Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact

Ribbentrop (Left) - Molotov (Right) - Stalin (center) - " . .and now, a pleasant smile please".

August 23-24, 1939 – The Molotov-Ribbentrop/Soviet-Nazi Non Aggression Pact – The Strange And Unholy Alliance.

Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact
Ribbentrop (Left) – Molotov (Right) – Stalin (center) – ” . . . and now, a pleasant smile please”.
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August 23, 1939 – BBC Home Service News – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

August 23-24, 1939 – The news this day concerned the signing of a non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Dubbed The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treat, because of the two principle negotiators, Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, as well as the Hitler-Stalin pact because it brought together two diametrically opposing forces and presented them as allies. A move that left the rest of the world perplexed and Communists around the world disgusted with Stalin.

In essence, the pact provided a written guarantee of peace by each party towards the other and a commitment that declared that neither government would ally itself to or aid an enemy of the other. In addition to the publicly-announced stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty included the Secret Protocol, which defined the borders of Soviet and German spheres of influence across Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The secret protocol also recognized the interest of Lithuania in the Vilnius region, and Germany declared its complete disinterest in Bessarabia. The rumor of the existence of the Secret Protocol was proved only when it was made public during the Nuremberg Trials.

Soon after the pact, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September, one day after a Soviet–Japanese ceasefire came into effect after the Battles of Khalkhin Gol. After the invasions, the new border between the two countries was confirmed by the supplementary protocol of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty. In March 1940, parts of the Karelia and Salla regions, in Finland, were annexed by the Soviet Union after the Winter War. That was followed by the Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and parts of Romania (Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and the Hertza region). Concern for ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians had been used as pretexts for the Soviets’ invasion of Poland. Stalin’s invasion of Bukovina in 1940 violated the pact since it went beyond the Soviet sphere of influence that had been agreed with the Axis.

The territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union after the 1939 Soviet invasion east of the Curzon line remained in the Soviet Union after the war ended and are now in Ukraine and Belarus. Vilnius was given to Lithuania. Only Podlaskie and a small part of Galicia east of the San River, around Przemyśl, were returned to Poland. Of all the other territories annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 to 1940, those detached from Finland (Western Karelia, Petsamo), Estonia (Estonian Ingria and Petseri County) and Latvia (Abrene) remain part of Russia, the successor state to the Russian SSR after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The territories annexed from Romania had also been integrated into the Soviet Union (as the Moldavian SSR or oblasts of the Ukrainian SSR). The core of Bessarabia now forms Moldova. Northern Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Hertza now form the Chernivtsi Oblast of Ukraine. Southern Bessarabia is part of the Odessa Oblast, which is also in Ukraine.

Here is a rundown on the pact, as well as reactions and heightened tensions throughout Europe as a result with the prospect of war becoming a reality within days, as presented by the National Programme from the BBC.

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3 thoughts on “August 23-24, 1939 – The Molotov-Ribbentrop/Soviet-Nazi Non Aggression Pact – The Strange And Unholy Alliance.

  1. I believe this broadcast actually dates from 24 August rather than 23. Apologies for not having timestamps here, but some way into this recording, the announcer begins reporting Neville Chamberlain’s statement on the international situation live as the transcript comes in. He says that The Prime Minister “rose to make his statement at 7 minutes to 3.” (A little earlier as a talk is going on, we hear the ‘pips’ for 3 o’clock.)

    According to Hansard, the official record of everything said in the UK parliament, Chamberlain began this speech at 2:54 P.M on 24 August 1939. In it Chamberlain talks about King Leopold’s speech made “yesterday”, which the BBC announcer also says happened yesterday or possibly last night. Also while I’m not certain of this, I suspect this is actually the overseas service and not the home service.

    Firstly it turns 3 PM as the recording is running, and the Home Service (which in fact didn’t come into being for at least another week, before the war it was called The National Programme) broadcast it’s ‘first news’ at 6 PM. Of course it could have broadcast news earlier because of the developing situation, but I’m not sure The National Programme could be received outside the British Isles anyway. Also, I don’t think they even brought forward The First News for the actual invasion of Poland!

    What different times… and how far behind the times we were in our attitude to news! Or was it that the US was ahead of its time?

    1. I was thinking so too – but there was a reference made about the signing “earlier this morning” and double checking, the signing did occur on the 23rd. But then “earlier this morning” in Moscow time is a few hours later. This broadcast was monitored via shortwave at Mutual – I took the assumption it was The Home Service based on other broadcasts from the BBC – but, those were later on when the war started. I will go with your assessment and perhaps add a 23-24 on to the title.

      Thanks for the clarification.


  2. Thanks for your reply Gordon, and cheers for taking my thoughts into account. I decided to dig into The Times and I think I have cracked our little puzzle. First, the paper confirms Hansard’s date of the speech by Chamberlain that the announcer is reporting live as Thursday August 24th. Also on the 24th there was this report sent from Moscow…

    “From Our Special Correspondent MOSCOW, AUG. 23
    Herr von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, arrived in Moscow by air at 1 p.m. with his staff of
    30, and called on M. Molotoff, the Prime Minister, at about 3 o’clock. The two Foreign Ministers remained at least three hours together. The upshot
    of their conversaition is not revealed.

    A dinner and reception were held this evening at the German Embassy.”

    And from Aug 25…

    “Like other London newspapers, The Times has received a certain number of complaints from readers that two important items in this week’s news were not
    in the edition of the paper which they received. The first item was the announcement on Monday night of negotiations between Germany and Russia;
    the second was the terms of the non-aggression pact signed by those countries on Wednesday night. In neither case was the news available in London before
    midnight – in the second case, indeed, not until nearly 3 a.m. – long after the earlier editions had been distributed.”

    So while the Pact was signed on the night of the 23rd/24th, we didn’t have the news here in London until 3 o’clock on the morning of the 24th, which is why the announcer says the agreement was signed “in the early hours of this morning.” Could also have been a bit of confusion as to when exactly it was signed, but that time was when the news reached us… which of course in the states would still be about 9 PM or earlier of the 23rd!

    Well, I hope you’ll forgive my sticking my oar in, and that I don’t seem like a show-off. ☺ Just want to be helpful, and to do the work to show I’m not just speculating haha. I thought this quote about the Pact was rather nice so I’ll throw it in…

    “It is generally thought that the week-end will be critical; Germany will no doubt exploit the signing of her Pact of Friendship with her former sworn enemy. The Pact is regarded as an unparalleled example of international
    duplicity; but it in no way affects the present issue, which is quite simple. If Poland has to resist the German attack, now increasingly threatened,
    Great Britain and France will immediately throw all their strength into the war.”

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