Europe marks 80 years since Nazi-Soviet ‘misery pact’

Europe marks 80 years since Nazi-Soviet ‘misery pact’

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was signed 80 years ago in a supposed neutrality deal which secretly divided Poland between the two dictatorships. 

The August 23, 1939, deal allowed Germany to invade Poland and Josef Stalin to annex Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland.

Eastern Poland and part of Romania were also handed to the Soviets.

The foreign ministers of Poland, Romania and the three Baltic states said the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement “doomed half of Europe to decades of misery”.

They said the millions of victims “compel us to promote historical justice by… raising public awareness of the totalitarian legacy on the European continent”, warning against disinformation campaigns aimed at manipulating history.

To mark the anniversary in 1989, around 2 million people joined hands across the Baltics states in an anti-Soviet protest, called the Baltic Way. 

For 15 minutes they held hands along more than 650km from Tallinn in Estonia, through Riga in Latvia to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

The initiative called on western Europe to oppose totalitarianism and was seen as helping breach the iron curtain in the months that followed. 

The European Parliament chose August 23 as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes, marking the “deaths and broken lives were a consequence of the crimes perpetrated under the ideology of Nazism and Stalinism”.

Moscow has marked the 1939 agreement by saying that Russia offered an alliance to France and Britain to counter Germany, but the talks failed. 

The “irresponsible and cowardly policies” of London and Paris pushed Germany to attack the Soviet Union, said foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin.

“Not wanting to wage war on two fronts, Germany made unprecedented concessions to guarantee Soviet neutrality in the Polish campaign,” he said. 

Russia this week put both the original Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and its secret protocol on display for the first time.

It is included at an exhibition at the State Archives in Moscow alongside the 1938 Munich agreement, where Czechoslovakia was abandoned to the Nazis, to the outbreak of Second World War. 

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow only signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact because other countries tried to appease Hitler, like the UK and France at Munich. 

“Naively calculating that the war would pass them by, the western powers played a double game. They tried to steer Hitler’s aggression eastwards. In those conditions, the USSR had to safeguard its own national security by itself,” the minister said.

“The Soviet Union was forced on its own to ensure its national security and signed a non-aggression pact with Germany.”

 

Joachim von Ribbentrop in Moscow in 1939. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

 

 

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