Foreign policy 1922–41
Determined by the fear that the Soviet Union would be encircled by the capitalist powers, Stalin pursued a defensive foreign policy aimed at securing the Bolshevik system of rule. At the same time, through the influence of the Comintern, he succeeded in turning the communist parties around the world into aid organizations for Soviet foreign policy.
With the Rapallo Treaty (1922) and the Berlin Treaty (1926), Germany emerged as the Soviet Union’s most important foreign policy partner. Represented in international diplomacy from 1930-39 by M. M. Litwinow as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, the Soviet Union moved closer to the western democracies, especially France and Great Britain, in view of the growing National Socialism in Germany and the aggressive foreign policy of Germany under Hitler. Relations with the German Reichswehr that had existed since the early 1920s were ended in 1933. The Soviet Union now pursued a policy of collective security and joined the League of Nations in 1934. In 1932 she concluded a non-aggression pact with Poland, and in 1935 assistance pacts with France and Czechoslovakia. In the Sudeten crisis, Stalin supported the Czechoslovak government. After the conclusion of the Munich Agreement (1938), in which the Western powers made extensive concessions to National Socialist Germany, Stalin left, who saw himself confirmed in his suspicion of the western capitalist states, from the policy of collective security in favor of a more offensive foreign policy. In August 1939, the Soviet government negotiated simultaneously with a British-French military mission and a German delegation. While the conclusion of a treaty with the Western Powers v. a. because of their reluctance to respond to Stalin’s demands, Molotov (now also People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs) and the German Foreign Minister J. von Ribbentrop signed a German-Soviet non-aggression pact (Hitler-Stalin Pact) with a secret additional protocol on the division of Poland and the rest of East Central Europe. After the German attack on Poland (September 1, 1939), Soviet troops occupied eastern Poland from September 17, 1939 up to the line agreed with Germany. Thousands of Polish officers who had been captured by the Soviets were murdered in 1940 by NKVD troops (Katyn).
According to neovideogames, the German-Soviet friendship and border treaty concluded on September 28, 1939 established the mutual border along the rivers Narew, Bug and San, which brought the Soviet Union a land gain of around 200,000 km2 with almost 13 million residents. After the conclusion of assistance pacts with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which also had to provide military bases, the Baltic states became part of the Soviet Union in 1940 following manipulated votes as “Soviet Socialist Republics”. After Finland responded to the Soviet demands by v. a. was not received after releasing bases, the Red Army crossed the Finnish border on November 30, 1939 and thus triggered the Finnish-Soviet winter war (1939-40) (World War II). The League of Nations excluded the Soviet Union from its ranks on December 14, 1939. In the peace of March 12, 1940, Finland had to make territorial concessions to the Soviet Union and grant it a base.
In East Asia, the second center of Soviet interests, the Soviet Union found itself on the defensive after Chiang Kai-shek’s bloody suppression of the Chinese Communists. In January 1935, Japan forced the Soviet Union to sell the East China Railways it owned to the Japanese satellite state of Manchukuo. The threatened danger of a Japanese attack on the Soviet positions in the Far East could only be averted after fierce fighting (1938 on Lake Chasan and 1939 on the Manchurian-Mongolian border). The outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937, the conclusion of a non-aggression and friendship alliance with Chiang Kai-shek and a non-aggression treaty with Japan (April 13, 1941), achieved under changed global political conditions, secured the Soviet Union in the east.
The »Great Patriotic War« (1941–45)
With the attack by German troops on the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941, National Socialist Germany initiated a war of conquest with the aim of largely annihilating the Slavic peoples (General Plan East). The advance led the German armies in three large army groups to the gates of Leningrad and Moscow as well as to the foothills of the Caucasus. In addition to the element of surprise (the Soviet leadership and the Red Army were largely unprepared despite repeated foreign warnings of the impending attack), the initial German success also resulted from the “purges” of the Soviet officers’ corps in 1937/38 (liquidation of the majority of the military leadership cadre, Tschistka). In the battle of Moscow (late 1941) the German blitzkrieg strategy failed; the victory of the Soviet armed forces at Stalingrad and Kursk (1943) marked the turning point of World War II.