Incorporation: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

  • David Kirby


One of the most difficult problems encountered by the small new states of Europe during the interwar years was how to acquire a decent mantle of security without unduly compromising their political independence. In this regard, the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were particularly ill-favoured. The great powers were by and large indifferent to their survival as independent countries, and they possessed no vital resource which might have persuaded one or more of those powers to extend a protective arm. In spite of efforts to coordinate foreign and defence policies, the three conspicuously failed to pull together in the manner of the Scandinavian countries.1 Lithuania was wholly absorbed in its quarrel with Poland over the Vilna question, and its occupation of the Memel region in 1923 also brought it into potential conflict with Germany. These were compelling reasons enough for Latvia and Estonia to be wary of entanglement in the affairs of their southern neighbour, whose religious, cultural and historical traditions were in any case very different. The Estonians and Latvians did share a degree of common history in that both had suffered for centuries under the yoke of serfdom imposed by German colonists, but their main desire on escaping from that bondage was to stress their own national uniqueness; in consequence, they tended to pay little attention to each other, separated as they were by mutually incomprehensible languages.


Foreign Minister Baltic State Baltic Country Indirect Aggression Soviet Troop 
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    On the failed efforts to create the semblance of unity, see the chapter by Edgar Anderson, ‘The Baltic Entente: Phantom or Reality?’ in V. Vardys and R. Misiunas, eds, The Baltic States in Peace and War 1917–1945 (Pennsylvania, 1978), pp. 126–35. It might also be remembered that the creation of a Scandinavian bloc in the 1930s did not spare any of the northern European countries from the rigours of war: even Sweden was forced seriously to compromise her neutrality before German pressure.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • David Kirby

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