Originally Posted by Shik
I think this is quit an interesting topic. Because alot of Stalin's advisors were Jewish.... Although Stalin, an anti-semite, did move Litvinov on a sidetrack he still gathered Jewish hencemen around him. So how the mainstream historiographers see this topic?
Hardly anyone would suspect that Stalin is antisemite in 1939. In this regard I agree with explanation given by Molotov in his memoirs: Soviet foreign policy was (like everything) tightly centralized, and Litvinov was just its executor, not originator. 1933-1938 policy of "national front" has obviously failed in 1939, so Litvinov who was publicly most associated with it had to go. Not having a Jew as foreign minister surely widened Soviet maneuvering space, but it was far from pact yet.
In order to explore understing of pact, we must remember following:
- policy of National Front prior to 1939. USSR was the most vocal open enemy of nazism, while western powers were appeasing. That's what communists were hearing for years, and they were hating appeasers.
- The National Front policy required agreement from other non-fascist parties, which didn't come. The policy was obvious failure in 1939, and in communist eyes democrats were culprits.
- Even in 1939, the anti-German military alliance talks in Moscow were failing terribly, each party blaming the other one. In eyes of communists, that meant western powers don't want alliance.
- Remember at the time of Pact, Nazi invasion to Poland was imminent and Soviets were having clashes on eastern front, so they were under acute danger of isolated fighting on 2 fronts.
- The refuse of Poland to let Soviet armies enter their soil was the main question over which alliance talks with Britain and France failed.
- Since beginning of 1939, Nazi propaganda was progressively more and more openly hinting that western powers are trying to leave soviets "fighting for them".
So the stage was clearly set for major policy change in USSR. But the years of communists being the most anti-nazi power also had huge influence.
Also keep in mind the pact was preached only as neutrality, non-aggression. The secret protocol wasn't publicly known, and the soviet invasion of Poland on 17.9 was excused by claiming Polish state has already disintegrated, and Soviets are entering to protect minorities of Soviet states (Ukrainians, Belorussians). The pact didn't mean Soviets openly "side with Nazis", they just ceased being actively anti-nazi. Basically, Soviets and western powers switched roles in their attitudes towards Nazi Germany. Later, there were several major documents which were bit more sympathetic towards nazis than western powers, but that's different topic.
On 23.8, the news release about the pact created shock among Slovak communists. They were surprised and confused. They tried to understand why USSR did this, from whatever sources they had. In Slovakia it was mostly propaganda of pro-Nazi regime, and several older speeches from Moscow radio critical of western allies for not wanting to form alliance with USSR. Immediately they met, formulated some rather blunt explanation and started "explaining campaign" in their ranks.
Effect of old anti-nazi policy was still strong, and communists found neutrality with nazi Germany disturbing. The campaign at the time basically said "western powers tried to maneuver USSR into isolated war with Germany" and "Soviets managed to find peaceful solution" (the old argument of "appeasers" criticized most by communists). After Nazis invaded USSR, the "peace" argument was explained as an evil necessary to keep the pact, and the purpose of pact explained as buying off some time and land, both vital to Soviet defense.
The lasting effect of old anti-nazi policy can be seen in one "blunder" of Slovak communist leadership, which didn't have direct contact with Moscow. When Nazis invaded Poland (while the pact was still fresh news), they released illegal leaflet explaining both pact and new situation of German-Polish war. While pact was already explained more/less along soviet line, the Polish defense against German was declared just and communists were urged to help Poles. Later, after Soviets joined in the aggression according to secret protocol, Slovak communists had to change their explanation too.
But also remember, that in 1939, the Soviet-type communism was a religion. People were judged and judged themselves according to strength of their faith in Soviet Union. Even private doubting whatever Soviet Union decided was seen as embarrassing defect, and people were struggling to accept the official line. So basically everyone was confused and had doubts about the pact, but they all accepted official explanation publicly and strived to also accept it privately. Very few openly expressed doubts, and some of them later paid with their life for this (Vladimir Clementis)