The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
August 23, 1939
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
•The non-aggression pact between Germany and the
Soviet Union was signed on August 23, 1939, in
Moscow, by the German Foreign Minister Joachim
von Ribbentrop and the People’s Commissar for
Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav
•The parties pledged to avoid aggression against
each other and any unions or agreement against the
Molotov signing the
August 23, 1939.
Ribbentrop and Stalin
are in the back row.
Photograph courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Pages of Signature
The Secret Agreement
The Secret Protocol
•The secret protocol of the treaty divided Northern and Eastern Europe
into Soviet and German spheres of influence. Finland and the Baltic
countries, plus Bessarabia that belonged to Romania – belonged in the
Soviet sphere, while Poland was divided between the Soviets and the
•The treaty enabled Germany to attack Poland, which happened on
September 1, 1939, now considered the beginning of World War II.
•The Soviets used Germany’s attack on Poland to coerce the Baltic
countries to accept and sign agreements of mutual assistance. Finland
refused to sign such an agreement.
•The Soviet Union attacked Finland, starting the Winter War, and was
declared an aggressor by the League of Nations and expelled.
•In the summer of 1940 the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries
Minutes of 1939 Estonian-Soviet Negotiations
Below is a translated transcript of the full negotiations leading up to the Soviet occupation
of Estonia. Since they are so long, a few key comments have been excerpted.
Molotov: (into the telephone) Comrade Stalin, come here. Mr. Selter and the other Estonian gentlemen are here with me. He and
his associates argue against our new proposal. They call it occupation and other dreadful names. Come and help me to persuade
them of the necessity of our proposal.
Stalin: The measures we provided in this pact are absolutely necessary. To these measures belong also the garrisons of our
troops in Estonia totaling 25,000. Do not force us to look for other possibilities ‘for the security of the Soviet Union’. Do not be
afraid of these garrisons. We assure you again as we did before, that the Soviet Union does not want in any way to harm either
the Estonian sovereignty, government, economic system, or the internal life of Estonia, or her foreign policy.
Stalin: The agreement has been achieved. I can tell you that the Estonian government acted well and wisely in the interests of the
Estonian people by concluding the agreement with the Soviet Union. It could have happened to you what happened to Poland.
Poland was a great country. Yet, where is Poland now? Where is Moscicki, Rydz-Smigly, Beck? Yes, I am telling you frankly—you
acted well and in the interests of your people,
Selter: This is also the opinion of my government, my colleagues and myself. There remains one more matter for me to touch
upon. In the last days your warplanes have been repeatedly violating Estonian borders and flying over Estonian territory. So far,
we have been abstaining from shooting at them. But I lodged protests with your Minister in Tallinn and with Mr. Molotov. These
flights are inappropriate, especially now, during the time of our negotiations. We know that you have plenty of planes, many more
than those that have been flying: over Estonia in demonstration. We know that the Soviet Union is strong. What is the purpose of
overdoing the demonstration of your power?
Stalin: Well, these were young inexperienced airmen. They make errors. They are not attentive enough to their orders. But we
can make an end to that. That will not happen again.
•Germany invades Poland in September 1939.
•Germany begins bombing Britain in July 1940 and continues
through Sept. 15, 1940.
•July 1940: Hitler plans the invasion of Britain, as Churchill refuses
•Sept. 15th, the Royal Air Force of Britain shoots down 61 German
planes placing the air dominance of Germany in question.
•Hitler postpones the invasion of Britain on Sept. 17, 1940.
•Hitler prepares to invade Russia on June 22, 1941 thus breaking
the MRP non-aggression pact.
•Hitler’s hatred of communism fueled his plan to dominate
The Atlantic Charter
•August 9-12, 1941: Roosevelt and Churchill proclaim the
Atlantic Charter the basis for allied resistance.
The Atlantic Charter would later become the basis for the
United Nations in June of 1945. The basic premise was to
allow “a peace that will afford all nations the means of
dwelling in safety inside their own boundaries.”
•Roosevelt and Churchill assumed a “Germans First”
strategy as they proclaimed the Nazi movement the main
The De-Facto Ally
•The Axis Powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan.
•On December 7, 1941, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and
brings the United States into the conflict.
•On June 22, 1941, Germany attacks the Soviet Union.
•The Soviet Union becomes a de-facto ally of the United
States and Britain.
•Germany becomes the common enemy of the United
States, Britain, and the Soviet Union.
•The Soviets agree to fight with the United States against
Japan once Germany is defeated.
The Soviet Union vs. Germany
• The Soviets fought tirelessly and took on millions of
casualties until the winter season arrived.
• “General Winter” was a term used to describe the conditions
that acted as a military advantage for the Soviets. The
German army literally froze in their tracks.
• On January 15, 1942, Hitler authorized the first German
retreat of the war. The Germans could not contend with the
• The Soviets begin their counter assault as they move
• In February, 1945, the United States, Britain, and the
Soviet Union began to plan for a postwar Europe. This
conference at Yalta would produce decisions that
would have major implications into the 20th century.
• On May 1, 1945, the Germans announced that Hitler
had committed suicide.
• Seven days later, on May 8, Germany surrendered.
The Yalta Conference
Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress
Crimean Conference -- Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
and Marshal Joseph Stalin at the palace in Yalta, where the Big Three met.
The Yalta Conference
•February, 1945: The conference at Yalta produced decisions that were decidedly
among the most important of the 20th century, perhaps of modern history.
Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin carved up much of the modern world and set into
motion the creation of the foundation of the world's first real world government, the
•During this conference, Stalin convinced Roosevelt and Churchill that he would
control Eastern Europe for security reasons so that the Soviet Union would never be
threatened by Germany again. He also promised to allow for the people of the
occupied nations to have elections and allow the people to choose their own type of
government, especially Poland.
•Formerly independent countries believed that Stalin would follow the Atlantic
Charter, after all, he was an ally of the United States and Britain.
•Stalin used the MRP along with the pacts of mutual assistance signed by the Baltic
countries in 1939 to convince Roosevelt and Churchill that he should be responsible
for the Eastern European transition. Churchill, while wary of Stalin and his motives,
recognized the non-aggression pact as a valid document and that the Baltic States
should remain under Soviet control.
Play Disc 2
1939-1956: The Soviet & Nazi Occupations:
Comments on the Atlantic Charter/
• Please go to Marju Lauristin’s comments
at 3:45 - 4:29 in the video
• After losing more than 20 million of its own people in WWII,
the Soviets were determined to protect their own self
interests. One way to do this was to establish “satellite
nations” that would be subject to Soviet domination. They
would set up governments that would be friendly to
• The Soviets moved quickly to silence anti-communist
leaders in these “satellite nations.”
• These “satellite nations” created a buffer for the Soviet
Union against any further Nazi or German aggression.
Estonia’s 50 Years
• For the next 50 years the Estonians, among others,
would remain under the strict control of the Soviet
• During that time, the people held on to their culture
through folk song and the study of Estonian history.
• The people had to be creative in their efforts because of
the constant political pressures placed upon them by the
Soviet central command.
• It was essential that the Estonian people exposed the
MRP as an illegal document so that it could be voided on
the international level.
Play Disc 3
1987-1991: The Singing Revolution
• Details on the 1987 Hirve Park Demonstration
Total Time 10:54
Play Disc 3
1987-1991: The Singing Revolution
• The Baltic Bloc - MRP Acknowledged in Moscow
Total Time 8:57
The Secret Protocol Is Exposed
• In 1989 the secret protocols of the MRP were made public. The Soviets could no longer
deny the secret agreement between the Germans and themselves and their plan to divide
up Eastern Europe before the start of WWII. The Soviet Union denied the existence of the
secret protocol until 1989, when the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union
declared the MRP and its secret addenda null and void.
• Over 50 years later, the secret protocols became the basis for the Estonian legal
challenge against the Soviet Union. They used this new information to make the legal
argument that the Soviets had occupied their country as a result of the secret protocols of
the MRP. From 1940 until 11:03am on August 20, 1991, the Soviets ruled the Estonian
• This challenge won the recognition of other countries that Estonia was now a sovereign
• Iceland recognized Estonia as an independent state. Russia followed suit 2 days later as
Boris Yeltsin’s Russia recognized Estonia on August 24, 1991. The United States waited
until September 4, 1991, to declare formal recognition.
• On September 17, 1991, Estonia was admitted to the United Nations.
The Document of Occupation and Liberation
• The Soviet military finally left Estonia in 1994, three
years after the restoration of Estonian independence.
• Many Estonians believed that this was the “real” end
of WWII for them and their country.
• Had the secret protocol of the MRP been kept secret,
it may have postponed the eventual freedom of the
Estonian people and the fall of the Soviet Union.