The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939

Joseph Whitney
History 200
Historian’s Blog Assignment 7 & 8
Final Paper Presentation

The Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939
As Stalin was quoted saying in the 1930’s in regards to a war that would soon be at his doorstep: “It can hardly be doubted that a second war against the USSR will lead to the complete defeat of the aggressors, to revolution in a series of countries of Europe and Asia . . . . Victory in revolution never comes of itself. It must be prepared for and won.” These sentiments spoken by the leader of the USSR would come into fruition as the underlying offensive theme of his country’s foreign policy as the uncertainty of the German war machine and European alignments came to pass in the later part of the 1930’s. Through the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, Stalin was promoting his own offensive foreign policy in eastern Europe by agreeing to ‘secret protocols’ within the pact that were used by the Soviets to expand over the Baltic States in Eastern Europe, actively fighting alongside Germany in their war with Poland and aiding the Nazis in their fight with Western powers so as to weaken them both for Soviet advantage later.
The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 was a pact between the two respective nations on the eve of World War II that secured Hitler’s ability to invade Poland without Soviet interference and provided the Soviet Union with a buffer zone that they had failed to secure through a British and French allied agreement, as some historians claim. Along with securing neutrality for both countries in respects to who the other was at war with and each other, the pact also established secret protocols defining the boundaries that each country would respect in regards to the breakup and acquisition of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and ensured Poland would be divided along the rivers Narew, Vistula and San between the two. The historiography of the Non-Aggression Pact is split between historians who view Stalin’s motives as defensive in establishing a border between the Soviet Union and the advancing German war machine and those who view his actions as advancing his foreign policy and gaining more Soviet territory. While the former tend to look at the failure of treaty talks between England, France and the Soviet Union as the reason for the pact the latter group of historians focus on the secret protocols of the pact and the accounts of Soviet officials during the war that shed light on the inner conversations of the Soviet political elite.
Geoffrey Roberts is an historian of the first school of thought. In his article “The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany”, Roberts makes use of then newly released Soviet diplomatic documents from God Krizisa, 1938-1939 to support his view that the pact was a result of the breakdown in negotiations between the French, English and Soviets to form a triple alliance against Germany. He also goes to great pains to illustrate the latter time period when he believes the Soviets finally agreed to the pact as evidence that the treaty was more accidental than calculated, from a Soviet point of view. In disagreement with other historians’ views that Stalin had made his decision to side with Germany when he replaced the current People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Litvinov, with Molotov on May 4th, Roberts claims that the change in Soviet policy happened at the earliest in July 1939. Evidence of this claim is seen in the first correspondence from Molotov to Astakhov, Soviet Embassy leader in Berlin, regarding the first “political instruction” to pass on to Germany on July 28th. Roberts claims that the Soviets’ decision to listen to German proposals came in light of the failing negotiations with the British and French which would end with no treaty signed on August 17th, the escalating conflict between Germany and Poland, and the ongoing attempts of Germany to meet the Soviet’s specifications in an alliance, which Astakhov took notice of. While Roberts agrees that Stalin had a deep interest on the specifics of the “spheres of influence” the Soviets would have in Eastern Europe with the pact, he argues that the expansion of Soviet borders was not guaranteed with the agreement that was signed on August 23rd. He notes evidence of this with Stalin waiting until early September to change foreign policy with the Comintern affairs and at that point deciding to invade Poland as well as a telegram from Germany on September 3rd requesting the Soviets to advance on Poland with them in order to gain control of their sphere of influence.
While Roberts’ points have their merit, he focuses a great deal of time and attention to the period leading up to the signing of the Non-Aggression Pact while only glossing over the resulting effects that the treaty had in regards to the spheres of influence that the Soviet government would expand into. The author himself mentions the aftermath of invading Poland, specifically the creation of Soviet military bases in the Baltic states by October and the Soviet attack on Finland in November. While the theory exists that these expansions were all a part of a defensive buffer the Soviets were creating between themselves and Germany, Molotov himself stated in his memoirs that part of his job was to “broaden as far as possible the borders of the fatherland.” In light of Molotov’s statement and many others like it, this particular historiography pays too much attention to the diplomatic documents from God Krizisa, 1938-1939 without actively investigating evidence from other sources. Roberts is quick to point out the disadvantage that historians like D.C. Watts had with only having access to official German documents, stating that the facts within these documents were “tainted by German preoccupations, perceptions and policy objectives.” The same comments could be said in regards to the Soviet documents that are relied so heavily upon to paint a chronological picture of Stalin’s motives leading up to the signing of the pact. While these sources provide insight into the thought process of the Soviet Union and Stalin during this time period they do not encompass the inner workings of the Soviet political elite.
On the other side of this historiographical debate is historian R.C. Raack and his view that the Non-Aggression Pact was used to full advantage to promote Stalin’s offensive goals in foreign policy. Raack acknowledges the fact that while new Soviet diplomatic documents became available in the early 1990’s, much is still hidden away in archives that could shed more light on Stalin’s true intentions. Common sources used in this historiography come from the personal accounts of the political and military elite and those that interacted with them on a daily basis between 1939 and 1941. Of these varied accounts, Raack focuses on the testimony of two defectors: Vincas Kreve-Mickievicius, a Lithuanian progressive, and a former NKVD who interacted with Andrei Zhdanov. These defectors were direct witnesses to Baltic speeches given by Molotov and Dekanosov, high ranking Soviet officials, emphasizing that a Communist revolution was coming and that the end of World War II would see the unification of Europe under Stalin. Raack’s argument is that at some level this kind of offensive foreign policy thinking had to start with Stalin and trickle down to officials like Molotov and Dekanosov, and was the more probable reason for the Soviets’ occupation of territories in Eastern Europe. Another point touched upon by Raack is the fact that most of Stalin’s annexations of the Baltic States and Romania occurred when Britain was preoccupied with Hitler’s attacks in June of 1940 and that he was consciously making these moves out to be “defensive” in the public’s eye.
Other historians from this second school, like Professor Albert Weeks from New York University, would also quote Stalin and Molotov to illustrate Soviet intentions of expansion as well as Soviet military accounts that paint the Red Army as anything but defensive. Weeks cites the accounts of Grigory Tokaev, a Soviet Military Administration officer and NKVD confidant, who stated what many other ex-military officials also agreed with: “the Soviets were counting on war to expedite Sovietization to the West.” Further evidence of this offensive military stance can be seen in the accounts of Stalin’s “secret speech” to Red Army graduates in the weeks prior to German attack where Stalin reportedly spoke negatively regarding Germany and their military might and that his army must “prepare to wage offensive war” in the days to come. The examples of sources that Raack and Weeks use to support their position that Stalin was acting offensively with the Non-Aggression Pact are similar to those who also follow this historiographical path. With a lack of official accounts of the Soviet political machine and inner-circle dealings that went on from 1939 to 1941, these historians rely heavily on non-official accounts and outside testimony to further their points on what they believe to be proof of offensive Soviet foreign policy during this time.
Regarding both schools of thought on this topic, the best arguments are those that take into account official Soviet diplomatic sources as well as witness testimony of high ranking Soviet officials that were in some way involved with the treaty. An example of another type of historian who draws from both official and eye-witness testimony to little effect in ascertaining thought-out conclusions is Alexander Werth, author of Russia at War, 1941-1945. Werth himself was a Russian-born wartime correspondent and journalist for the London Sunday Times and the BBC throughout the majority of World War II. The recollection of the opinions of high ranking military and political officials as well as common Soviet soldiers and citizens during the
war, of which Werth kept a “day-to-day record”, is the primary source information that Werth contributes from his own accounts. The monograph is intended for a broader audience because of the vastness of its scope but unfortunately that narrative structure leaves out many questions and hypotheses regarding the events that Werth summarizes and the source never quite answers the question of “what made Russia tick” during the war years. The lack of historical questions asked in Werth’s monograph can make the overarching theme of his work hard to grasp and the first-hand accounts he presents of the Soviet people during the war, while interesting, are few and far between his narration. Concerning the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, these first-hand accounts from Werth do little to add to the evidence he is presenting on that particular part of the war and mainly represent the lower classes in Soviet society that were as confused as the next citizen as to the reasons behind the Pact being signed. This monograph was written with the intention of presenting the recollections of the Soviets that Werth encountered during his time there and as such should be analyzed as subjective, qualitative data. In regards to his primary and secondary sources, Werth relies heavily on the Soviet press resource of the Pravda as well as various military and political accounts then recently published in the comprehensive and Soviet-official History of the Great Fatherland War of the Soviet Union. While presenting the irony in the fact that Pravda was still running anti-Nazi articles while Germany and the Soviet Union were in conversation to form an alliance, Werth never goes into detail on what the major political players were doing during this crucial time period. The lack of diverse sources or any conversation regarding the manipulations that could be present in official Soviet documents is of note with a historian like Werth and his research. While historians like Roberts and Raack show both sides of an argument focusing on different source material to come to their conclusions, Werth is an example of a researcher who presents interesting information regarding the Soviets during the war with little attempt of gleaning true insight or debate from it.
In regards to the varying historians’ viewpoints and approaches analyzed in this research, it is important to note not only the different interpretations that scholars reach on the various components of the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 but also the repercussions that the pact had as a whole in regards to Europe that are hard to argue. The best example of these repercussions can be seen in the ‘secret protocols’ established in the treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union that effectively broke up eastern Europe to Soviet advantage beyond defensive means. The protocols established for both respective countries on August 23rd and September 28th not only ensured Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bessarabia and Finland to the Soviets but also established an “agreement on the exchange of populations across the borders separating the Soviet and German spheres”. The Soviets’ European acquisitions after their intervention in Poland would add some 13 million people under their banner and also provided military bases for Stalin in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. While many argue that these were defensive moves for Stalin in light of possible war with Germany, the fact that the Soviets continued to acquire portions of Romania and other Baltic states when Britain was preoccupied with German invasion at the same time when figures like Molotov were speaking of the Bolshevik takeover of Europe by the war’s end points towards Stalin’s true offensive foreign policy ideology.
The attack on Finland by the Soviets on November 30th, 1939, a country that had once been ruled by Russia until the 1918 revolt, exemplifies the offensive nature of Stalin’s push into eastern Europe that could be described as anything but a defensive move to secure Soviet borders. In over three months of fighting, the Soviets lost almost three times the amount of men compared to Finland’s guerilla-style army, their military exhibited a proficient weakness in operating efficiently, especially in harsh conditions, and Stalin only acquired ten percent of Finland in the March armistice that ended the fighting. While the official Soviet reason for the invasion was the added security for Leningrad, which was close to the border of Finland, the measures Stalin took to ascertain it, including the execution of senior military officers who could not produce results and lying to his army regarding Finland starting the conflict, seem so extreme for so little reward that a historian would have to question the motives of Stalin during this time period of expansion. Further arguments can be made that the Baltic states under Soviet control during this period were strategically set up for Stalin to attack Germany when the time was right and were in no way defensive. Weeks notes the offensively trained military personnel occupied within these new territories, the many airfields that existed along these borders and strategic “preemptive war” plans from high-ranking Soviet military officials in 1941 as evidence of Stalin’s true intentions and plans for World War II, not to mention Molotov and Stalin’s statements, both public and private, regarding the opportunity that a second European war would be for communist expansion. The combination of unofficial Soviet military and political commentary as well as the examples of the aggressive nature in which Stalin took control of the eastern Europe independent states for military purposes must at least be taken into account when considering the nature of Soviet foreign policy. While the historians explored in this research lack the official Soviet documentation on a number of internal political matters to say without a doubt that Soviet policy was offensive during this time period, the evidence they do contribute to the discussion highly suggests that Stalin had more on his mind that defensive strategy. The fact that Soviets’ documentation regarding the process in which protocols and treaty came to be with Germany disappeared from Russian archives in 1946 only adds fuel to the fire that officials like Molotov wanted to keep their true nature hidden from public view.
While the expansion of the Soviet Union’s interests into the Baltic States and their military preparations from that period point to the offensive nature of Stalin’s goals, Soviet involvement in the attack and takeover of Poland in aid to Germany clearly illustrates the country’s duplicitous nature in foreign affairs and offensive mindset. In an article from the New York Times from August 24th, 1939, general secretary of the Communist party Earl Browder spoke emphatically in regards to Poland’s security not being affected by the treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union and that in reality it would be a “great weakening of the Axis powers”. Less than a month later on September 17th the Soviets attacked Poland, acting on their agreement through the treaty with Germany to secure the division of the country, one that had won independence from Bolshevik Russia less than twenty years before. In direct contradiction to what Browder had been quoted saying in the United States, Molotov stated in a speech on October 31st to the Supreme Soviet, regarding Poland, that the Germans and Soviets were able “to reduce to nothing this monster child of the Treaty of Versailles”. The Soviet’s willingness to attack Poland seems then to stem at least in part from resentment on the Russian side following the loss of their former territory and the creation of the independent state. Poland had also rejected any alignment with the Soviets earlier that year when the Four-Power Declaration was being discussed between Britain, Poland, France and the Soviet Union. At the beginning of the Soviet advance, Molotov assured Poland that Russia entered their country “to protect Russian citizens in western Belorussia and western Ukraine” when in reality they gained “77,000 square miles of territory” and imprisoned some 1.5 million Polish natives in Russia, whom many of which would die by lack of care or on Stalin’s insistence. This back and forth nature of Stalin’s elite telling the world one thing while actually securing their own interests through violence and the obliteration of a foreign people proves that there was more to the Soviet involvement with Germany than was being presented to the public. These inconsistencies present with Stalin’s interactions with Europe would foreshadow the duplicity that he would also show towards Germany and the Western nations and what his true intent was for both.
Stalin was willing to aid the Germans in their fight against the Western powers of the world but this was all part of his plan for Soviet domination in Europe. His hope was that the Germans and their combined capitalist adversaries would go toe to toe long enough to weaken themselves and ultimately protect the “future expansion of Soviet power. In fulfilling Soviet pact agreements, Stalin provided food, supplies and oil from Russia’s rich reserves in order to keep Germany going and to ease their fears of the possibility of a future British blockade. While the relationship between Germany and Russia was mutually beneficial during this time, with the Nazis enjoying a war on one front and the Soviets being free to expand into the smaller independent states of Eastern Europe, the peace would not last. Germany’s decimation of France in short time in 1940 made Stalin extremely nervous because he needed more for Soviet military build-up and had counted on the slow burn of Germans and Westerners wiping each other out while he was left to his own devices in Eastern Europe. In a 1941 speech that would be passed down from Stalin to officials such as Molotov and Zhdanov and other Soviet elite, the topic at hand was now an offensive war against Germany which they were preparing for as well as any war pitting them against a Western capitalist country. While there are those that argue that Stalin himself had entered the treaty with Germany as a defensive precursor to what he thought would inevitably lead to conflict with the Nazis, his offensive approach to the situation as regarded in the sources researched shows a single-mindedness to his aims at Soviet expansion and ideology that he kept close to his chest.
Through the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, Stalin was promoting his own offensive foreign policy in eastern Europe by agreeing to ‘secret protocols’ within the pact that were used by the Soviets to expand over the Baltic States in Eastern Europe, actively fighting alongside Germany in their war with Poland and aiding the Nazis in their fight with Western powers so as to weaken them both for Soviet advantage later. While Stalin’s final dream of Soviet domination over Europe through the means of World War II would never come to be, the aggressive way in which he positioned himself with Germany and his ferocious utilization of the secret protocols established between the two countries to sweep independent Eastern Europe into his pocket is a reminder of what his true foreign policy aims were. With Poland and Finland serving as physical examples of how far Stalin would go to achieve his desires for his Communist dictatorship, it is not difficult to see that through all of his posturing and outward attempts to appear as a defensively-minded leader, his offensive nature knew no bounds and was always at the surface.

Bibliography

Clarkson, Jesse. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” The Journal of
Modern History 38, no. 4 (Dec. 1966): 449-450. Accessed Oct. 12, 2014.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/1876714.html.

Dallin, Alexander. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” The American
Historical Review 71, no. 1 (Oct. 1965): 262-263. Accessed Oct. 13, 2014.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/1863204.html.

Hastings, Max. Inferno : The World at War, 1939-1945. First Vintage Books edition. New York:
Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc, 2012.

“Pacts Hurt Axis, Browder Asserts.” New York Times (New York), August 24, 1939.
Accessed September 30, 2014, http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview
/103041485/abstract/E404FFA228104C59PQ/31?accountid=14791.

Raack, R.C.. “Stalin’s Plans for World War II.” Journal of Contemporary History 26, no. 2 (April 1991):
215-227. Accessed September 30, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/260789.

Resis, Albert. “The Fall of Litvinov: Harbinger of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.” Europe-
Asia Studies 52, no. 1 (January 2000): 33-56. Accessed September 30th, 2014.
https://libproxy.uww.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&Au
thType=ip,uid&db=hia&AN=2723186&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Roberts, Geoffrey. “The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany.” Soviet Studies 44, no. 1
(February 1992): 1-24. Accessed September 30, 2014. https://libproxy.uww.edu:9443/login?url
=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid&db=hia&AN=971014
2931&site=ehost-live&scope=site&scope=cite.

Weeks, Albert. “Sixty Years After the Nazi-Soviet Pact.” Modern Age 41, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 1-13.
Accessed November 9, 2014. http://libproxy.uww.edu:5208/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=6ec
b0b4d-32cc-4961-bd93-86a46a06a0e2%40sessionmgr110&hid=123&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlP
WlwLHVpZCZzaXRlPWVob3N0LWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=216
6022.

Weinberg, Gerhard. “The Nazi-Soviet Pacts: A Half-Century Later.” Foreign Affairs 68, no. 4 (Fall
1989): 175-189. Accessed November 10, 2014. https://libproxy.uww.edu:9443/login?url=http://
search. ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid&db=hia&AN=8910230932&
site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Werth, Alexander. Russia at War, 1941-1945. 2nd Carroll & Graf ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Project Map for German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939

Joseph Whitney
History 200
Blog Assignment #6
Paper Outline

I. Introduction Part 1
a. Thesis
i. Through the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, Stalin was promoting his own offensive foreign policy in eastern Europe by creating ‘secret protocols’ within the pact with Germany, using those protocols to advance into independent Finland, Estonia, Latvia and other Baltic States and actively supporting Germany in the war with the Western powers to meet his own ends.
II. Introduction Part 2
III. Historical Context
IV. Historiography
a. See Blog Assignment
V. Body
a. Body Paragraph 1
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will discuss the collective breakdown of French-Soviet-British talks for a tripartite alliance and how Stalin used these talks in the spring and summer of 1939 to secretly secure an alliance with Germany.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. Soviet demands of the alliance pact
2. French/British acting indecisively throughout July/August
3. Ribbentrop’s advancements for pact throughout the summer
b. Body Paragraph 2
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will discuss the removal of Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Litvinov and his replacement, Molotov, and why this signaled an end to negotiations with the West and positioned the Soviet Union to form an alliance with Germany.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. Litvinov’s relationship with the supposed treaty with France/Britain
2. Astakhov’s discussions with Germany in May and throughout the summer of 1939 following Molotov’s ascension
3. Differing diplomatic accounts from the Soviet Union and Germany during the summer of 1939
c. Body Paragraph 3
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will analyze the details of the ‘secret protocols’ that were established between the Soviet Union and Germany on August 23rd and September 28th specifically and how Poland and the Baltic States were divided up into spheres of influence between the two nations.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. German territorial concessions to Soviet Union in August
2. Finland/Bessarabia/Latvia/Estonia
3. Rearrangement of protocols after Poland/Lithuania transferred to the Soviets
d. Body Paragraph 4
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will discuss the economic trade agreements between the Soviet Union and Germany, both within the Non-Aggression Pact and outside of it, and how the Soviet’s raw materials allowed Germany the prospect of overcoming a British blockade and made their war in the west possible.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. 1938 trade agreement
2. Soviet food supplies/raw material agreement of 1940
3. German supplies of military equipment/aid in industrialization prior to 1938
e. Body Paragraph 5
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will discuss the German invasion of Poland made possible by the Soviet attack in the east, the division of the state along specific areas and the security of this arrangement that allowed the Nazis to focus on the war in the west that was next to come.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. Cut off of Lithuanian/Romanian supplies
2. Soviet versus Polish forces
3. Polish soldiers in Soviet concentration camps
f. Body Paragraph 6
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will compare the German advancement in Western Europe from the winter of 1939 through the summer of 1940 with the Soviet Union’s conflict with Finland and takeover of the Baltic States during the same period and how both nations aided each other in their differing objectives.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. War with Finland 1939-1940
2. Soviet bases in the Baltic territories
3. Arguments against these seized states as buffer zones towards Germany
g. Body Paragraph 7
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will discuss the offensive nature of the Red Army from 1939-1941, specifically the build-up of military personnel, equipment and bases along the borders of the acquired Baltic States and how these advances were anything but defensive.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. Offensive troops in stationed at bases on the borders
2. Preemptive Soviet military documents
3. Airfields/equipment/military attitudes on the eastern border
h. Body Paragraph 8
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will analyze the first-hand accounts of Soviet diplomatic and military personnel that shed light on the policies and goals of Stalin and his political inner circle not revealed in official Soviet documents.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. Pavel Sudoplatov, aide in the NKVD
2. Colonel Grigory Tokaev
3. Molotov
i. Body Paragraph 9
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will compare comments made by two Soviet defectors who worked with Molotov, vice-foreign commissar V.G. Dekanosov and Andrei Zhdanov and cohobate statements made by these high ranking officials of Soviet plans for territorial advancement made in the Baltic States between 1939 and 1941.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. Testimony of Vincas Kreve-Mickievicius
2. Testimony of NKVD defector
j. Body Paragraph 10
i. Mini Thesis/Statement: In this paragraph I will focus on the speeches and statements made by Stalin to the outside world, his political elite and his military that show he was promoting the Communist advancement in Europe before, during and after the Non-Aggression Pact and what he hoped to achieve with the war itself.
ii. Evidence/Facts:
1. March 1939 speech to Soviet congress
2. Alleged August 19th 1939 speech
3. May 1941 speech to Soviet military graduates
VI. Conclusion

Bibliography

Bialer, Seweryn. Stalin and His Generals : Soviet Military Memoirs of World War II. New York: Pegasus, 1969.
Gallagher, Matthew P. The Soviet History of World War II : Myths, Memories, and Realities. Westport,
Conn: Greenwood Press, 1976.

Hastings, Max. Inferno : The World at War, 1939-1945. First Vintage Books edition. New York: Vintage
Books, a division of Random House, Inc, 2012.

Kuromiya, Hiroaki. “Stalin and His Era.” The Historical Journal 50, no. 3 (September 1, 2007): 711-724.
Raack, R. C. “Stalin’s Plans for World War II.” Journal of Contemporary History 26, no. 2 (April 1, 1991):
215–227.

Resis, Albert. “The Fall of Litvinov: Harbinger of the German-Soviet Non-Aggresion Pact.” Europe-Asia
Studies 52, no. 1 (January 2000): 33-56.

Roberts, Geoffrey. “The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany.” Soviet Studies 44, no. 1
(February 1992): 1-24.

Sato, Keiji. “Acknowledgement of the Secret Protocol of the German–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and
the Declaration of State Sovereignty by the Union Republics of the USSR.” Europe-Asia Studies
66, no. 7 (September 2014): 1146–1164.

Weeks, Albert. “Sixty Years After the Nazi-Soviet Pact.” Modern Age 41, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 1-13.
Accessed November 10, 2014.

Weinberg, Gerhard. “The Nazi-Soviet Pacts: A Half-Century Later.” Foreign Affairs 68, no. 4 (Fall 1989):
175-189. Accessed November 10, 2014. https://libproxy.uww.edu:9443/login?url=http://search.
ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid&db=hia&AN=8910230932&site=ehost
-live&scope=site.

Werth, Alexander. Russia at War, 1941-1945. 2nd Carroll & Graf ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Defensive and Offensive Views of the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939

Joseph Whitney
History 200
Historian’s Blog Assignment #5
Houses of History

Defensive and Offensive Views of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939
The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 was a pact between the two respective nations on the eve of World War II that secured Hitler’s ability to invade Poland without Soviet interference and provided the Soviet Union with a buffer zone that they had failed to secure through a British and French allied agreement. Along with securing neutrality for both countries in respects to who the other was at war with and each other, the pact also established secret protocols defining the boundaries that each country would respect in regards to the breakup and acquisition of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and ensured Poland would be divided along the rivers Narew, Vistula and San between the two. The historiography of the Non-Aggression Pact is split between historians who view Stalin’s motives as defensive in establishing a border between the Soviet Union and the advancing German war machine and those who view his actions as advancing his foreign policy and gaining more Soviet territory. While the former tend to look at the failure of treaty talks between England, France and the Soviet Union as the reason for the pact the latter group of historians focus on the secret protocols of the pact and the accounts of Soviet officials during the war that shed light on the inner conversations of the Soviet political elite.
Geoffrey Roberts is an historian of the first school of thought. In his article “The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany”, Roberts makes use of then newly released Soviet diplomatic documents from God Krizisa, 1938-1939 to support his view that the pact was a result of the breakdown in negotiations between the French, English and Soviets to form a triple alliance against Germany. He also goes to great pains to illustrate the latter time period when he believes the Soviets finally agreed to the pact as evidence that the treaty was more accidental than calculated, from a Soviet point of view. In disagreement with other historians’ views that Stalin had made his decision to side with Germany when he replaced the current People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Litvinov, with Molotov on May 4th, Roberts claims that the change in Soviet policy happened at the earliest in July 1939. Evidence of this claim is seen in the first correspondence from Molotov to Astakhov, Soviet Embassy leader in Berlin, regarding the first “political instruction” to pass on to Germany on July 28th. Roberts claims that the Soviets’ decision to listen to German proposals came in light of the failing negotiations with the British and French which would end with no treaty signed on August 17th, the escalating conflict between Germany and Poland, and the ongoing attempts of Germany to meet the Soviet’s specifications in an alliance, which Astakhov took notice of. While Roberts agrees that Stalin had a deep interest on the specifics of the “spheres of influence” the Soviets would have in Eastern Europe with the pact, he argues that the expansion of Soviet borders was not guaranteed with the agreement that was signed on August 23rd. He notes evidence of this with Stalin waiting until early September to change foreign policy with the Comintern affairs and at that point deciding to invade Poland as well as a telegram from Germany on September 3rd requesting the Soviets to advance on Poland with them in order to gain control of their sphere of influence.
While Roberts’ points have their merit, he focuses a great deal of time and attention to the period leading up to the signing of the Non-Aggression Pact while only glossing over the resulting effects that the treaty had in regards to the spheres of influence that the Soviet government would expand into. The author himself mentions the aftermath of invading Poland, specifically the creation of Soviet military bases in the Baltic states by October and the Soviet attack on Finland in November. While the theory exists that these expansions were all a part of a defensive buffer the Soviets were creating between themselves and Germany, Molotov himself stated in his memoirs that part of his job was to “broaden as far as possible the borders of the fatherland.” In light of Molotov’s statement and many others like it, this particular historiography pays too much attention to the diplomatic documents from God Krizisa, 1938-1939 without actively investigating evidence from other sources. Roberts is quick to point out the disadvantage that historians like D.C. Watts had with only having access to official German documents, stating that the facts within these documents were “tainted by German preoccupations, perceptions and policy objectives.” The same comments could be said in regards to the Soviet documents that are relied so heavily upon to paint a chronological picture of Stalin’s motives leading up to the signing of the pact. While these sources provide insight into the thought process of the Soviet Union and Stalin during this time period they do not encompass the inner workings of the Soviet political elite and should be evaluated with other sources for comparison.
On the other side of this historiographical debate is historian R.C. Raack and his view that the Non-Aggression Pact was used to full advantage to promote Stalin’s offensive goals in foreign policy. Raack acknowledges the fact that while new Soviet diplomatic documents became available in the early 1990’s, much is still hidden away in archives that could shed more light on Stalin’s true intentions. Common sources used in this historiography come from the personal accounts of the political and military elite and those that interacted with them on a daily basis between 1939 and 1941. Of these varied accounts, Raack focuses on the testimony of two defectors: Vincas Kreve-Mickievicius, a Lithuanian progressive, and a former NKVD who interacted with Andrei Zhdanov. These defectors were direct witnesses to Baltic speeches given by Molotov and Dekanosov, high ranking Soviet officials, emphasizing that a Communist revolution was coming and that the end of World War II would see the unification of Europe under Stalin. Raack’s argument is that at some level this kind of offensive foreign policy thinking had to start with Stalin and trickle down to officials like Molotov and Dekanosov, and was the more probable reason for the Soviets’ occupation of territories in Eastern Europe. Another point touched upon by Raack is the fact that most of Stalin’s annexations of the Baltic States and Romania occurred when Britain was preoccupied with Hitler’s attacks in June of 1940 and that he was consciously making these moves out to be “defensive” in the public’s eye.
Other historians from this second school, like Professor Albert Weeks from New York University, would also quote Stalin and Molotov to illustrate Soviet intentions of expansion as well as Soviet military accounts that paint the Red Army as anything but defensive. Weeks cites the accounts of Grigory Tokaev, a Soviet Military Administration officer and NKVD confidant, who stated what many other ex-military officials also agreed with: “the Soviets were counting on war to expedite Sovietization to the West.” Further evidence of this offensive military stance can be seen in the accounts of Stalin’s “secret speech” to Red Army graduates in the weeks prior to German attack where Stalin reportedly spoke negatively regarding Germany and their military might and that his army must “prepare to wage offensive war” in the days to come. The examples of sources that Raack and Weeks use to support their position that Stalin was acting offensively with the Non-Aggression Pact are similar to those who also follow this historiographical path. With a lack of official accounts of the Soviet political machine and inner-circle dealings that went on from 1939 to 1941, these historians rely heavily on non-official accounts and outside testimony to further their points on what they believe to be proof of offensive Soviet foreign policy during this time.
The proponents of this “offensive” Non-Aggression Pact historiography tend to follow in the footsteps of the “defensive” school of thought in that they focus mainly on the evidence that supports their own claims. They also analyze the time period directly after the signing of the pact between Germany and the Soviet Union to a greater degree than the period leading up to it. These historians also rely much less on the official documents available through the God Krizisa, 1938-1939 and other Soviet diplomatic sources to make their points and if they do use these sources, they have a tendency to present other information in coordination with it that evaluates the official documents for truths or inconsistencies that could be present. The main issue with this school can be seen in some of the evidence presented if it is too outside the box or irrelevant to be used in comparison with the Non-Aggression Pact being analyzed. An example of this can be seen in Raack’s article where he devotes a paragraph to the food and oil supplies that Germany gained from the Soviets through the treaty and how they “would soon have fallen on tougher times” without it. This fact, while interesting, does little to add to his argument that Stalin was primarily concerned with offensive foreign policy during this time. On either side of the historiographical debate, those guaranteed supplies from the Soviets could be seen as a necessary and inconsequential counterpoint to the pact and a fact that does little to advance either position unless coupled with more information to make a clearer argument.
Regarding both schools of thought on this topic, the best arguments are those that take into account official Soviet diplomatic sources as well as witness testimony of high ranking Soviet officials that were in some way involved with the treaty. The analysis and interpretation of these sources, along with information reflecting the state of the Soviet Union both before and after the Non-Aggression Pact, is imperative to forming a well-rounded evaluation of the findings. Consideration of the biases present in the sources and the intent of the author responsible for them can also prove invaluable in keeping these Non-Aggression Pact historian’s conclusions honest and worthwhile. Acknowledgement of the fact that essential sources are still undisclosed at this point will only strengthen the points being made.

Bibliography

Raack, R.C.. “Stalin’s Plans for World War II.” Journal of Contemporary History 26, no. 2 (April 1991):
215-227. Accessed September 30, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/260789.

Roberts, Geoffrey. “The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany.” Soviet Studies 44, no. 1
(February 1992): 1-24. Accessed September 30, 2014. https://libproxy.uww.edu:9443/login?url
=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid&db=hia&AN=971014
2931&site=ehost-live&scope=site&scope=cite.

Weeks, Albert. “Sixty Years After the Nazi-Soviet Pact.” Modern Age 41, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 1-13.
Accessed November 9, 2014. http://libproxy.uww.edu:5208/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=6ec
b0b4d-32cc-4961-bd93-86a46a06a0e2%40sessionmgr110&hid=123&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlP
WlwLHVpZCZzaXRlPWVob3N0LWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=216
6022.

Revision

Joseph Whitney
History 200
Dr. Patterson
Historian’s Blog Assignment #4
Historical Argumentation

Revision: Analysis of Alexander Werth’s Russia at War 1941-1945

The monograph Russia at War, 1941-1945 was written by Alexander Werth in 1964 and is a huge volume spanning over a thousand pages concerning what he called “much less a military story of the war than its human story and, to a lesser extent, its political story”. Werth himself was a Russian-born wartime correspondent and journalist for the London Sunday Times and the BBC throughout the majority of World War II. The recollection of the opinions of high ranking military and political officials as well as common Soviet soldiers and citizens during the war, of which Werth kept a “day-to-day record”, is the primary source information that Werth contributes from his own accounts. The rest of Werth’s research is comprised of primary Soviet sources such as periodicals, speeches and official documents from the war and secondary sources such as official Soviet reflections of wartime events written several years after the war. The monograph is intended for a broader audience because of the vastness of its scope as well as the narrative structure used to illustrate the story of the Soviet people during this time. Unfortunately, that narrative structure leaves out many questions and hypotheses regarding the events that Werth summarizes and the source never quite answers the question of “what made Russia tick” during the war years. The main issue with Werth’s work as a whole revolves around the fact that his competent reporting skills do not make up for his “incomplete transformation from observer into historian” in terms of the sources he uses and the arguments he should be making with those sources.
The lack of historical questions asked in Werth’s monograph can make the overarching theme of his work hard to grasp and the first-hand accounts he presents of the Soviet people during the war, while interesting, are few and far between his narration. Concerning the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, these first-hand accounts from Werth do little to add to the evidence he is presenting on that particular part of the war and mainly represent the lower classes in Soviet society that were as confused as the next citizen as to the reasons behind the Pact being signed. Along with his first-hand accounts, Werth’s own point of view also factors into the subjectivity of his work. Werth himself was a native Russian speaker, having been born in old St. Petersburg despite his English citizenship, who lived throughout the war with the Soviet citizens right by his side and spoke with thousands of them. Having reported so closely with Soviet citizens during the war, it would “be unfair to expect from him a study totally divorced from his own emotions”. Werth even points out his own bias in his introduction when stating that “the spirit of genuine patriotic devotion and self-sacrifice shown by the Russian people during those four years has few parallels in human history”. This monograph was written with the intention of presenting the recollections of the Soviets that Werth encountered during his time there and as such should be analyzed as subjective, qualitative data. In regards to his primary and secondary sources, Werth relies heavily on the Soviet press resource of the Pravda as well as various military and political accounts then recently published in the comprehensive and Soviet-official History of the Great Fatherland War of the Soviet Union. Concerning the Soviet-German Pact chapter, Werth cites History at least seven times, drawing information from the Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR and the Soviet Foreign Policy Archives, and Pravda and the Soviet media at least nine times. While presenting the irony in the fact that Pravda was still running anti-Nazi articles while Germany and the Soviet Union were in conversation to form an alliance, Werth never goes into detail on what the major political players were doing during this crucial time period. The lack of diverse sources or any conversation regarding the manipulations that could be present in official Soviet documents is troublesome.
Focusing on the information presented concerning the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, most of Werth’s research is presented in a matter-of-fact way of reporting, hinting at possible reasons for actions taken but never fully opening them up for discussion. Examples of this can be found in the differing Soviet and German accounts of when Molotov accepted the conditions of the pact, the timing and content of Soviet press releases in coordination with the military decisions being reported at the end of August and quick references to the ‘Secret Protocol’ that divided the Baltic States and Lithuania between the Soviets and the Germans. These events are described and then passed over as quickly as they were revealed. The fact that major turning points of the Soviet-German Pact have been glossed over leaves the monograph feeling like a train hitting every checkpoint but never stopping to look around at what is there. Erickson points out in his review of Russia at War that considering the amount of evidence then available to historians in the 1960’s regarding the inner Soviet workings during the war, Werth made a conscious choice to focus on the “description and recollection” of events rather than thorough “analysis and assessment” of them, keeping to the realm of “outer, public history”. Clarkson embellishes further on the monograph’s research and sources, stating that the quality of Werth’s sources and sporadic use of them at his leisure make the beginning chapters of the book “so thin as to be worthless”. Werth’s purpose for writing is the vocalization of the Soviet people’s reactions to the events that unfolded from 1939-1945 but his message is diluted in the repetitive narrative structure of his prose and the questions raised but never addressed throughout the work.
The end result from analyzing Werth’s Russia at War 1939-1945 is a collection of some eye-witness Soviet accounts, intriguing military, diplomatic and press-related Soviet documents from the war and no real cohesive theme or discussion to tie it all together other than chronology. There are plenty of examples of primary sources recorded in the bibliography that could be used in researching the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact but the fact that Werth only focuses on a handful of these sources and rarely pits one against the other for sake of argumentation leaves actual evaluation of these sources to be found elsewhere. Werth can be commended as an excellent reporter with a flair for narration but the lack of variety in his source choices as well as the unanswered questions raised in retelling the Soviet view of the war do little to explain the causes behind it. As Erickson perfectly summarizes, Alexander Werth’s “human judgments are excellent, but his political verdicts are, in the absence of weightier proof, questionable”. Further research on the topic should include Soviet documents publically released after 1964, multiple secondary sources investigating the motives of Stalin and Molotov in regards to signing the pact and other European and American sources discussing their take on the Soviet Union’s military decisions between the years of 1939-1941.

Bibliography

Clarkson, Jesse. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” The Journal of Modern History
38, no. 4 (Dec. 1966): 449-450, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1876714.html (accessed Oct. 12, 2014).

Dallin, Alexander. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” The American Historical Review 71, no. 1 (Oct. 1965): 262-263, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1863204.html (accessed Oct. 13, 2014).

Erickson, J. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 41, no. 3 (Jul. 1965): 521-523, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2609831.html (accessed Oct. 12, 2014).

Werth, Alexander. Russia at War, 1941-1945. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1964.

http://blogs.uww.edu/jswhitney200

Analysis of Alexander Werth’s Russia at War, 1941-1945

Joseph Whitney
History 200
Dr. Patterson
Historian’s Blog Assignment #3
Primary Source Analysis

Analysis of Alexander Werth’s Russia at War 1941-1945

The monograph Russia at War, 1941-1945 was written by Alexander Werth in 1964 and is a huge volume spanning over a thousand pages concerning what he called “much less a military story of the war than its human story and, to a lesser extent, its political story”. Werth himself was a Russian-born wartime correspondent and journalist for the London Sunday Times and the BBC throughout the majority of World War II. Werth’s access to the opinions of high ranking military and political officials as well as common Soviet soldiers and citizens during the war, of which he kept a “day-to-day record of everything”, is the collective primary source information that a researcher could possibly take away from this. The monograph is intended for a broader audience because of the vastness of its scope as well as the narrative structure used to illustrate the story of the Soviet people during this time. Unfortunately, that narrative structure leaves out many questions and hypothesizes regarding the events that Werth summarizes and the source never quite answers the question of “what made Russia tick” during the war years. The main issue with Werth’s work as a whole revolves around the fact that his competent reporting skills do not make up for his “incomplete transformation from observer into historian”.
The lack of historical hypothesizes presented in Werth’s work does not diminish his first-hand accounts of the Soviet people during this time period but besides presenting these unheard Soviet voices and opinions, the overarching theme of his work can be hard to grasp. Concerning the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, these first-hand accounts from Werth can be few and far between and often do little to add to the evidence he is presenting on that particular part of the war. Besides his own personal accounts, Werth relies heavily on the Soviet press resource of the Pravda as well as various military and political accounts then recently published in the comprehensive and Soviet-official History of the Great Fatherland War of the Soviet Union. These sources tend to fill in the gaps between the personal narrative and function as “a matter of established fact”, never leading to “any over-all interpretation of the way the system or society worked in wartime”. Along with the evidence presented, Werth’s own point of view also factors into the merit of his work. Having worked and reported so closely with Soviet citizens during the war, it would “be unfair to expect from him a study totally divorced from his own emotions”. Werth even points out his own bias in his introduction when stating that “the spirit of genuine patriotic devotion and self-sacrifice shown by the Russian people during those four years has few parallels in human history”. This monograph was written with the intention of presenting the recollections of the Soviets that Werth encountered during his time there and as such should be analyzed as subjective, qualitative data.
Focusing on the information presented concerning the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, most of Werth’s research is presented in a matter-of-fact way of reporting, hinting at possible reasons for actions taken but never fully opening them up for discussion. Examples of this can be found in the differing Soviet and German accounts of when Molotov accepted the conditions of the pact, the timing and content of Soviet press releases in coordination with the military decisions being reported at the end of August and quick references to the ‘Secret Protocol’ that divided the Baltic States and Lithuania between the Soviets and the Germans. These events are described and then passed over as quickly as they were revealed for the most part. Erickson points out in his review of Russia at War that considering the amount of evidence then available to historians in the 1960’s regarding the inner Soviet workings during the war, Werth made a conscious choice to focus on the “description and recollection” of events rather than thorough “analysis and assessment” of them, keeping to the realm of “outer, public history”. Clarkson embellishes further on the monograph’s research and sources, stating that the quality of Werth’s sources and sporadic use of them at his leisure make the beginning chapters of the book “so thin as to be worthless”. Werth’s purpose for writing is clearly the vocalization of the Soviet people’s reactions to the events that unfolded from 1939-1945 but his message is diluted in the repetitive narrative structure of his prose and the questions raised but never addressed throughout the work.
The end result from analyzing Werth’s Russia at War 1939-1945 is a great wealth of first-hand Soviet accounts, intriguing military, diplomatic and press-related Soviet documents illustrating the events of the war and no real cohesive theme or discussion to tie it all together. There are plentiful examples of primary sources used in the monograph and recorded in the bibliography that could be used in researching the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact but actual evaluation of the material would best be found in other secondary sources. As Erickson perfectly summarizes, Alexander Werth’s “human judgments are excellent, but his political verdicts are, in the absence of weightier proof, questionable”. Further research on the topic should include Soviet documents publically released after 1964, multiple secondary sources investigating the motives of Stalin and Molotov in regards to signing the pact and other European and American sources discussing their take on the Soviet Union’s military decisions between the years of 1939-1941.

Bibliography

Clarkson, Jesse. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” The Journal of Modern History
38, no. 4 (Dec. 1966): 449-450, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1876714.html (accessed Oct. 12, 2014).

Dallin, Alexander. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” The American Historical Review 71, no. 1 (Oct. 1965): 262-263, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1863204.html (accessed Oct. 13, 2014).

Erickson, J. “Russia at War, 1941-1945 by Alexander Werth Review.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 41, no. 3 (Jul. 1965): 521-523, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2609831.html (accessed Oct. 12, 2014).

Werth, Alexander. Russia at War, 1941-1945. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1964.

http://blogs.uww.edu/jswhitney200

Preliminary Annotated Bibliography

Joseph Whitney
History 200
Historian’s Blog Assignment #2

1. Thesis Question: What were Stalin’s motives for agreeing to the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939?

2. Thesis Statement: Stalin entered into the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939 to promote
his foreign policy in the Baltic States and he did so by appointing new Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov, creating secret protocols within the treaty and actively engaging sovereign states in Eastern Europe.

3. Preliminary Annotated Bibliography

Gallagher, Matthew P. The Soviet History of World War II : Myths, Memories, and Realities. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1976.

Monograph (Secondary)

The monograph by Matthew P. Gallagher looks at the attitudes of Soviet military personal,
historians and writers both during and after World War II in order to illustrate the distortions that
occurred during the war and how they were reinterpreted in the years after. The amount of primary
and secondary sources that Gallagher analyzes could provide great insight into how Soviet historians
viewed the Nonaggression Pact of 1939 during the time it was released and into the years after the
war.

Hastings, Max. Inferno : The World at War, 1939-1945. First Vintage Books edition. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc, 2012.

Monograph (Secondary)

Max Hasting’s book focuses on the stories of ordinary people from all sides of the war and he
interprets many secondary sources that came before him to account for the events between 1939
and 1945. Attention is paid in the first several chapters to the relationship of the Soviet Union and
Germany between 1939 and 1941 and specifically the treatment of Polish prisoners by the Soviets at
Katyn and Minsk and the Soviet’s conflict with Finland. This source might be too broad for my
research but will lead me to more specific sources regarding Russia’s actions in gaining control of the
Baltic states during this period.

Kuromiya, Hiroaki. “Stalin and His Era.” The Historical Journal 50, no. 3 (September 1, 2007): 711-724.

Historiographical Source

This article examines Stalin’s perceived views on society and ideology in regards to newly released
Soviet archives that had become available to historians. The information presented recollects many
past views on Stalin from a number of historians and focuses on the Great Terror of 1937-1938 as
well as the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. This source could be used to comment on the conclusions
other historians have come to on these topics as well as the varying perceptions on Stalin himself.

“PACTS HURT AXIS, BROWDBR ASSERTS: He Sees Fascist Powers, Not the Democracies, Hit by the Hitler-Stalin Agreements POINTS TO SOVIET POLICY Russia Ready to Sign With Any Nation, He Says, Urging More Such Moves Communist Editors Attend Denies It Is Blow to Poland.” New York Times. New York, N.Y., United States, August 24, 1939. Accessed September 30, 2014. http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/103041485/abstract/E404FFA228104C59PQ/31?accountid=14791.

Primary Source

This newspaper article from August 24, 1939, revolves around the comments made from Earl
Browder, general secretary of the Communist Party, about the newly created pact between the
Soviet Union and Germany. The comments made from Browder emphasized that the Soviet
Union had no interest in Poland and his suggestion that Western powers should make similar
pacts with Hitler for a peaceful result. This is a great example of Soviet Union propaganda used
during the time to hide any true objective they had with the pact and this source can be used to
in parallel with my other sources.

Raack, R. C. “Stalin’s Plans for World War II.” Journal of Contemporary History 26, no. 2 (April 1, 1991): 215–227.

Historiographical Source

Raack discusses the possible reasons Stalin had for entering the Nonaggression Pact with Germany by
considering the testimony of high-ranking Soviet defectors and other sources previously unknown.
The article expands on the idea that Stalin was more interested in expanding Soviet power with the
pact as opposed to creating a defensive border with Germany. The information in this research would
support my thesis but I will have to compare it to more recent historical documents for comparison of
the conclusions in light of the evidence available.

Resis, Albert. “The Fall of Litvinov: Harbinger of the German-Soviet Non-Aggresion Pact.” Europe-Asia Studies 52, no. 1 (January 2000): 33-56.

Scholarly Article

The main point of Resis’ article is to determine the motives behind Stalin removing his Commissar
for Foreign Affairs, Maxim Litvinov, with Vyacheslav Mikhaylovich Molotov. Resis’ research
touches on the issues of Litvinov being of Jewish decent, his failed attempts at reaching a treaty with
France and Britain and Stalin’s foreign policy goals of obtaining territories to the West. The detail
addressed to this element of the Nonaggression Pact is essential to my research and one of the topics
I will be addressing in my paper.

Roberts, Geoffrey. “The Soviet Decision for a Pact with Nazi Germany.” Soviet Studies 44, no. 1 (February 1992): 1-24.

Historiographical Source

This article focuses on how the pact between the Soviet Union and Germany progressed from start
to finish through sources in Moscow and how Soviet foreign policy affected the outcome of the treaty.
Soviet diplomatic documents are included in the research, which had just been released around the
time of publication. This information is missing from some of my older sources so it will provide
an updated approach to understanding the Nonaggression Pact that I can compare with earlier
historical opinions.

Sato, Keiji. “Acknowledgement of the Secret Protocol of the German–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and the Declaration of State Sovereignty by the Union Republics of the USSR.” Europe-Asia Studies 66, no. 7 (September 2014): 1146–1164.

Scholarly Article

Author Keiji Sato reports on the points of view of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania)
and the Soviet Union during a commission meeting held in 1989 on the secret protocols included in
the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939. Sato spends time analyzing each argument from the
various countries on the validity of the secret protocols and how that affected territory in the present.
I believe this source is very objective in regards to interpreting the Commission and will be useful in
my research on the foreign policy matters that Stalin was aimed for with the pact in 1939.

Seweryn Bialer. Stalin and His Generals : Soviet Military Memoirs of World War II. New York: Pegasus, 1969.

Monograph (Secondary)

Bialer focuses on both Stalin and his various military personal in trying to understand the
reasons behind military decisions that the Soviet’s engaged in from the early 1930’s to the end of war.
From the first-hand military recollections presented, there is a lot of information on the details of the
Soviet Union’s acquisition of the Baltic states as well as details on Molotov and Ribbentrop, the
representatives of both governments that formed the Nonaggression Pact. This work is important for
my research because it provides Soviet military and government prospective on my topic that is
missing from my other sources.

Werth, Alexander. Russia at War, 1941-1945. 2nd Carroll & Graf ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Primary Source

This monograph from Alexander Werth takes into account his experiences and perceptions gathered
while working as a BBC commentator in Russia during the whole of World War II. Werth himself
was Russian born and had unique access to both Soviet officials as well as citizens’ interpretations
of events during the war. I plan to use this source for first-person accounts of how the Nonaggression
Pact was viewed and interpreted by differing government and military officals as well as Soviet
citizens.

Expository Essay Sample: What is History?

History 200: Historical Methods

Historian’s blog Assignment #1: The Historian’s Craft

Joseph Whitney

The casual student of history might describe the subject as dates and facts that are set in stone when in reality there could be nothing further from the truth.  Like a mathematical equation or a scientific principle that is recalculated with the presence of new understanding, history is always evolving and being reevaluated with the discovery of new evidence and a new approach of looking at it (Galgano 10).  This concept further reveals that people’s knowledge of history is produced, as well as limited, by the sources available to historians for analysis and the method the historian takes in his or her analysis (Galgano 2).  The research in this paper will demonstrate how history is the interpretation of primary and secondary sources by historians who, both subjectively and objectively, report their findings that can change with time and reinterpretation.

History as a field of study is unique in that it depends upon both the subjective and objective viewpoints of the researcher who is investigating the evidence.  For the historicist who views the subject of history as a humanity, the past can never be studied like an objective natural science completely because of the complexity of our assorted societies.  The numerous variables and differing historical contexts of the past forces the researcher to use his or her imagination to connect the dots and offer an interpretation based upon the available evidence (Galgano 4).  Historians cannot rely solely on their imaginations to complete their historical arguments though.  Only through a complete understanding of the available evidence can a historian make assertions to fill in the gaps that are believed but not directly supported to be true (Galgano 3). 

The importance of a subjective outlook when doing history is mirrored by the necessity of objective restraint in order to balance the end result of any historical research.  While the historian may not be able to completely eliminate his or her point of view on a subject, great care must be taken in order to prevent any prejudices from influencing the evaluation of research (Galgano 5).  While the historicist depends on interpretation, the positivist historian views history as a hard science where objectivity is paramount to the discovery of accurate and truthful historical accounts (Galgano 3).  Objectivity is equally important when dealing with the point of view or prejudice of a source being used.  A prejudice in a scholarly source forces the historian to be objective when analyzing it to have a better understanding of how it can be used in their research (Galgano 5). 

The ability of a historian to be both subjective and objective is essential to any historical interpretation because we are constantly reimagining history and what it means in our time.  Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States illustrates this point by theorizing that America’s founding fathers were interested in a stronger central government more for their own financial benefit than the accepted belief that it was for the good of the colonists (Galgano 8).  Historical interpretation varies so much because of the many theoretical and methodological approaches used by historians in the past and our present day (Galgano 13.)  Historical methods have evolved from the Progressive school to the objective Marxist, New Left and Annales approaches and finally to postmodern theory in the last hundred years, all due to differing viewpoints on how history should be done and the groups of people that should be studied (Galgano 8-10).  The ‘leap of imagination’ that German scholar Leopold von Ranke states is essential to understanding the past will always leave historical findings open to reinterpretation by historians who view the evidence differently (Galgano 7).

 History is the interpretation of primary and secondary sources by historians who, both subjectively and objectively, report their findings that can change with time and reinterpretation.  There is no ‘wrong’ way of doing history as long as the historian comes to a conclusion after extensive research from all the valid sources available at the time and does so in an objective manner while still allowing room for educated interpretation.  Interpretations from the past can teach just as much about the time period it was written in when compared to the subject the research was about.  History will always have room to grow and evolve as long as the researcher continues to search for new evidence, revisits past conclusions and when doing so, keeps an objective and subjective mind collectively.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://blogs.uww.edu/jswhitney200/

Bibliography

Galgano, Arndt, and Raymond Hyser. Doing History: Research and Writing in the Digital Age, Second Edition. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012.