23 August 1939, when the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany signed an agreement with a secret protocol known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop (also Stalin-Hitler) Pact, is one of the most tragic days of the 20th century. This deal triggered the war that would expand into World War II. The estimated number of people who died on account of World War II is 70 to 80 million. Estonia lost in the 1940s and 1950s due to war, terror and fleeing about a fifth of its population.
Both great powers were one-party states at the time. The National Socialist German Workers’ Party followed an ethnic-racial supremacy theory by placing in the centre of all creation the so-called ‘Aryan race’ and German nation, that destroyed humanity; the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (later Communist Party of the Soviet Union) used The Communist Manifesto (Marx, Engels, 1840), which envisioned class struggle and the creation of a new, classless world order by employing violence and radical reorganization. However, the regimes were similar in the centralised and repressive manner in which power was exercised and belligerence, which supposedly created the prerequisites for the 1939 pact.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with its secret protocol was possible because democratic Western countries lacked the political will for cooperation and determination to stand up to aggressors, and against a backdrop of great turmoil in society, inhuman regimes took internationally power. It is an important lesson to learn, which we have no right to forget, if we wish to live in freedom.
The secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – the long road to the annulment of the two totalitarian regimes’ criminal treaty. Chronology of events
21 August 1939 Stalin ends negotiations with France and Great Britain which were being held as a response to Germany’s aggressive steps in Europe.
23 August 1939 The Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany sign a non-aggression pact with a secret protocol that divides Eastern Europe into spheres of influence between the two. The treaty becomes known in history as the Molotov-Ribbentrop (MRP) or Stalin-Hitler Pact.
1 September 1939 Germany begins the invasion of Poland, the Soviet Union’s attack on Poland follows on 17 September.
28 September 1939 The Soviet-German treaty of friendship and cooperation is signed, with which the fourth partition of Poland is finalised. A secret protocol amends the agreement of 23 August: Lithuania is added to the Soviet Union’s and the Lublin territory of Poland to the German sphere of influence.
Autumn 1939 Following the secret protocol of the MRP, the Soviet Union pressures the Baltic States and Finland so that they would permit the creation of Soviet military bases in their territories. The Baltic States agree, but Finland refuses. The Soviet Union attacks Finland, who manages to protect itself, but loses a significant part of its territory.
Summer 1940 According to the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union occupies the Baltic States using military power and manipulation. Mass repressions begin, causing the death of tens of thousands of people.
13 October 1940 The Soviet Union’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Molotov meets Hitler in Berlin. They discuss further cooperation opportunities, including the ‘only unfulfilled part’ of the MRP – the question of the occupation of Finland.
22 June 1941 Germany attacks the Soviet Union which renders the non-aggression pact (MRP) invalid.
1945 At the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences the leaders of the winning countries of World War II formalise the agreements that consolidate for decades the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence acquired on the basis of the secret protocol of the MRP and founded on military conquests. Many nations fall (again) victim to communist repressions. The “Cold War” begins.
23 August 1979 The public letter of 45 Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian citizens (the Baltic Appeal) to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the governments of the Soviet Union, West Germany, East Germany and the signatories of the Atlantic Charter the USA and the UK reaches Western media. The appeal demands the public disclosure of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols, the invalidation of the pact from the moment of its signing, and the restoration of the independence of the Baltic States.
23 August 1987 A political demonstration organised by MRP-AEG (Estonian Group for the Public Disclosure of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) takes place in Tallinn’s Hirvepark, demanding publicly the disclosure of the pact and its secret protocols and the elimination of its consequences.
23 August 1989 Almost two million people form a human chain (the Baltic Way) from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius. With this demonstration attention is once again drawn to the necessity of the MRP’s public disclosure and the elimination of its consequences. The event attracts a lot of international attention.
9 November 1989 Under people’s pressure falls the Berlin Wall that had divided Germany and separated the democratic world from the communist one. The communist regime of East Germany collapses, and Germany is reunified. The Soviet-controlled Eastern Bloc begins to fall apart – communist parties that had monopolised power lose their authority and the power systems they had created collapse.
24 December 1989 The Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union declares the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact null and void and invalid from the moment of their signing.
20 August 1991 The Supreme Soviet of the Estonian Republic proclaims Estonian independence. Lithuania declared independence on 11 March 1990, Latvia on 21 August 1991. After almost 50 years of Soviet occupation the Baltic States are free again. The consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact are finally eliminated with the withdrawal of the former Soviet troops from the Baltic States and the rest of Eastern Europe.