The Selected Annual Proceedings of the Florida Conference of Historians
3 (December 1996): 30-39.

An insufferably cocky Joachim von Ribbentrop informed Galeazzo Ciano at 10:30 p.m. on August 21, 1939 of his impending departure for Moscow to sign a political accord with the Soviet Union, an accord directed against Poland. Ciano, Italy’s foreign minister, later complained, "And naturally, he spoke as if this were a fact! All that remained for me was to wish him a good flight. . . ."(1)

The diplomatic coup so astonished and impressed Benito Mussolini and Ciano that for twenty-four hours they believed that the Germans could localize their war against Poland, an idea heretofore they had vigorously rejected. For the moment neither criticized Berlin or asked for clarification.(2) Ciano confided to his later-famous diary:

Last night . . . a new act opened. . . . I suspended all decisions. . . .
A long telephone conversation with the Duce. . . . the Germans have struck a master stroke. The European situation is upset. . . . Nevertheless, we must make no hasty decisions. We must wait, and, if possible, be ready ourselves to gain something in Croatia or Dalmatia. The Duce has set up an ad hoc army commanded by Graziani. . . .(3)

Italy’s embassy in Berlin had not been particularly helpful in preparing Rome for the new situation. Embassy counselor Massimo Magistrati, a confidant of both Hermann Göring and Ciano, reflected this confusion. To his surprise, at the last moment before leaving for Moscow, Ribbentrop had canceled a planned visit with Ciano, who had decided to confront the Germans about their plans. Magistrati complained that Berlin had deceived him by masking its political negotiations with Moscow behind an economic façade.(4)

On the morning of August 22, the high-ranking fascist diplomat, Dino Alfieri, went to Mussolini to present him with the daily report. He found the Duce pensive, waiting to see how news of the pact was being received abroad. Mussolini reflected,

Despite my firm and convinced anti-Bolshevism, I was the first to recognize the USSR. From that to signing a pact, however, is a long way. Obviously the world is evolving, the bolshevism of 1917 is very different from the communism of today. Any nation, while maintaining its own ideological principles and positions, can establish relations of convenience and make economic agreements. We will see. Keep me informed of reactions.(5)

The Nazi-Soviet agreement violated the Pact of Steel of May 22, 1939 which had allied Rome and Berlin, and it made nonsense of the common Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936—an alliance sanctified by martyrs in the Spanish Civil War and grist from propaganda mills. Nonetheless, on August 25 the Duce wrote Hitler about that agreement: "I approve of it completely. His Excellency Göring will tell you that in the colloquy I had with him last April, I affirmed that—to avoid encirclement by the democracies—a German-Soviet rapprochement was necessary."(6)

This strange ambivalence, confusion, and indecision went deeper. The Germans, for example, told Rome that their pact with the Soviets included several secret protocols. Oddly, the Italians never even asked for, much less demanded, their full disclosure. No small matter, given that Mussolini and Ciano had returned to their conviction that Germany could not localize the war with Poland. They knew that an expanded war threatened to make mincemeat of their ill-prepared military machine. This sanguine attitude was doubly strange given that for years, with only a brief respite during the Spanish Civil War, Mussolini had encouraged Hitler to settle his differences with the Bolshevik regime.

How can this Italian reaction be explained? According to the late Mario Toscano, the respected diplomatic historian, the Pact of Steel had been born in an understanding regarding the propriety and limits of an accord with the USSR. Its purpose was to block the successful conclusion of Anglo-Soviet negotiations.(7) Up to then the fascist government had been aware of virtually all of the essential elements of the Moscow-Berlin negotiations. It had encouraged them to the Soviet foreign commissariat. It had transmitted to the Kremlin the first concrete Axis proposals for a political accord. And it had cultivated the possibility of a parallel Italo-Soviet understanding.

But Bernardo Attolico,(8) Italy’s ambassador in Berlin, was skeptical about the chances for successfully concluding the Axis negotiations in Moscow, and Mussolini and Ciano fully shared that skepticism. These doubts paralyzed fascist diplomacy and encouraged Rome to believe that an Anglo-Soviet accord was probable, despite the absolute rejection of that idea by Augosto Rosso, Italy’s ambassador to the Kremlin.(9) Not withstanding its alliance agreement with Rome, the Wilhelmstrasse therefore refused to be open with the negative Attolico.

In fact, during the summer of 1939, the outward appearance of agreement between Rome and Berlin concealed underlying Italian resentments and a fundamental lack of harmony and mutual confidence. While anxiously presenting a united front with Italy to the outside world, Germany was less interested in keeping Rome fully informed as to its intentions. The Nazi government, for example, did not directly inform Italy of the critical soundings made in Berlin by the counselor of the Soviet embassy on May 5, 9, and 17. These approaches would have interested Rome, because, to substantiate his belief in the possibility of ameliorating Soviet-German relations, the Soviet counselor had " repeatedly referred to Italy and stressed that the Duce even after the creation of the Axis had let it be known that there were no obstacles to a normal development of the political and economic relations between Italy and the Soviet Union."(10)

Meanwhile, only the confidences to Rosso by the German ambassador in Moscow allowed Rome to know the essentials of German activity in the Soviet capital and to measure the degree of German reticence toward Italy.(11) Buttressed by this confidential information, Rosso, not Attolico, more accurately appraised the chances of the Soviets reaching an agreement with either Britain or Germany.

Many of Rosso’s reports, however, carry a plaintive tone, and some scarcely veil their criticism. For example, in the late fall of 1939 while responding to a series of questions put to him by Filippo Anfuso,(12) the chief of cabinet and Ciano’s confidant, Rosso privately wrote him complaining that those questions marked "the first indication of interest" from the foreign ministry in three years.(13) He begged for directives, information, and orientation, and he requested authorization to return home briefly to complete his presentation and to divine his government’s intentions. The Soviet Union was a major power around which had swirled critical events over the last several years, and Italy’s foreign minister had turned his ambassador to that post into a poor beggar. Ciano, arguing that a visit might lead to rumors and erroneous interpretations, rejected Rosso’s plea.(14)

For all intents and purposes, the Duce and his son-in-law ignored the reports of this experienced diplomat, as much out of personal dislike as anything else. Reflecting this idiosyncratic blindness, Ciano hardly mentions the USSR in his diary before mid-August 1939. Because information on the Nazi-Soviet negotiations came largely from their Moscow embassy, both Mussolini and Ciano were seduced into underestimating the development of Nazi-Soviet relations. In fact, the entire correspondence from Moscow was not routed to Ciano’s kitchen cabinet within the foreign ministry, the Gabinetto, but to area desks along with all other dispatches of ordinary interest.(15) That the entire Soviet matter seemed neither secret nor important explains Italian surprise on August 21 at the imminent conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. This indifference to its Moscow embassy greatly hampered Rome in developing a useful policy toward Germany, the USSR, and the developing war.(16)

Was the Kremlin aware of this confusing Italian nonchalance? And, if so, did the Soviets try to take advantage of it? It would be helpful to say something first about the larger skein of Italo-Soviet relations after Hitler’s rise to power. In both Rome and Moscow, the reactions to the Führer were remarkably similar in their ambivalence. Both tended to underestimate him and the significance of Nazi ideology for practical politics, and both hoped to continue their tripartite cooperation with Germany directed against France and its allies.

Yet both also suspected the possible revolutionary potential of Hitler’s regime and took precautions. As part of these precautions, in May 1933 Rome and Moscow signed a commercial accord, followed in September by a Pact of Friendship, Neutrality, and Nonaggression. Exchanges of military observers and commissions, and Italian technical help with, and construction of, Soviet warships and dirigibles marked this budding friendship.(17)

The Soviets had an abiding interest in Italy. Despite the lack of Soviet documents revealing the deepest thoughts of the Kremlin’s leaders, it is reasonable to suppose that Moscow valued its Italian contacts, especially for the triple pressure they put on Berlin. Most important, they honed to a sharp edge Rome’s opposition to Nazi designs on Austria by implicitly opening the possibility of Soviet support—even military support—for Italy’s defense of that country. Second, such cooperation reminded the German military establishment and industrialists of the value of their own lost, Rapallo-era cooperation with the USSR.(18) By drawing closer to Italy, Moscow also was showing Berlin that ideology need not get in the way of friendly relations. Frequently criticizing Berlin for causing the breakdown in Soviet-German relations, Mussolini himself many times tried to drive this last point home to Hitler.(19) And, finally, third, Moscow presumably thought its cooperation with Rome, paralleled by Franco-Soviet political, economic, and military exchanges, to be useful in greasing the ways for Italo-French cooperation. Collaboration among the three capitals would put Germany into a vise to squeeze Hitler to impotence or—even better—to force him to return to loyal, Rapallo-like cooperation.(20)

From the Kremlin’s vantage, in other words, Rome had a most important role to play in forging the incipient collective security coalition designed to keep Germany in its place. Until 1936 or so, Italy was the one power with both the will and the means to stop German expansionism in its tracks through direct political and military intervention in Austria against Anschluss.(21) And it was only through Rome that its protégées, Austria and Hungary, could be brought to cooperate with the French allies in East and Southeast Europe—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Italy’s critical place in the anti-German coalition is easily demonstrated. Witness only that the ramshackle structure did collapse in 1935 and 1936 following the strains of the Italo-Ethiopian War, when Rome withdrew itself from anti-German cooperation.

In retrospect, Italy’s slide down the slippery path into a suffocating German alliance might seem to have been inevitable. During the mid- and late-1930s, however, the matter was not quite so clear. Despite its constant fears of the worst, all the way to June 22, 1941 when Italy followed Germany into war against Soviet Russia, Moscow consistently tried to wean Rome from its German alliance. Following the Italo-Ethiopian War, for example, the Kremlin in May 1936 offered Rome a tripartite Italo-Franco-Soviet accord in exchange for the removal of Soviet sanctions.(22) During July, rumors abounded that Mussolini had been seriously studying the possibility.(23) In the end, however, Italy broke off trade negotiations with the Soviet Union, although Ciano claimed for economic rather than political reasons.(24)

The Kremlin’s efforts at reconciliation after Italy’s Ethiopian adventure were dashed on the rocks of the Spanish Civil War, begun in July 1936, with Italy and Germany supporting Francisco Franco’s rebel Nationalists, and the USSR supplying the Republicans. For the next three years, relations between the two states degenerated into little more than vicious public attacks on one another and covert Italian submarine and air attacks on Soviet merchantmen plying the Mediterranean. In 1937 and 1938, commercial relations between the two plummeted to almost nothing.(25)

Undeterred, once Spain’s fate had been decided, the Soviets in early 1939 used Italy to try to prove once again to Hitler that different ideologies need not hinder cooperation between two governments. First, a series of prisoner exchanges—Soviet merchant crews held by Franco exchanged for Italians arrested in the USSR—cleaned up the wreckage left over from the Spanish Civil War.(26)

Most important, the two managed to restore commercial relations. That process began on January 23, 1939 when deputy foreign commissar V. P. Potemkin called Rosso’s attention to Ciano’s recent statement expressing "the hope for ameliorating relations between the two countries, at least in the economic field."(27) The vice commissar also suggested the "generic" possibility that his government would enter into commercial negotiations with Germany, a prospect which Germany’s embassy in Moscow confirmed. Rosso, as well as foreign ministry officials in Rome, recognized the inherent potential for Soviet-German political and military cooperation flowing out of such economic negotiations. By linking the notion of economic cooperation with both Italy and Germany, perhaps Soviet leaders were floating a trial balloon to Germany; perhaps they were attempting to split the Axis by bolstering Italy.(28)

In any case, the Italo-Soviet commercial rapprochement sent a strong political message.(29) On February 7, Rome and Moscow concluded a series of economic protocols exchanging the funds mutually impounded the year before, detailing the methods of commercial exchanges, and giving the Soviets possession of a cruiser previously ordered from Ansaldo of Genoa.(30)

This agreement, however, erected an artificial and unstable economic structure. For example, as one of its direct results, Charles Bohlen of America’s Moscow embassy was able to purchase a ticket from Moscow to New York for $15.00. His embassy had obtained rubles on the black market at a rate of 60 and 70 to the dollar, while the ticket was written in lire at the official rate of 1.15 rubles per dollar. This ticket provided not only first-class rail accommodations from Moscow to Genoa, but also first class passage on the luxury liner, Conti di Savoia, to New York.(31) This economic irrationality, however, was unimportant, because the true significance of the commercial accord lay in the political rather than in the economic field.

Especially after Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in March, Moscow worked hard to convince Rome that they had common interests directed against Germany. For example, Rosso summarized for Rome a conversation in which Potemkin observed,

I am convinced that before long your great leader will recognize that between Italy [and] the USSR exists a community of political interests. . . . and I do not see that a difference of regimes ought to preclude repeating that collaboration that I myself had the good fortune of initiating when I had the honor of representing my government in Rome [in 1933].(32)

Rosso posited that the Soviets would take advantage of the tense international situation surrounding Poland to force Britain and France to champion collective security openly. He stressed, as he had many times before, that the Soviets wished to take advantage of any conflict to further the proletarian revolution and that the Kremlin would maneuver to maintain its freedom of action. He doubted that Moscow wished to assume precise obligations toward the two western democracies.(33)

On April 6, Ambassador Rosso described for Rome a conversation with Potemkin, and he again volunteered his views on Soviet foreign policy. He strongly argued that a tripartite Anglo-Soviet-French agreement was impossible: ". . . it is my impression that in the depths of their souls these gentlemen continue to believe that England is continually working to channel the German torrent toward the east." Rosso described Potemkin as emphasizing
"common [Italo-Soviet] interests" in the political as well as in the economic fields. This time he made no further mention of raising a barrier against German expansionism but only of ‘taking a common equilibrating action,’ particularly in southeastern Europe."
Rosso thought that Potemkin was speaking sincerely. After all, it was to the Soviets’ advantage to have a friendly Italy that would not hamper the movement of Soviet merchant and naval ships.
"It is even more obvious that Moscow would like to have a friendly Italy disposed to cooperate with the U.S.S.R. in applying the brakes to German penetrations of the Balkans." Despite their press attacks, which Rosso stressed were no more violent than those in the Italian press on the USSR, the Soviets had avoided a complete break and were leaving the door open to a tactical amelioration of relations.

The fundamental and ultimate goal of the Kremlin, the one which determines the general directives of the Politbureau, remains the proletarian revolution which will destroy the "capitalist encirclement" often referred to by Stalin. From these fundamentals stems my view that the Soviet leaders desire and indirectly encourage a world war that will force the antagonistic elements in the capitalist world to clash and to destroy themselves. The U.S.S.R. will make every effort to remain out of the conflict until the moment arrives which will permit her to facilitate the creation of the largest possible number of "novus ordo" Communist states.(34)

We may debate whether a satellite Eastern Europe was Stalin’s original purpose,(35) but certainly Rosso was remarkably prescient in describing the actual course of future events.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1939, a disappointed Soviet press closely followed Italy’s decline from a vigorous, fully independent military, diplomatic, and economic power capable of standing up to Germany, to one increasingly tied to Hitler’s whims.(36) Could fascist Italy be used to control to any degree Nazi gluttony? Or would Mussolini feast on scraps tossed his way by Hitler? Seemingly inconsistent public statements and actions toward Italy are easily explained: they at all times represented Moscow’s desperate hopes for the best and profound fears of the worst.(37)

We could carry this discussion on to August 1939 and even beyond to June 1941, but the heart of the story would remain the same. All in all, Italian documents clearly show that the Kremlin followed a consistent policy toward Italy, a policy which also reveals its larger perspective toward its international situation.

Although fearing Nazi ambitions, the Kremlin was determined to cooperate, if possible, with Hitler. Fascist Italy had a two-pronged role to play vis-à-vis Germany. The Kremlin tried to use Mussolini as a vehicle to approach Hitler and did its utmost to exploit any friction between Italy and Germany in order to hinder the Nazi advance into Southeast Europe. Fascists, Moscow thought, might join collective security arrangements, because Italy had as much to lose from a self-aggrandizing Nazi Germany as did Soviet Russia. Without Italy, Nazi Germany would be isolated in Europe and could turn only to the USSR for support. If Germany, against all reason, chose to continue its anti-Soviet policies, without allies it posed less of a threat to the world’s first socialist state.

Soviet policy seemed vindicated with Italy’s declaration of "nonbelligeranza" at the onset of World War II, and, rationally, that policy followed so assiduously since 1933 should not have come to naught. Mussolini had represented Italy’s interests quite well in the first half of the 1930s and at times had appeared willing to entertain the Kremlin’s entreaties to work toward their common interests. Seduced, however, by his own vainglory and fatalistically mesmerized by Hitler’s successes, he ultimately joined the Führer in the fateful attack on Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941.

1. Dino Alfieri, Due dittatori di fronte, 2nd ed. (Milan: Rizzoli, 1948), 204. Alfieri concluded that Ciano, accustomed to the limelight, was annoyed that the German coup would occupy world attention. For the pact’s impact on Rome, see 203-06. Ciano represented the younger generation of fascists. Married to Mussolini’s daughter, he became foreign minister in June 1936 at the age of 34. Good-natured and intelligent, he was also corrupt, self-indulgent, frivolous, and often decided policy by vanity and pique. He was executed in 1944 for treason by his father-in-law.
2. Ibid., 203.
3. Galeazzo Ciano, The Ciano Diaries, 1939-1943: The Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943, Hugh Gibson, ed., Introduction by Sumner Welles (New York: Doubleday, 1946), Aug. 22, 1939. See also, Mario Donosti (pseudo.), Mussolini e l’Europa: La politica estera fascista (Rome: Leonardo, 1945), 209-10. See also Ministero degli Affari Esteri. Commissione per la pubblicazione dei documenti diplomatici, I documenti diplomatici italiani [hereafter cited as DDI] (Rome: La libreria dello stato, 1952), 8th (series), (vol.) 13: no. 163.
4. Massimo Magistrati, L’Italia a Berlino (Milan: Mondadori, 1956), 422-23. Magistrati served in the Italian embassies in Peking, Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, and Algiers before becoming embassy counsellor in Berlin. He continued his diplomatic career after the war.
5. Alfieri, Due dittatori, 204. Although a reluctant fusionist with the fascists, Alfieri, 1886-1966, served them in many capacities. He was Italy’s ambassador to Berlin from May 1940 until his dismissal in July 1943, when he participated in removing the Duce from power.
6. DDI, 8th, 13: no. 250; Germany. Auswärtiges Amt. Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945 [hereafter cited as DGFP), From the archives of the German Foreign Ministry (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1949-83), (Series) D, (Vol.) 7: no. 271.
7. For Italy’s relations with the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1941, see Mario Toscano, Designs in Diplomacy: Pages from European Diplomatic History in the Twentieth Century, trans. and ed. George A. Carbone (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), 48-252.
8. Attolico, 1880-1942, served as ambassador to Moscow from 1930 to 1935 and to Berlin from 1935 to 1940. In this latter post he sought to prevent his country’s total subservience to Nazi Germany and contributed significantly to Italy’s decision for "nonbelligeranza" in 1939. Overworked, he died during the war while serving as ambassador to the Vatican.
9. Rosso, who had been ambassador to Washington, DC before his posting in Moscow, worked hard to encourage good relations between his country and the USSR. Charles Bohlen of America’s embassy to the Kremlin had a source in the German embassy in Moscow and knew beforehand of the Soviet-German negotiations and the pact to which they led in August 1939. Presumably unaware of the depth of the German ambassador’s personal relationship with the Italian ambassador, this source incorrectly assured Bohlen that Rosso knew nothing of the secret negotiations. Bohlen characterized Rosso, who had married an American, as strongly anti-fascist and pro-American, and he regretted that after the war he was mislabeled as pro-Nazi and was never given another responsible government job. Rosso entertained frequently and invited the Bohlens to many of his functions. Charles Eustis Bohlen, Witness to History, 1929-1969 (New York: Norton, 1973), 99.
10. DGFP, D, 6: nos. 332, 351, 406.
11. Toscano, Designs, 104-05, 122-23.
12. DDI, 9th, 1: no. 796. Anfuso, 1901-63, entered the foreign ministry in 1925. He proved loyal to the Salo Republic during World War II.
13. Ibid., 9th, 2: no. 208.
14. Ibid., 9th, 2: no. 276.
15. Ciano had deprived the functionaries at Palazzo Chigi of their traditional policy-making role by moving all important work to the Gabinetto, which became Ciano’s chief instrument for directing foreign policy. As many Italian diplomats have testified, this mechanism led to confusion and error. Gordon Craig and Felix Gilbert, eds., The Diplomats, 1919-1939 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953), 517-19.
16. On these points, it is difficult to add much of significance to Toscano’s work. Perhaps, however, Mussolini and Ciano were not quite as foolish in this regard as they might seem at first blush. In 1938, Attolico’s advice that a Nazi-Soviet Pact had not then been in the offing had proved sounder than Rosso’s. Perhaps Mussolini and his son-in-law were relying too much on a proven track record.
17. J. Calvitt Clarke III, "Manifestations of Cordiality," Naval History (Spr. 1989): 24-28; J. Calvitt Clarke III, Russia and Italy Against Hitler: The Bolshevik-Fascist Rapprochement of the 1930s (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991), 145-62.
18. On January 13, 1934, e.g., at a farewell dinner given by the Red Army for the departing Italian military attaché, Aldo de Ferrari, the Red Army’s chief of staff told the German military attaché that he desired renewed military cooperation. To put an edge on his wish, he also intimated that Moscow was considering equipping Soviet submarines with Italian torpedoes. DGFP, C, 2: 191.
19. For one example in 1933 of Soviet appreciation for Rome’s intercession in Berlin, see Attolico to Rome, 4/10/33: Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Direzione Generale degli Affari Politici, URSS (Rome). [Hereafter cited as MAE (Rome) AP URSS] b(usta) 10 f(oglio) 1.
20. As for Rome, Italy needed military contracts to pay for its imports of Soviet oil and timber, and in trying to balance its trade deficit, Rome had little else that Moscow wanted. Politically, Italy had to find support against Nazi encroachments on Austria. And further, Rome needed Paris, and the French desire for Soviet support forced Rome to sublimate its rivalry with the USSR in Slavic Southeast Europe.
21. For one Soviet propagandist/intelligence agent’s appreciative description of the role Rome played in putting down the Nazi putsch of July 25, 1934 in Austria, see Ernst Henri (Henri Rostovskii), Hitler Over Russia? The Coming Fight Between the Fascist and Socialist Armies, Michael Davidson, trans. (London: J. M. Dent, 1936), 38-53, 82-120.
22. Cerruti to Rome, 5/22/36: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b19 f1.
23. Vitetti to Rome, 7/18/36: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b21 f5.
24. See Ciano’s speech of May 13, 1937 in Max Beloff, The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia (London: Oxford University Press, 1947, 1949), 2: 106.
25. Italy’s exports to the Soviet Union dropped from 9 million lire in 1937 to 1 million lire in 1938, and its imports from 105 million lire to 7 million. Ibid., 2: 107.
26. For this, plus Italian mediation in attempts to secure the return of 3,000 Spanish children sent to the USSR early in the war, see the numerous documents in MAE (Rome) AP URSS b34 f4 and f6. The Spanish Nationalists also asked for Italian intervention in Moscow to secure the exchange of nine Spanish merchant ships detained in the USSR for the six Soviet ships held by the Nationalists. See the documents in MAE (Rome) AP URSS b34 f10.
27. Rosso to Rome, 1/18/38, 1/24/39; Del Balzo circular, 1/31/39: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b35 f3. Vladimir Petrovich Potemkin, 1878-1946, was the Soviet plenipotentiary representative to Italy from 1932 to 1934, when he signed the Italo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Neutrality, and Nonaggression.
28. Rosso and Attolico attempted to keep Rome abreast of the commercial negotiations between Moscow and Berlin, begun on December 19, and their implications. See, e.g., the reports on the delays. Rosso to Rome, 1/26/39, 1/31/39, 1/31/39, 2/4/39; Attolico to Rome, 2/4/39; see also Grandi to Rome, 1/31/39: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b35 f3.
29. See Dmitrii Dmitriyevich Mishustin, ed., Vneshniaia torgovlia SSSR: Kratkoe uchebnoe posobie, 3rd ed., rev. (Moscow: "Mezhdunarodnaia kniga," 1941), 28. See Pravda, Feb. 8, 1940 for Molotov’s later comments that this trade agreement symbolized the possibility of coming to a full political understanding with Italy.
30. Printed copies of the agreements can be found in MAE (Rome) AP URSS b34 f15. See Bayer, "Soviet Foreign Trade Policies," Soviet Russia Today 8 (Apr. 1939): 26, 39.
31. Bohlen, Witness, 99.
32. Rosso to Rome, 3/18/39: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b32 f3.
33. Toscano, Designs, 55.
34. Ibid., 55-57, 60-61; Rosso to Ciano, 4/6/39, elucidating Rosso to Rome, 4/5/39: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b34 f6.
35. Vojtech Mastny in Russia’s Road to the Cold War: Diplomacy, Warfare, and the Politics of Communism, 1941-1945 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), e.g., has convincingly described the evolution of Stalin’s aims.
36. See, e.g., Izvestia, Apr. 27, May 5, 6, 9-11, 17, 21-24, 1939; Pravda, May 4, 5, 8-10, 24-26, June 4, 6, 25, 30, Aug. 8, 1939; Rosso to Ciano, 5/11/39, 7/20/39: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b36 (1939) f1.
37. For example, repeating its contention that the Italo-German collaboration could not be split, on May 11 Izvestia noted that the two fascist states merely were conducting parallel policies, which frequently, but not necessarily, had to draw together. Although some, Izvestia continued, hoped to detach Italy from Germany and thereby isolate Berlin, their alliance had put an end to such hopes and had worsened the international situation. The paper also emphasized that the Anti-Comintern Pact was but a mask hiding a bloc directed against Britain and France. This situation had forced the democratic states to negotiate with the USSR. Frederick Lewis Schuman, Night Over Europe: The Diplomacy of Nemesis, 1939-1940 (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1941), 236-37; Izvestia, May 11, 1939; New York Times, May 12, 1939; Rosso to Rome, 5/18/39, 5/25/39: MAE (Rome) AP URSS b36 (1939) f1; Andrei Andreevich Gromyko, et al., SSSR v bor’be za mir nakanune vtoroi mirovoi voiny (sentiabr’ 1938 g.-avgust 1939 g.) Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1971), 390-93.


Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke III chairs the Division of Social Sciences at Jacksonville University. He edits the Selected Annual Proceedings of the Florida Conference of Historians and is Vice President of the organization. He has published a monograph, Russia and Italy against Hitler: The Bolshevik-Fascist Rapprochement of the 1930s and currently is working on another which will continue the story of relations between Moscow and Rome during the Italo-Ethiopian War.

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