Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Daniel H. Thomas


The object of this study has been first to examine briefly the post-war relations between the major European powers, particularly during the 1930’s, which served as a background for the diplomatic moves between March and August of 1939. Secondly, the major part of the inquiry has been an effort to determine the fundamental national interests motivating Britain, France, Russia, and Germany in the negotiations which culminated in the German-Russian non aggression pact of August, 1939, and to give an account of these negotiations.

In carrying out this study, the primary emphasis has been an examination of the official documents. Although not all of them pertaining to the negotiations are presently available, enough have been published so that a reasonably accurate account can be given. The French government has not published its official records, but the story of the Anglo-French negotiations with Russia is told in the published British documents while an account of the German-Russian negotiations are given in the captured German documents. The Soviet government, too, has not published its official papers of the negotiations either with the Western democracies or with Germany. However, the articles which appeared in the controlled Soviet press, the public statements made by the Kremlin leaders, and the available British and German documents appear sufficient to explain the position of the Moscow government. These have been the major sources used in the development of this thesis.

The study has led to certain conclusions. With the German seizure of Prague in March, 1939, the Western democracies sought to find some common ground for cooperating with Russia in an attempt to stop further German aggression. However, in the protracted negotiations which followed, it soon became evident that London and Paris did not see eye to eye with Moscow on the German question. Britain and France sought an arrangement with the Soviet Union which, while devoid of any close ties, could nevertheless be used to press Germany into accepting a compromise settlement of all outstanding problems with the West. Such an agreement proved unacceptable to the Soviet government.

This failure can be attributed to the developing international situation prior to the outbreak of World War II, when the Soviet Union found herself being wooed not only by the Western democracies but by Germany as well. Under the circumstances, the leaders of the Kremlin were no longer unduly concerned about a united anti-Soviet bloc among the capitalist nations. Moreover, Stalin was now in the enviable position of carrying on negotiations simultaneously with the Western powers and with Germany. With Hitler desperately seeking an agreement with Russia, Stalin finally agreed to sign a nonaggression pact with Germany. In signing this pact, Stalin sought to secure neutrality for the Soviet Union in a war which appeared imminent, while Hitler sought to limit the war against major powers to the western front.



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