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Russia: 1924-1941 - Foreign Policy

In GCSE History students will look at Russia in the first half of the 20th Century. One aspect of this is the foreign policy of Stalin's Russia prior to the Second World War.

Stalin's Russia was an international pariah, such was the fear of communism in much of the rest of the world. However, after Hitler's takeover of power in 1933, Stalin's foreign policy changed and he was anxious to establish alliances to deter a German attack. Eventually Stalin decided to do a deal with Hitler, but the deal was shattered when Hitler attacked in 1941.

Learn about the foreign policy of the Soviet Union in the run-up to World War II in this quiz.

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  1. Which formerly hostile Western European state recognised the Soviet regime in 1924?
    By 1924 the Bolshevik government seemed to be entrenched in power, and the European political and economic situation seemed to be settling down. Why not recognise the USSR, if only further to encourage trade?
  2. Litvinov, the Soviet Foreign Commissar until May 1939, signed non-aggression pacts with a number of states in 1928, in a bid to enhance Soviet security. With which of the following countries did he not sign such an agreement?
    Ideally Litvinov wanted agreements with major powers, but sometimes he had to be content with weaker states
  3. In 1934 Litvinov secured Soviet membership of an international organisation, which he felt could confer on the USSR the benefits of collective security. What was this organisation?
    Litvinov persuaded Stalin that the advent of fascism (Mussolini had been in power since 1922, and Hitler since the previous year) could best be countered by international co-operation around the principle of collective security. However, Stalin was quite capable of changing his mind if international action seemed not to work
  4. In May 1939 Litvinov was dismissed, and a new Foreign Commissar, who was more in favour of doing a deal with Hitler, was appointed. Who was this?
    A change of Foreign Commissar would most likely lead to a change in foreign policy, but the cynical Stalin could always revert to the previous policy, if Litvinov's successor failed to deliver the goods
  5. On the 23rd of August 1939 the German Foreign Minister flew to Moscow to sign a treaty with Stalin. What was this treaty called?
    This deal stunned the rest of the world. Now Hitler could attack Poland - his next target - with impunity
  6. On the 17th of September 1939, in accordance with the terms of the recent agreement with Germany, Soviet forces invaded a neighbouring state, and began to enforce a brutal version of communism there. Which state was this?
    The August deal with Germany gave Stalin a free hand in much of Eastern Europe
  7. At the end of 1939, and well into 1940, the Red Army was engaged in a bruising war with Finland. What name is this conflict sometimes given?
    Stalin's forces, weakened by the recent purge of senior officers, had difficulty in defeating a much smaller Finnish army. Before succumbing to an inevitable defeat, the Finns surrounded and destroyed several Russian regiments
  8. In 1940 - again in accordance with the August 1939 treaty - Stalin invaded three neighbouring states, whose independence Lenin had been content to respect. Which of the three had never enjoyed the protection of the "Litvinov Protocol" from 1928?
    Stalin was unlikely to respect the terms of the 1928 agreement, which he felt had been superseded by the August 1939 pact
  9. What name was given to the German assault on the Soviet Union in June 1941?
    Hitler saw this invasion (in full breach of the understanding reached with Stalin two years before) as in keeping with traditional Teutonic (German) hostility to the "barbarian" Slavs in the East
  10. Which Western European leader (formerly a strong opponent of Stalin and Soviet communism) said at the time of the German attack on Russia in June 1941: "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make favourable representations to the devil".
    The old adage, "My enemy's enemy is my friend", seemed to apply on this occasion

Author: Edward Towne

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