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Seventy-Five Years Ago: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

On August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a nonaggression treaty in Moscow, paving the way for the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland the following month and the beginning of World War II. Known colloquially as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, after Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, the agreement gave Adolf Hitler a free hand to attack Poland without fear of Soviet intervention. At the same time, Hitler and Josef Stalin established a secret protocol dividing Central and Eastern Europe into "spheres of influence."

German Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop (left), Soviet leader Josef Stalin, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (right) meet at the Kremlin on August 23, 1939, to sign the nonaggression pact.
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German Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop (left), Soviet leader Josef Stalin, and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (right) meet at the Kremlin on August 23, 1939, to sign the nonaggression pact.

Molotov signs the treaty. For the Soviet Union, the pact bought time to rebuild its military before what appeared to be an inevitable conflict.
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Molotov signs the treaty. For the Soviet Union, the pact bought time to rebuild its military before what appeared to be an inevitable conflict.

Von Ribbentrop shakes hands with Stalin after signing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Demarcation, the continuation of the nonaggression pact.
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Von Ribbentrop shakes hands with Stalin after signing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Demarcation, the continuation of the nonaggression pact.

The final page, in German, of the Additional Secret Protocol, which divided Central and Eastern Europe into "spheres of influence."
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The final page, in German, of the Additional Secret Protocol, which divided Central and Eastern Europe into "spheres of influence."

The same document in Russian
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The same document in Russian

Adolf Hitler meets with von Ribbentrop at the Reich Chancellery after his return to Berlin from Moscow.
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Adolf Hitler meets with von Ribbentrop at the Reich Chancellery after his return to Berlin from Moscow.

A map published by "Izvestiya" on September 18, 1939, one day after the Soviet invasion of Poland, shows the demarcation line determined by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
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A map published by "Izvestiya" on September 18, 1939, one day after the Soviet invasion of Poland, shows the demarcation line determined by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

German and Soviet troops meet at the demarcation line, or the so-called "Border of Peace," in September 1939.
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German and Soviet troops meet at the demarcation line, or the so-called "Border of Peace," in September 1939.

Soviet Commissar Vladimir Borovitsky meets with German officers to discuss the partition of Poland between the two armies at the captured town of Brest-Litovsk (present-day Brest, Belarus).
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Soviet Commissar Vladimir Borovitsky meets with German officers to discuss the partition of Poland between the two armies at the captured town of Brest-Litovsk (present-day Brest, Belarus).

German and Soviet soldiers meet in Brest on September 22, 1939.
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German and Soviet soldiers meet in Brest on September 22, 1939.

Soviet and German troops in the captured town of Brest, where they staged a joint victory parade on September 22, 1939
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Soviet and German troops in the captured town of Brest, where they staged a joint victory parade on September 22, 1939

Soviet Commissar Borovitsky and one of his soldiers stand beside an armored car in Brest.
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Soviet Commissar Borovitsky and one of his soldiers stand beside an armored car in Brest.

German Lieutenant Colonel Gustav-Adolf Riebel shakes hands with Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein during the joint Nazi-Soviet victory parade in Brest.
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German Lieutenant Colonel Gustav-Adolf Riebel shakes hands with Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein during the joint Nazi-Soviet victory parade in Brest.

A British perspective on the nonaggression pact in a cartoon by David Low, published in the "Evening Standard" on September 20, 1939
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A British perspective on the nonaggression pact in a cartoon by David Low, published in the "Evening Standard" on September 20, 1939

Part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact published in the Soviet newspaper "Pravda" on September 28, 1939
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Part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact published in the Soviet newspaper "Pravda" on September 28, 1939

Stalin and von Ribbentrop on the cover of "Newsweek" on October 9, 1939
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Stalin and von Ribbentrop on the cover of "Newsweek" on October 9, 1939

Molotov (left) in Berlin on November 14, 1940. The nonaggression pact remained in effect until Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.
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Molotov (left) in Berlin on November 14, 1940. The nonaggression pact remained in effect until Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

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