Molotov-Ribbentrop, how much time did it buy? – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today I start a new historical series, based on this piece by our old friend, Evgeny Krutikov.  Krutikov wrote this piece a couple of days back, to commemorate the Russian holiday called “Day of Memory and Grief” marking the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union on June 21, 1941.  78 years have passed since that horrendous day, and historians still debate whether the attack could have been averted, or at least ameliorated.  Historians also debate the effect of the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union, was it a good idea, or a “pact with the devil”, as Krutikov asks.

Many of these young people never returned home.

I will get my own personal opinions out of the way, right up front, and then just continue on with Krutikov’s thoughts and analyses.  My loyal readers know that I am, for sure, no fan of Stalin’s.  The way he treated the Old Bolsheviks and even his own friends, was unforgivable, and I am sure he is roasting in Hell for that — if there were a Hell!  However, I am not one who thinks that Molotov-Ribbentrop was a bad idea — on the contrary, I think it was a good idea!  Given everything that was going on at the time.  Nor do I blame Stalin for being excessively unprepared for the invasion.  To be sure, he made mistakes.  Everybody gets lazy sometimes, everybody gets careless, everybody makes mistakes, and it’s easy to be an arm-chair quarterback.  To be sure, it would have been nice if Stalin had not personally torn apart the Soviet Union’s foreign intelligence apparatus in his insane witch hunt of “Trotskyites”, leaving perfectly good spies like Kim Philby in limbo for long months.  Spies even better than Philby, who were out in the Cold gathering good Intel and desperately trying to warn…  But… water under the bridge.  And now I proceed with Krutikov’s analysis:

Old Ideological Debates

Krutikov begins with the old ideological debates.  It is popular among certain circles of the Russian “intelligentsia” to question the efficacy of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which attempted to define and demarcate the “spheres of influence” of, respectively, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  Molotov-Ribbentrop moved the boundaries of Soviet influence westward by quite a lot, this gained space, as well as time.  Space that tanks had to pass through on their way to Moscow.  Which was the whole point.

“Shippers” called them “Molentropp”

Some ideologues believe that the pact was “immoral”, as in, how can you even make deals with a guy like Hitler?  The correct answer is:  Everybody was doing it.  Realpolitik, baby.  Back in those days this was a normal thing.  Partitioning territory (even somebody else’s territory) and chopping up parts of Europe like it was a pizza pie — this was totally normal and everybody was doing it.  Yes, even the saintly Poles, and the other so-called “democratic” countries.  Churchill, for starters, didn’t see anything wrong with this, nor did Roosevelt.  Although, as always, the Americans had their own view of matters:  they didn’t care what happened to anybody else, so long as they got all the money and free markets.  Really, the only people who were distressed by the Pact were the Leftie intelligentsia.  Those who believed that, for ideological reasons, the Soviet Union would never behave like a normal European country.  Both major factions of the worldwide Communist movement, Stalinists and Trotskyists (especially the latter) lost tons of followers overnight and the morning after…

And a tiny bit of Lithuania…

The “pact” was not a done deal even after it was signed.  The two sides continued to squabble over the details and were constantly correcting the drawn boundaries.  One example was the fate of a little chunk of land called Suvalkija, inhabited by native Balts, but used to belong to Poland in the 19th century.  The region is also known as Sūduva.

Ethnic regions of Lithuania, with Sūduva highlighted.

In one of the secret protocols of the Pact, Germany agreed to withdraw its claim to Suvalkija, in return for $7.5 million gold dollars.  To be paid, in part, by precious metals, but mostly by gold.

Krutikov goes on to refute arguments made by hard-core Stalinists, who claim that this secret protocol was a forgery.  As in, “Our hero would never hand over so much Soviet gold to the Nazis.”  The conspiracy theorists have 2 main debating points:  (1)  the German Ambassador Schulenburg signed his name with a “von” on the “phony” (or should I say “vonny”)  pact, “proving” [air quotes] that it is a forgery, since he wasn’t really a “von”; and (2) the real Nazis would have named their price in German Marks, and not American dollars.

“Vot???? Schulie hast betrayed me too?”

To point #1 Krutikov replies:  No, Schulenburg really did have a “von” in front of his name, at least sometimes.  Wiki agrees.  In fact, this man had such a long name that there was pretty much everything in it, not just a “von” but also a “Graf”:   Friedrich-Werner Erdmann Matthias Johann Bernhard Erich Graf von der Schulenburg.  Longest name in history?  In wiki we also learn the sad fate of this aristocratic gentleman:  In July 1944 he allegedly plotted to blow up Hitler and was executed for his efforts.  It is said that it took Hitler 3 days just to write out the execution order [’cause, see, his name was so long …. lame joke…]  Anyhow, Krutikov’s point is that Schulie, as his friends called him, did indeed sign this deal that exchanged Suvalkija for sweet, sweet, Soviet gold.

Speaking of which, to refute point #2 Krutikov points out:  The American gold dollar (a dollar backed by actual gold) was the standard currency of that era.  [O how times have changed!]  And it was quite normal that Germany and the Soviet Union should agree on such a price in this standard currency.

In conclusion:  The Secret Protocol was not a forgery, Furries notwithstanding, and the tiny region of Suvalkija truly was purchased by the Soviet Union from Nazi Germany for THIS AMAZING PRICE of $7.5 million dollars!

[to be continued]

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