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Did the USSR pledge support to Czechoslovakia before the Munich Agreement (1938 Sep 29 - 30)? If so, what kind of support did it pledge?

The reason I ask is because I recently came across this article. Down a ways, there is a paragraph in which I hilighted the Soviet part:

The Czechoslovak capitulation precipitated an outburst of national indignation. In demonstrations and rallies, Czechs and Slovaks called for a strong military government to defend the integrity of the state. A new cabinet—under General Jan Syrový—was installed, and on 23 September 1938 a decree of general mobilization was issued. The Czechoslovak army—modern and possessing an excellent system of frontier fortifications—was prepared to fight. The Soviet Union announced its willingness to come to Czechoslovakia's assistance. Beneš, however, refused to go to war without the support of the Western powers.

There's no citation anywhere in that paragraph. Is it true? Did the USSR really pledge assistance? If so then I have to rank this as a shocking revelation to my understand of WW2. Why would Stalin risk early war? My understanding was that the Soviet Union did not feel ready even in 1941 and thus wanted to stall for time as much as possible.

Note also that this was before the Molotov-Ribbentropt Pact (1939 August) and of course just before the British-French-Polish alliance (1939 March).

  • the Munich Agreement happened in 1938, not 1939 – user907860 Sep 24 '17 at 7:36
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    the Soviet Union was feeling ready to get involved in war in 1936, when it involved in the Spanish civil war – user907860 Sep 24 '17 at 7:40
  • @user907860 yep, edited. – DrZ214 Sep 24 '17 at 7:58
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The Soviets and Czechs concluded a Mutual Assistance Pact in 1935, good for five years, until 1940.

The Soviets proposed to honor that pact in 1938 during the Munich crisis. The "sticking point" was that the Soviet army would have had to cross the territory of Poland or Romania to reach Czechoslovakia.

The Czechs declined to invoke the treaty or seek Soviet help or otherwise go to war, without the support of the western powers. This, of course, was not forthcoming.

Strangely enough, the Soviets would have done better to go to war with Nazi Germany in 1938, just two years after Germany's refortification of the Rhineland, than in 1941, almost three years later, when Nazi power was at its peak; following the absorption of Czechoslovakia's Skoda Works, and the addition of French and Belgian iron and steel production capacity. Also, Czechoslovakia, with its Sudeten Mountains, was far more defensible than most of Poland or Russia. Between late 1938 and mid 1941, Germany conquered Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, the Low Countries, Yugoslavia and Greece, while concluding alliances with Italy, Finland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria in Europe, (not to mention Japan), thereby increasing in war power more than any other country during that span.

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    Nice find, I'm surprised wikipedia doesn't seem to have an article on that pact. It has one for the Soviet-Latvian mutual assistance pact, but not this one. And yeah, 1938 was definitely a better time to stop Germany, but I don't find that strange. What's strange is the MR-Pact where Russia gave Germany much material for 2 years. I'm not an expert but I don't think Germany could have done Barbarossa without those huge resources. I guess Russia hoped that Germany and Frace/Britain would weaken each other now that Britain was finally gonna stop appeasement and ally with Poland. – DrZ214 Sep 16 '17 at 5:08
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    @DrZ214: The conventional wisdom, even from the German High Command, was it would take two years to conquer France, into 1942. That would have put Barbarossa in 1943, by which time the Soviet Union would have been prepared. But France fell in about two months. – Tom Au Sep 16 '17 at 5:50
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    The answer is correct (and I upvoted it) except the point that "Soviets would have done better". You mention that Germany's capacity of making war improved, but you completely disregard the Soviet war capacity. – Alex Sep 16 '17 at 13:23
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    @Alex: My new last sentence indirectly addresses that point by indicating that GErmany's war power increased more in 1938-41 than any other country in the world, including the Soviet Union. – Tom Au Sep 16 '17 at 16:36
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    "the Soviets would have done better to go to war with Nazi Germany in 1938" That is true in the abstract, and from a strictly technical standpoint; but to go to war against Germany on behalf of Czechoslovakia, the SU would have had to cross the borders of Poland or Romania, who were not prepared to allow the Soviets to pass without a fight (Poland even partook on the destruction of Czechoslovakia), and aggression against either would imply a crisis with France and Britain, so in practice, and taking politics into account, it was almost undoable... – Luís Henrique Sep 24 '17 at 16:54

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