Good wishes

We have already seen that the short but intense period of the Soviet-Nazi liaison gave to the world not only such long-term achievements as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which has essentially defined up to this day the boundaries of Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Balkans, but also such examples of solidarity and brotherhood in arms as the selfless assistance in taking cities, parades held in common in the occupied territories, sharing methods of the secret police in bringing under control the subversive Polish elements or a firm commitment to an increasingly wide range of brotherly cooperation. Such gestures also included the change of greetings between the leaders of the two countries almost exactly four months after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, on 21 December 1939, in occasion of Stalin’s sixtieth birthday which by a fortunate chance fell on the shorter than two years period of cooperation between the two powers.

For the sake of historical faithfulness note that Stalin’s sixtieth birthday actually fell on 18 December 1938 when the diplomatic exploration had just begun between the two countries. In fact, the register of baptism of the Uspensky cathedral in the Georgian Gori, his school certificates and his extensive czarist police file all show that Iosif Dzhugashvili was born on 18 December 1878 as he himself stated in 1921 in his hand-written autobiography. However, after his coming to power in 1922 he changed the date to 21 December 1879. As to his reasons to rejuvenate himself by one year and three days there are a lot of explanations, but not a convincing one. It is possible that he was only inspired by the Orwellian pleasure that his will is even able to shape the past. One thing is certain, that since then on the Soviet Union and the progressive countries of the world greeted him on this day. Such as Hungary where it was on his imaginary 70th birthday, 21 December 1949 that the first – red – trolleybus was put into operation. The numbering of the lines immediately began with 70 (and continued in the next year with 71), and this service still runs with the same number and on the same route between the Parliament and the former Stalin statue on the former Parade Square. Which is no wonder if you think it well that in 2003 Stalin still was a honorary citizen of Budapest.

Therefore Germany also joined the progressive countries when her chancellor and her foreign minister Adolf Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop on 21 December 1939 expressed their good wishes, published by the Pravda two days later.

Ко дню Вашего шестидесятилетия прошу Вас принять мои самые искренние поздравления. С этим я связываю свои наилучшие пожелания, желаю доброго здоровья Вам лично, а также счастливого будущего народам дружественного Советского Союза.

Please accept my most sincere congratulations on your sixtieth birthday. I take this occasion to tender my best wishes. I wish you personally good health and a happy future for the peoples of the friendly Soviet Union.
Памятуя об исторических часах в Кремле, положивших начало решающему повороту в отношениях между обоими великими народами и тем самым создавших основу для длительной дружбы между ними, прошу Вас принять ко дню Вашего шестидесятилетия мои самые тёплые поздравления.
Министр иностранных дел
Remembering the historic hours in the Kremlin which inaugurated the decisive turn in the relations between our two great peoples and thereby created the basis for a lasting friendship between us, I beg you to accept my warmest congratulations on your birthday..
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Following the leaders of Germany, the president of the Finnish puppet government set up by the Soviets on November 30 as well as the representative of Chang Kai-shek fighting with Soviet military assistance against the Japanese also sent their greetings. Striking is, however, the lack of the greetings of Britain and the United States, recognized later by both countries as a diplomatic blunder. From 1941 onwards they rushed to make up for it every year. The first British greeting was personally handed over by Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, complemented by the gift that Britain would not question the boundaries of the Soviet Union established between 1939 and 1941. Churchill, for example, wrote this for 21 December 1944:

Я шлю Вам свои самые искренние поздравления по случаю дня Вашего рождения. Я убежден, что Ваша жизнь весьма ценна для будущности всего мира и для постоянного укрепления уз, соединяющих наши обе страны. Поэтому когда я выражаю Вам добрые пожелания в день рождения, то это не является риторической фразой.On the occasion of your birthday I send you my most sincere greetings. I am convinced that your life is extremely dear for the whole world, and it continuously strengthens the ties between our countries. Therefore please do not regard it as a mere rhetorical phrase if I send you my best wishes for your birthday.

However, in December 1939 the Anglo-American press published only enouncements such as the following one which no doubt did not strengthen the ties between the countries concerned:

(and there was no Animal Farm yet!)

Stalin rushed to reply the good wishes in a similarly warm and sincere tone.

Прошу Вас принять мою признательность за поздравления и благодарность за Ваши добрые пожелания в отношении народов Советского Союза.

Please accept my appreciation of the congratulations and thanks for your good wishes with respect to the peoples of the Soviet Union.
Благодарю Вас, господин министр, за поздравления. Дружба народов Германии и Советского Союза, скрепленная кровью, имеет все основания быть длительной и прочной.
I thank you, Herr Minister, for the congratulations. The friendship between the peoples of Germany and of the Soviet Union, cemented by blood, has every basis for being lasting and firm.

But the reply of Stalin was not always so polite. Especially not when someone tried to blacken his friends. Such as Vsevolod Merkulov, leader of the People’s Commissariat for State Security (NKGB) who on 17 June 1941, five days before the German invasion of the Soviet Union sent him the following report received from his reliable informer in service at the German Air Force, asserting that the German attack can begin at any moment. Stalin scribbled the following reply on the document:

Т-щу Меркулову. Может послать ваш «источник» из штаба Герм. Авиации к еб-ной матери. Это не источник, а дезинформатор.
To Comrade Merkulov. You can send your “informer” from the staff of the German Air Force to his fucked mother. This is no informer, this is a disinformer.
I(osif) St(alin)

First publication of the document: Sergei Kudryashov (ed.): Вестник архива Президента
Российской Федерации. Документы СССР-Германия 1933-1941,

If Merkulov eventually did not convey to his informer the good wishes of Stalin, then the Gestapo did it instead of him. Merkulov’s informer, Harro Schulze-Boysen, a senior officer of the German Air Force born in a traditional German military family who, as a professed enemy of the Nazis, organized a group of resistance and reported by radio the Soviet intelligence service on the preparations of the German army, was arrested shortly thereafter. He was executed together with his wife in the Berlin-Plötzensee prison on 22 December 1942, one day after Stalin’s birthday.

4 comentarios:

Araz dijo...

what a story! Thank you for sharing this.

Studiolum dijo...

Thank you, Araz! It’s a pride I’m the first to share it in English. But in fact the material has just been recently published in Russian as well.

Araz dijo...

I am a proud Studiolum reader!

Studiolum dijo...

…and, not last, author!