As a sort of P.S. or codicil to my last series of posts on the Molotov-Ribbentrop (M-R) Pact, I have this piece from today by Anton Nikitin. And, even more importantly, Nikin’s piece links to this site put up by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Entitled “A Fragile World on the Threshhold of War”, the site posts the DE-ciphered freakin’ archives relating to the wheelings and dealings of that time. This will be a veritable goldmine for historians studying European history of that era, as well as WWII buffs in general. I hope (and assume) that the Russian government will proceed to translate these documents into the various European languages, especially English, and make those translations available as well, because neither Google translate, nor any bots nor AI apps, will not be able to capture the essence.
According to Nikitin, the documents contain info about the preparation and conclusion of the M-R Pact, and some of this juicy stuff is being revealed for the first time! For example, there is an encrypted telegram from Lev Mekhlis, High Commander and Commissar of the Red Army from 1937 onwards, responsible for 5 different fronts, and survived through to the end of the war.
In 1939 Mekhlis, in a telegram to Stalin and Voroshilov, wrote about the “unfeigned enthusiasm” of Ukrainian villagers when the Red Army marched through their Polish corridor: “The Ukrainian population greets our army as true liberators. Even the front-line units, heading to war, have flowers tossed at them. The population welcomes our troops and commanders, even forces upon them against their will apples, pies, drinking water, etc…. Many are weeping from joy.” Local residents helped the Reds disarm certain units of the Polish army, while expressing an interest in living in the USSR. It is unlikely that Mekhlis was exagerrating: There was no love lost between Ukrainian peasants and their haughty Polish overlords.
Another series of documents reveals secret Soviet fears in 1938 that, in the end, the Poles will ally with Nazi Germany against the USSR. According to General Boris Shaposhnikov, who headed the Red Army General Staff, you can’t trust the Poles further than you can throw them. Shaposhnikov warned that Germany might form an axis not only with Italy, but also with Poland. Poland would have been able to contribute over 160 infantry divisions, over 7,000 tanks and 4,500 planes to the fascist potluck. Knowing these inner thoughts and fears of the Soviet General Staff, it adds mitigation to their later decision to just go for it and screw Poland. I mean, it’s not like the Poles ever did anything nice for Russia.
The un-secreted archives also include the memoirs of German [his actual first name] Böhme, Lieutenant-General of the German army, who was taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1945. Böhme had participated in the 1939 attack on Poland in the Second Army Corpus, Commander of the 73rd Infantry Division. He compiled his memoirs in 1949, and they have now also been de-classified and form a part of this exhibit.
And there are also lots of other memoirs and other goodies, in addition to the deciphered telegrams. Historians of the world, please to dive in!