Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Kenneth Steuer

Second Advisor

Christopher M. Jannings


Molotov, ribbentrop


This paper seeks to explore the relationship between Germany and the Soviet Union in the years between the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 and the German invasion of Russia in “Operation Barbarossa” in June 1941. It will explore the circumstances under which the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union was signed, focusing on the impact of both the public and secret provisions of the agreement. After the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939, the Germans and Western Allies negotiated to secure a rapprochement with the Soviets. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were ideological enemies and the British and French governments were shocked by the announcement of this pact in 1939.

The Non-Aggression Pact gave both the Germans and Soviets significant advantages in terms of their military strategies (the elimination of a major war in the east after the destruction of Poland) and political gains (including the division of Poland and the delineation of Eastern Europe into spheres-of-influence). This treaty allowed the Germans to avoid a two-front war, which crushed Germany in World War I, and allowed the Soviets to expand their power in the Baltic States and Finland.

This understanding would last for only 20 months before Hitler turned against his partner in the east and invaded the USSR in June 1941. This paper will examine the motives and concerns behind Germany’s failure to respect this beneficial pact, which led to the Soviet Union’s entrance into World War II on the side of the Western Allies.


Citation and abstract only available

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted

Available for download on Monday, May 15, 2023