFP), Series C, vol. 1, 1933, London: 1957, p. 718.Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    RGAS-PI, 17/162/15, 155–6; Istoriya Vtoroi Mirovoi Voiny, 1939–1945, Moscow: 1983, vol. 1, p. 283; DVP, t. 16, pp. 876–7; Haslam, The Struggle for Collective Security, pp. 29–30.Google Scholar
  10. 28.
    Dunn, D., ‘Maksim Litvinov: Commissar of Contradictions’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 23, no. 2, April 1988, p. 222.Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    Molotov, V. M., Stati i rechi 1935–1936, pp. 12, 20–21, et passim. This speech is described by Haslam, The Struggle for Collective Security, p. 46, as ‘exceptionally effusive vis à vis Germany’. See also Phillips, H. D., Between the Revolution and the West: a Political Biography of Maxim M. Litvinov, Boulder, CO: 1992, pp. 147–9.Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    The Earl of Avon, The Eden Memoirs, Vol. 1, Facing the Dictators, London: 1962, pp. 152–6; Maiskii, I. M. Vospominaniya sovetskogo diplomata 1925–1945, Moscow: 1987, p. 317; Borisov, Yu., ed., DVP, t. 18, Moscow: 1973, pp. 246–51.Google Scholar
  13. 34.
    See Watt, D. C., ‘The Initiation of the Negotiations Leading to the Nazi-Soviet Pact’, in Abramsky, C. and Williams, B., Essays in Honour of E.H. Carr, London: 1974, p. 154.Google Scholar
  14. 38.
    Degras, J., Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, vol. 3, 1933–1941, Oxford: 1953, p. 168.Google Scholar
  15. 46.
    See for instance Deev, G. K. et al., eds, DVP, t. 21, Moscow: 1977, pp. 250–1, 58–9, 72–3. Cf. Haslam, J., The Soviet Union and the Threat from the East: Moscow Tokyo and the Prelude to the Pacific War (hereinafter The Threat from the East), Basingstoke: 1992, p. 108.Google Scholar
  16. 48.
    Gromyko, A., trans. Shukman, H., Memories, from Stalin to Gorbachev, London: 1989, pp. 30, 33, 404.Google Scholar
  17. 52.
    Haslam, J., ‘Litvinov, Stalin and the Road not Taken’, in Gorodetsky, G., ed., Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917–1991: a Retrospective, London: 1994, p. 57.Google Scholar
  18. 53.
    Pravda, 9 November 1938. Recent research suggests that there was significant Soviet mobilisation in late September 1938, Ragsdale, H., ‘Soviet Actions during the Czechoslovakian Crisis of 1938’, Bulletin of the Kennan Institute, vol. XV, no. 18, 1998.Google Scholar
  19. 54.
    Roberts, G., ‘The Fall of Litvinov: a Revisionist View’, Journal of Contemporary History, 1992, p. 643; Volkogonov, D., Triumf i tragediya, t. II, ch. I, pp. 11–16.Google Scholar
  20. 56.
    Beloff, M., The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, vol. 2, p. 219.Google Scholar
  21. 59.
    Woodward, E. L. and Butler, R., eds, Documents on British Foreign Policy (hereinafter DBFP), 3rd. series, vol. IV, London: 1949, pp. 511–12, 523–4, 568–70, vol. V, 1952, p. 235.Google Scholar
  22. 61.
    Gnedin, E., ‘V Narkomindele 1922–1939: Interv’yu s E.A. Gnedinym’, Pamyat’, New York/Paris, 1981–1982, no. 5, p. 391.Google Scholar
  23. 62.
    Roshchin, A., ‘Soviet Pre-war Diplomacy: Reminiscences of a Diplomat’, pp. 113–19.Google Scholar
  24. 63.
    Roberts, G., ‘The Infamous Encounter? The Merekalov-Weizsäcker Meeting of 17 April 1939’, Historical Journal, vol. 35, no. 4, 1992, pp. 921–4; Roberts, G. The Unholy Alliance: Stalins Pact with Hitler, London: 1989, pp. 124–7; Roberts, G., The Soviet Union and the Origins of the Second World War, Basingstoke: 1995, pp. 69–71.Google Scholar
  25. 67.
    Gromyko, A. A. et al., eds, SSSR v borbe za mir nakanune vtoroi mirovoi voiny: (sentyabr1938g.-avgust 1939g.): dokumenty i materialy (hereinafter SSSR v borbe za mir), Moscow: 1971, p. 333; DVP, t. 22, kn. 1, pp. 278–9, 291–2.Google Scholar
  26. 68.
    Resis, A., The Fall of Litvinov, p. 47; ‘Stalin’s Office Diary’, IA, nos. 5–6, 1995, p. 35.Google Scholar
  27. 69.
    Trubnikov, V. I., ‘Sovetskaya diplomatiya nakanune Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny: usiliya po protivodeistviyu fashistskoi agressii’, in 60 let so dnya nachala velikoi otechestvennoi voiny: voenno-istoricheskaya konferentsiya, spetsialni vypusk, Voenno-istoricheskii Zhurnal, Moscow: 2001, p. 15.Google Scholar
  28. 70.
    Sheinis, Z., Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov: revolyutsioner, diplomat, chelovek, Moscow: 1989, pp. 360–362, quoted Haslam, The Threat from the East, p. 129. This meeting dated by Maiskii as 27 April is more likely to have been the meeting on 21 April. See ‘Stalin’s Office Diary’, IA, nos. 5–6, 1995, pp. 33–6. The reason for Stalin’s anger seems to have been an unauthorised meeting between Maiskii and the Finnish Foreign Minister Erkko in Helsinki. See Nekrich, A. M. trans., Freeze, G. L., Pariahs, Partners, Predators: German-Soviet Relations, 1922–1941, New York: 1997, p. 109.Google Scholar
  29. 72.
    Gnedin, E., Katastrofa i vtoroe rozhdenie, Amsterdam: 1977, pp. 105–10, 111; Sheinis, Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov, pp. 363–4.Google Scholar
  30. 76.
    Sokolov, V., ‘People’s Commissar Maxim Litvinov’, International Affairs, May 1991, p. 103.Google Scholar
  31. 81.
    Shevchenko, A. N., Breaking with Moscow, New York: 1985, pp. 147–8.Google Scholar
  32. 87.
    Uldricks, T. J., ‘The Impact of the Great Purges on the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs’, p. 191.Google Scholar
  33. 89.
    Miner, S. M., ‘His Master’s Voice: Viacheslav Mihailovich Molotov as Stalin’s Foreign Commissar’, in Craig, G. A. and Lowenheim, F. Z., The Diplomats, 1939–1979, Princeton, NJ: 1994, p. 69.Google Scholar
  34. 95.
    McSherry, Stalin, Hitler and Europe, vol. 1, p. 156; Banac, I., ed., The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov 1933–1949, New Haven: 2003, p. 116.Google Scholar
  35. 101.
    AVPRF, 6/16/27/1, 7–10. In August, when the pact with Germany had been negotiated, Molotov told the French ambassador that the Soviet government considered that the 1935 Soviet-French Pact of Mutual Assistance was made void by the Franco-German Non-Aggression Declaration of December 1938, Namier, L. B., Diplomatic Prelude, London: 1948, p. 289.Google Scholar
  36. 102.
    DBFP, vol. 5, p. 568; PRO, FO, 371/23071, 243–4; Aster, S., 1939: The Making of the Second World War, London: 1973, p. 182; AVPRF, 69/23/66/1, 39–40.Google Scholar
  37. 106.
    DBFP, vol. 5, p. 680, 702, 712; Strang, W., Home and Abroad, London: 1956, p. 168. For the Soviet account of this interview, recorded by Potemkin, which confirms the words of Molotov, which struck Seeds and Strang most forcibly see AVPRF, 6/1/1/2, 41–7. References to the League of Nations had been introduced by Chamberlain to allow Britain to limit its commitments. See Watson, D., ‘Molotov’s Apprenticeship in Foreign Policy: The Triple Alliance Negotiations in 1939’, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 52, no. 4, 2000, p. 701.Google Scholar
  38. 111.
    Roberts, G., ‘The Alliance that Failed: Moscow and the Triple Alliance Negotiations, 1939’, European History Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 3, 1996, p. 402.Google Scholar
  39. 112.
    Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, vol. 348, London: 1939, col. 2205, 21 June; vol. 349, London: 1939, col. 5, 26 June; vol. 350, London: 1939, col. 2036, 31 July.Google Scholar
  40. 113.
    DBFP, vol. 6, pp. 2–4; Sontag, R. J. and Beddie, J. S., Nazi-Soviet Relations 1939–1941: Documents from the Archives of the German Foreign Office (hereinafter Nazi-Soviet Relations), Westport: 1976, p. 60; Bondarenko, A. P., ed., God krizisa 1938–1939: dokumenty i materialy (hereinafter God krizisa), Moscow: 1990, t. 2, p. 270.Google Scholar
  41. 125.
    Ibid. vol. 6, pp. 266–70; PRO, FO, 371/23069, 94–5; 23070, 61–4. The frequently cited paradigm for ‘indirect aggression’ was the Austrian Anschluss of 1938, see Raymond, Conflict and Consensus, pp. 579, 635; Poltavskii, M. A., Diplomatiya imperializma: malye strany Europy 1938–1939gg., Moscow: 1973, passim. Google Scholar
  42. 141.
    DBFP, vol. 6, pp. 456–60; PRO, FO, 371/23071, 69–74; DDF, t. xvii, pp. 469–7; Jakobson, M., The Diplomacy of the Winter War, Cambridge MA.: 1951, p. 89.Google Scholar
  43. 146.
    Maisky, Who Helped Hitler, pp. 165–7; Aster, 1939, The Making of the Second World War, p. 291.Google Scholar
  44. 161.
    Craig, G. A., ‘Totalitarian Approaches to Diplomatic Negotiations’, in Sorkisson, A. D., Studies in Diplomatic History and Historiography in Honour of G.P. Gooch, London: 1961, pp. 120–5.Google Scholar
  45. 162.
    Hayter, Sir W., The Diplomacy of the Great Powers, London: 1960, p. 22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Derek Watson 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Russian and East European StudiesThe University of BirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations