A 1935 conversation between I.Stalin and Lord Keeper of the Seal of Great Britain, A.Eden

The documentary by Andrey Medvedev, “The Great Unknown War” mentions an episode taking place towards the end of the meeting between Iosif Stalin and Anthony Eden in Moscow on the 29th of March 1935, illustrating that the Soviet leadership were fully aware of who igniters of the coming war are, and the inevitability of a war in Europe, despite Soviet Union’s best efforts to prevent it.

The League of Nations.
The Geneva Lawyer: “Where do you see war? Which war? I have no war registered here.”

This 1932 caricature by the famous Soviet caricaturist Boris Yefimov illustrates the reservations regarding the potency of the League of Nations, that the reader will notice in the transcript of the entire meeting, which adds more eye-opening details of the British-German-Soviet relations. And ponder, how similar this is to the West turning a blind eye on Ukraine – with the OCSE “not noticing” the regular shelling of Donbass by Ukraine between 2014 and 2022. (This caricature is presented in our Telegram channel “Beorn And The Shieldmaiden”)

Stalin I.V. – Recording of a conversation with the Lord Keeper of the Seal of Great Britain A. Eden

March 29, 1935

The source: Stalin I.V. Works. – Vol. 18. – Tver: Information-publishing center “Soyuz”, 2006. pp. 86-91.

The visit took place in the Kremlin, in the office of comrade Molotov. Attended by: comrades Stalin, Molotov, Litvinov, Maysky, and from the British side – Eden, the British Ambassador, Chilston and the head of the League of Nations section in the British Foreign Office, Strang. The whole conversation lasted about an hour and a quarter.

After the first greetings, Eden began the conversation. He said something like this:

Eden. On behalf of the British Government, I consider it my duty to express my gratitude that I have been given the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the Soviet state today. I believe that such personal contact between representatives of the British and the Soviet governments will contribute to a better mutual understanding between them, as well as to the improvement of the Anglo-Soviet relations and the strengthening of the universal peace. The policy of the British government is the policy of peace. It is closely linked to the League of Nations and is based on the principles of the League of Nations. The British government believes that the USSR is also pursuing a policy of peace. In addition, it is also a member of the League of Nations. This creates prerequisites for the cooperation between the two countries in the field of foreign policy. I also take the opportunity to dispel a misunderstanding that seems to be widespread in the USSR. Many in your country think that the British government is engaged in some kind of intrigue against the USSR and inciting other countries against the USSR. On behalf of the British Government, I must state emphatically that this suspicion is not based on anything. The British government only wants peace. It understands that any serious war in the current conditions cannot be isolated, localized. Therefore, the British government believes that the integrity, inviolability and prosperity of the USSR are one of the most important elements of preserving the global peace. I hope that the Soviet Government holds the same point of view regarding the integrity, inviolability and prosperity of the British Empire.

Stalin. If it’s not a compliment, then it’s good.

Eden. Mr. Litvinov knows me quite well from Geneva and can assure You that in such cases I am not inclined to pay compliments.

Molotov. I can assure Mr. Lord Keeper of the Seal that the policy of the Soviet government is a consistent policy of peace. The USSR does not want any new territories or any conquests. It is engaged in peaceful construction work inside the country and strives to maintain the best relations with all states. The Soviet government is alien to any aggressive intentions towards the British Empire.

Eden. I do not consider it necessary to describe in detail the contents of the Berlin negotiations here, because I believe that Mr. Litvinov has probably already informed Messrs Stalin and Molotov on the content of the conversations that took place between us. However, it would be extremely important and valuable for me to hear their opinion on the current European situation and on the means to resolve it.

Stalin. First of all, I would like to ask Mr. Eden a question – how does he assess the current international situation? Does he consider it very dangerous or not very dangerous?

Eden. I find the current international situation worrisome, but not hopeless. I think so, because although the current difficulties are great, the European peoples nevertheless still have some time to overcome these difficulties.

Stalin. Well, if we compare the situation with 1913, how is it now, better or worse?

Eden. I think it’s better.

Stalin. Why do You think so?

Eden. I think so for two reasons. First, there is now a League of Nations that did not exist in 1913. The possibilities of the League of Nations are limited, but still the interested states have the opportunity to at least discuss the issue of emerging dangers in Geneva. Secondly, in 1913, the broad masses of the population in Europe did not think about the war at all, they did not even suspect that the military danger was so close. The war fell upon them like a snowball. The situation is different now. The public opinion of the whole world clearly understands the danger of war, thinks about this danger and fights it. The mood of the broad masses is now very pacifist. What do You think?

Stalin. I think the situation is worse now than in 1913.

Eden. Why?

Stalin. Because in 1913 there was only one hotbed of military danger – Germany, and now there are two hotbeds of military danger – Germany and Japan.

Eden. But it seems that your relations with Japan have been improving lately, isn’t that so? Thanks to the wise policy of your Government, the military danger in this part of the world has somewhat been reduced.

Stalin. We are talking not just about the security of the borders of the USSR. The question is much broader: what are Japan’s future intentions? What is it going to do in general? From this point of view, the situation in the Far East is very alarming. The well-known improvement that You have indicated is only temporary. This is a pause that will last only until Japan is done digesting Manchuria. As soon as this happens, we can expect further development of the trends that Japan has been displaying over the past 3-4 years.

Eden. Are You quite sure about Japan’s aggressive aspirations?

Stalin. So far, there are no facts that contradict this conclusion. At the same time, there are facts that make us fear the worst in the Far East. Indeed, Japan has withdrawn from the League of Nations and openly mocks the principles of the League of Nations; Japan, for all to see, is tearing up international treaties signed by it. It’s very dangerous. In 1913, Japan was still one of those powers that respected their own signatures on international documents. Now the situation is just the opposite. Such a policy cannot bode well.

Eden. Well, and in Europe?

Stalin. Germany is of great concern in Europe. She also withdrew from the League of Nations and, as You informed comrade Litvinov, does not show a desire to return to it. She is also openly, in front of everyone, tearing up international treaties. It’s dangerous. Under such conditions, how can we believe Germany’s signature on certain international documents? You told comrade Litvinov, that the German government objects to the Eastern Mutual Assistance Pact. It only agrees to a non-aggression pact. But what guarantee is there that the German government, which so easily breaks its international obligations, will comply with the non-aggression pact? There is no guarantee. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with just a non-aggression pact with Germany. We need a more realistic guarantee to ensure peace, and only the Eastern Mutual Assistance Pact is such a real guarantee. Indeed, what is the essence of such a pact? There are six of us here in this room, imagine that there is a mutual assistance pact between us, and imagine, for example, that comrade Maisky would have wanted to attack one of us, what would have happened? We would all have beaten up comrade Maisky together.

Molotov (jokingly). That’s why comrade Maysky is behaving modestly now.

Eden (laughing). Yes, I understand Your metaphor very well.

Stalin. It is the same with the countries of Eastern Europe. If one of these countries, a party to the mutual assistance pact, were attacked by another country, also a party to the pact, then all the other parties to the pact would come with all their forces to help the first one. This is the simplest solution to the security problem at this stage of development.

Eden. And how do You envisage a mutual assistance pact – with or without Germany?

Stalin. With Germany, of course, with Germany. We don’t want to surround anyone. We do not seek to isolate Germany. On the contrary, we want to live in friendly relations with Germany. The Germans are a great and brave people. We never forget that. These people could not be kept for long in chains of the Treaty of Versailles. Sooner or later, the German people had to be freed from the chains of Versailles. We are not participants to the Versailles, and therefore we can judge Versailles more freely than those who participated in its creation. I repeat, such a great nation as the Germans had to break free from the chains of the Versailles. However, the forms and circumstances of this release from the Versailles are such that they can cause us serious alarm, and in order to prevent the possibility of any unpleasant complications, a certain insurance is now needed. Such insurance is the Eastern Mutual Assistance Pact, naturally, with Germany, if there is any possibility of that. Mr. Eden, You have just been to Berlin, what are Your impressions?

Eden. I would answer this question with one English saying: I am satisfied, but not pleased. I am satisfied that the situation has cleared up, but I am not happy with what we have seen as a result of this clarification.

Stalin. I agree with You. There’s nothing to be happy about. In general, weird people are sitting in Berlin now. For example, about a year ago, the German government offered us a loan of 200 million marks. We agreed and began negotiations, and immediately after that, the German government suddenly began spreading rumours that Tuhachevsky and Goering had secretly met to jointly develop a plan of attack on France. Well, is this really politics? This is petty politics. Or right now, comrade Litvinov told me that in Berlin they were constantly scaring You with the military danger from the USSR. Isn’t it so?

Eden. Yes, Hitler stated that he was very concerned about the power of your Red Army and the threat of an attack on him from the east.

Stalin. And did you know that at the same time, the German government agreed to supply us with products that it is in a way even embarrassing to talk about openly – weapons, chemicals, etc.

Eden (excitedly). How? Has the German government agreed to supply weapons for your Red Army?

Stalin. Yes, it has agreed to that, and we will probably sign a loan agreement in the coming days.

Eden. It’s amazing! Such behaviour does not support Hitler’s sincerity when he tells others about the military threat from the USSR.

Stalin. That’s right. Is this really politics? Is this serious politics? No, petty, awkward people are sitting in Berlin.

Eden. I was very pleased to hear from Your lips and from Mr. Molotov that You resolutely stand on the point of view of peace and fully support the system of collective security. Great Britain and the USSR are both members of the League of Nations, and such a coincidence of views of both governments on the principal issues of the moment creates prerequisites for their cooperation in Geneva.

Stalin. Yes, that’s good. We did not join the League of Nations to play games, but we understand that now the League of Nations does not enjoy any serious authority, even Paraguay laughs at it. The League of Nations must be strengthened, and for this a mutual assistance pact is needed.

Eden. I will report our conversation to my Government, and I have no doubt that it will be very pleased when it learns of your willingness to cooperate in the collective security system in Europe and, perhaps, elsewhere.

That was the end of the official conversation. Then comrade Molotov invited everyone present to a long table to drink a glass of tea. Approaching the table, Eden drew attention to a large map of the USSR hanging on the wall and remarked:

– What a beautiful map and what a large country!

Stalin jokingly replied:

– The country is large, but there are many difficulties.

Eden looked at the place that Great Britain occupied on the map, and added that England is an oh so very small island. Comrade Stalin looked at Great Britain and said:

– Yes, it is a small island, but a lot depends on it. Now, if this small island had told Germany: I will not give you any money, no raw materials, no metal, then peace in Europe would have been ensured.

Eden didn’t say anything to that.

2 thoughts on “A 1935 conversation between I.Stalin and Lord Keeper of the Seal of Great Britain, A.Eden

  1. Stanislav: An absolutely superb bit of “lost history”. It immediately went into my archives, as so many of your fine presentations have.

    I also backtracked with the link to “The Great Unknown War”, started reading the subtitles, and could not stop till the very end. Even without the video, the text alone is really masterful! (I did encounter one typo, where the Dulles brothers were rendered as “Dallas”, but no big deal.)

    High praise!

  2. Thank you!
    And the typo correction is timely – the subtitles of “The Great unknown War” are being reworked at this moment.

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