September 21, 1938 – as the crisis over the Sudeten question between Nazi Germany and Czechoslovakia escalated to a dangerous level, The League Of Nations, forerunner to The United Nations and formed expressly for preventing situations like this to go out of hand, held emergency meetings looking for a solution to the situation.
One of those to give an address in support of intervention, should Czechoslovakia be the object of an armed confrontation, was Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov. Litvinov expresed support of the Czech government and said, in effect, that they would come to the aid of the Czech government if the situation arose. However, it wasn’t enthusiastically received by neighboring countries Rumania and Poland, as it meant the Russian Army would have to cross those territories in order to aid Prague, and that idea became very bad very quickly. But Litvinov was willing to express support for the Czech cause. And this address before the League of Nations was a much anticipated one by the world community.
Also, it should be noted, this was one of the very first times the proceedings of the League Of Nations or any world organizing body were broadcast to a worldwide audience, and even though much of what Litvinov said is barely understandable, the idea of being able to hear history in the making, the moment it was being made was an exciting and momentous occasion. It would be ironic that listening to the inner workings of such an august body of political and military powers, discussing an issue that could easily lead to war, also wound up pointing out just how little The League of Nations actually was influential in guiding world peace, as would be painfully prevalent less than a year later. Britain and France wound up being the major players in the this crisis – and with even Czechoslovakia not able to participate – and The Soviet Union, though willing to participate, was ham-strung by geography and borders. And of course, if you were Poland and Rumania, would you trust Moscow?
Now, of course, it’s only a matter of airspace and crisis management takes minutes, rather than weeks or months.
In any event, as a purely historic document of a anxiety-provoking time, here is that complete address by Soviet Minister Maxim Litvinov, with commentary and a lot of static and garbled words.