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France in the Soviet foreign policy, 1943-45



Using a new evidence from the Russian, French and British archives and the recently published diplomatic documents, this paper explores the main trends of the Soviet policy with respect to France between the “decisive turn” in the War in 1943 and the Yalta conference in 1945. Reappraising the traditional narrative about the successful and friendly Soviet-French cooperation, author underlines the pragmatic reasons which governed Moscow’s diplomacy. Stalin’s and Soviet diplomats’ attitude to de Gaulle wasn’t static and evolved during the war, though the basic features persisted. Stalin attuned his French policy to the dynamics of the relations inside the “Grand Alliance”. The aim of the Soviet-French rapprochement for Moscow was to provide a possible ally in a case of new war against Germany; to support de Gaulle, whom Moscow preferred to British and American protégés; to facilitate a work of the French communists and a growth of their influence, to prevent an anti-Soviet drift of France and to strengthen the Soviet positions in the “Polish question”
France in Soviet foreign policy, 1943–45
Iskander Magadeev
By the time the Soviet Union entered the Second World War in June 1941, the
France of the Third Republic, so familiar to Moscow throughout the inter-war
period, was already out of it. The rapid French collapse of May – June 1940, which
David Reynolds referred to as the “fulcrum of the twentieth century”,1 had greatly
astonished the Kremlin. It had not been expected that the French military, regarded
as one of the strongest in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, or even the French
political leadership, however weak and venal it may often have been, would be
crushed so quickly. As George-Henri Soutou revealed,2 relations between Vichy
France and the Soviet Union were not bad, but after June 1941, the start of the
German aggression and the beginning of the Great Patriotic War for the USSR,
“the past was all forgotten”, as the British statesman Lord Beaverbrook put it in
1942.3 A new page in the history of the Second World War and Soviet-French
relations had been turned.
Vichy’s joining Nazi Germany in the war against the Soviet Union, breaking off
diplomatic relations on the 30th June and later sending troops to the Soviet-German
front, had an immense impact on Moscow’s position on France during 1941–1945.
Using the dichotomy between the “real” and “symbolic” France, as made by
Joseph V. Stalin, head of the Soviet Government, during the Tehran Conference of
1943,4 it might be said that, for Moscow, particularly during the first years of the
war, it was Vichy that was the “real” France fighting against the USSR while the
Resistance movement headed by General Charles de Gaulle represented rather the
“symbolic” one. Certainly, the Resistance, which was actively harming Germany,
was endorsed and supported by Moscow: the internal Resistance primarily through
the channels of the French Communist party (PCF) and special agents sent to
occupied France,5 and the external Resistance, represented by de Gaulle and his
organisations, “Free France” and later “Fighting France”, by more traditional
diplomatic means. One sign of this was the official recognition of de Gaulle as the
“leader of all Free French wherever they were” who joined him in “supporting the
cause of the Allies”, made on the 26th September 1941.6
1 David Reynolds, From World War to Cold War: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the International History of the 1940s
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 23.
2 Georges-Henri Soutou, “Vichy et Moscou, de 1940 à 1941,” Relations internationales, vol. 107 (2001), pp. 361–
3 National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey [Hereafter NA] CAB/66/22 Russia. Note by the Minister of War
Production, W.P. (42) 71 (7th February 1942).
4 Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers [Hereafter FRUS]. The Conferences at Cairo and
Tehran 1943 (Washington: GPO, 1961), p. 514.
5 Donal O’Sullivan, “Dealing with the Devil: The Anglo-Soviet Parachute Agents (Operation ‘Pickaxe’),” Journal
of Intelligence History, vol. 4 (2004), pp. 33–63.
6 Andrei A. Gromyko et al., eds., Sovetsko-frantsuzskie otnosheniya vo vremya Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, 1941–
1945: Dokumenty i materialy [Soviet-French relations during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945: Documents and
materials [Hereafter – SFO], vol. 1 (Moscow: Politizdat, 1983), pp. 51–52.
The narrative of the Soviet Union having warmly supported de Gaulle while the
latter had been frustrated by the frostier attitudes of London and Washington
during the War became an important theme in the post-war memoirs of several
Soviet officials7 and in the Soviet historiography of Soviet-French relations in
general.8 The most vivid symbol of this Soviet-French friendship was the French
Normandie-Niemen fighter squadron which fought against the Wehrmacht on the
Soviet-German front from March 1943.9
Taking into account the rather “special” relations which existed between the Soviet
Union and France even during the Cold War,10 the wartime experience was
regarded as a good example of mutually beneficial cooperation between states with
different social, economic and political systems. It is indicative in this sense that
even the Soviet diplomatic records of the Tehran Conference of 1943, published in
1978, were corrected in such a way as to not offend Paris on account of some of
Stalin’s remarks about de Gaulle.11 The time of détente and good relations with
Valéry Giscard d’Éstaing was not ripe for stinging remarks about the recognised
French leader, even if made in the past. The Soviets were not alone in such
alterations. Earlier the same pattern, for example, had been seen in Winston
Churchill’s memoirs, where some war-time estimations of Dwight Eisenhower, US
President at the publication of the memoirs, were omitted,12 or in the memoirs of
de Gaulle himself, written in the 1950s, where the General presented his Soviet
policy during the war as tougher than it had been in reality.13
Using new archival and published documental evidence, this paper attempts to give
a more correct picture of the French vector of Soviet foreign policy during 1943–
45. I have taken as my starting point the “decisive turn” of the winter – summer of
1943 on the Eastern Front and in the War in general, marked by the great Soviet
victories at Stalingrad and Kursk and the Western Allies’ victories in Italy and the
Atlantic, taking the analysis up to the Yalta Conference of February 1945, which,
according to common opinion, shaped the post-war order in Europe and
7 See, for example, the memoirs of the Soviet naval attaché in London during the War: Nikolai M. Kharlamov,
Trudnaya missiya [Difficult mission] (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1983).
8 Yurii V. Borisov, Sovetsko-frantsuzskie otnosheniya (1924-1945 gg.) [Soviet-French relations (1924–1945)]
(Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 1964); Vera Antyukhina-Moskovchenko, Sharl’ de Gol’ i Sovetskii Soyuz’
[Charles de Gaulle and the Soviet Union] (Moscow: Mysl’, 1990), et al.
9 See, for example, the introductory words of the Chief Air Marshal Alexander A. Novikov, commander of the
Soviet Air Forces in 1942–1946 in: Vasilii I. Lukashin, Protiv obshchego vraga [Against the common enemy] 2nd
ed. (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1976), pp. 4–6.
10 These relations were marked by active cooperation in the spheres of economics, trade, space and others, and
conducted by the established mechanism of bilateral political consultations, something not so frequent in the
contacts of countries from opposing blocs.
11 Aleksei A. Gromyko et al., eds., Sovetskii Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh perioda Velikoi
Otechestvennoi voiny 1941-1945 gg. [The Soviet Union at the international conferences of the period of the Great
Patriotic War 1941–1945], vol. 2 (Moscow: Politizdat, 1978). See on this topic: Geoffrey Roberts, “Stalin at the
Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam Conferences,” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 9 (2007), pp. 6–40.
12 David Reynolds, In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War (New York:
Random House, 2005), pp. 437–438.
13 Georges-Henri Soutou, “La France Libre et la place de l’URSS dans le système européen”, in Georges-Henri
Soutou et Émilia Robin Hivert, dir., L’URSS et l’Europe, de 1941 à 1957 (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-
Sorbonne, 2008), p. 137.
worldwide. Three important themes are emphasised in this paper. The first is that
of Moscow’s attitude to the French leaders headed by de Gaulle. The second is the
evolution of the Soviet position with respect to France. The third is that of Soviet
estimations regarding the place of France in the post-war world. This paper
expands on the themes raised in the recent publication Correspondence between
I.V. Stalin, F. Roosevelt and W. Churchill during the Great Patriotic War.
Documental research”, published in May 2015 by MGIMO-University Professor
Vladimir O. Pechatnov and myself as junior co-author.14
Formulating a position in a shifting environment: the Soviet view of French
policy in January – May 1943.
The year 1943, crucial for the course of the Second World War in general, was also
very important for the Soviet position on de Gaulle. As formerly supposed, “it was
only in 1943 that Stalin began to take de Gaulle seriously”.15 On the 27th January,
during his meeting with Roger Garreau, the representative of “Fighting France” in
Moscow, Stalin said to him that he “would never recognise another France” than
that represented by “Fighting France”.16
The growing interest in de Gaulle had been evident in Soviet diplomatic circles
since late 1942. The detailed reference note on the National Committee of
“Fighting France” (at 49 pages) was compiled in the Soviet embassy to the Allied
governments-in-exile in London on 12th December.17 Many of the estimates in this
reference note would persist later. Opinions concerning de Gaulle were mainly
positive: his military views were appreciated (his book “Towards the Professional
Army” of 1934 witnessing “his understanding of the character of modern warfare
and of the role of armoured and mechanised troops in it”); his attitude to the Soviet
Union was regarded as favourable; and his ideal, a strong and independent
France”, provoked no critical remarks. One litmus test was de Gaulle’s favourable
attitude to Pierre Cot, one of the pronounced pro-Soviet politicians who received
approval constantly from the different Soviet diplomats.18
De Gaulle was preferred to his rival General Henri Giraud, who, according to the
Soviet information in the abovementioned reference note, had “expressed his
fidelity to Pétain.19 He established communications with the US embassy in Vichy
14 Vladimir O. Pechatnov, and Iskander E. Magadeev, Perepiska I.V. Stalina s F. Ruzvel’tom i U. Cherchillem v
gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny. Dokumental’noe issledovanie [Correspondence between I.V. Stalin, F.
Roosevelt and W. Churchill during the Great Patriotic War. Documental research], vol. 1-2 (Moscow: Olma Media
grupp, 2015).
15 Soutou, “La France Libre”, p. 143.
16 Ibid.
17 Arkhiv Vneshnei Politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Archive of foreign policy of the Russian Federation], Moscow
[Hereafter – AVP RF]. F[ond]. 136. Op[is]. 27. P[apka]. 183. D[elo]. 4. L[ist]. 1-49. Reference note on the National
Committee of Fighting France (12th December 1942).
18 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 51, 108 From Dekanozov’s diary (16th February 1944, 11th July 1944).
19 The Soviet embassy to the Allied governments-in-exile in London would later manage to get hold of some
memoranda sent by Giraud to Pétain in 1942. See: AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 183. D. 4. L. 58-98. Bogomolov to
Lozovsky (24th April 1943).
and consented to take part in the planning of the American operation in French
North Africa. According to common opinion of all Frenchmen in London, Giraud
is a reactionary like Weygand, an ardent adversary of communists and enemy of
the policy of the united front”.20
What worried the Soviet diplomats about de Gaulle were his unwillingness to
formulate a clear political program (he desired to assemble all forces irrespective
of their political affiliations) and, particularly, his entourage. Two powerful
commissars, René Pleven (Foreign Affairs and Colonies) and André Diethelm
(Finances), were regarded by the Soviet officials as “the men of the Comité des
forges” and the main authors of Maurice Dejean’s dismissal from the post of
Commissar for Foreign Affairs in October 1942. On the contrary, Dejean, who had
a reputation as a Red Commissar”, won some sympathies of Soviet officials.
Along with Pleven and Diethelm, another object of Soviet suspicions was Colonel
Passy (André Dewavrin), chief of de Gaulle’s Secret Service. The information
which Aleksandr E. Bogomolov, the Soviet Ambassador to the Allied
governments-in-exile in London, obtained about Passy from talks with various
French politicians in London was very negative: he was suspected of having had
relations with the pro-Fascist Cagoulards movement before the War, of
maintaining connections with Pétain, and of being a puppet of the British Secret
Intelligence Service.21 The negative opinion of the Soviet Foreign Office (officially
known as the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, NKID) about de Gaulle’s
entourage was shared by Comintern. Georgi Dimitrov, head of the latter, wrote in
his diary on the 23rd December: De Gaulle’s entourage is repulsive and full of
Beside political and ideological factors, what really interested the Kremlin were
the actual capabilities of de Gaulle and his organisation. Though the number of
troops of Fighting France” increased (from 35,000 in November 1940 to over
60,000 in December 1942),23 it remained modest, and the position of de Gaulle
himself was insecure. Though things improved somewhat after the meeting with
Churchill, Roosevelt and Giraud in the Anfa Hotel at Casablanca, NKID and
Comintern officials were cautious not to be overfriendly with de Gaulle.
It was not totally clear in the beginning of 1943 how consolidated the positions of
de Gaulle in the interior and exterior Resistance movement were and what would
be his future. Vladimir G. Dekanozov, the influential Deputy People’s Commissar
for Foreign Affairs, wrote to Dimitrov on the 7th February, referring to the
telegrams of Bogomolov: “Comrade Bogomolov considers that it is hardly
expedient to conclude the formal agreement between the [French] Communist
20 ‘United front’ – the term used to designate joint actions of communists and other forces fighting against the Nazis.
21 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 2ob, 13, 30-31. From Bogomolov’s diary (30th April, 1943; 17th May
1943, 29th May 1943)
22 Ivo Banac, ed., The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 1933-1949 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 251.
23 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 183. D. 4. L. 41. Reference note on the National Committee of Fighting France (12th
December 1942).
Party and de Gaulle now, he thinks that this should wait till the position of de
Gaulle becomes clear in the actual situation”.24 Following Dekanozov’s ideas, on
the 8th February, Dimitrov made recommendations to two leading French
communists in Moscow, Maurice Thorez and André Marty, on “not concluding a
formal agreement, but rather confining ourselves for now to mutual declarations of
a joint struggle by Communists and Gaullists against the occupiers and on
maximum intensification of that struggle in France itself”. The idea of Marty’s trip
to London to meet the Gaullists and, possibly, to sign these “mutual declarations
was not abandoned in February-March, as evidenced by Dimitrov’s diary, though it
would finally be dropped in July in view of British and Gaullist opposition.25
Another circumstance influencing NKID and Comintern estimations of de Gaulle
was more ideological. Bogomolov and Dimitrov were highly suspicious of the
political orientations and credibility of the Gaullists. In the beginning of February,
Dimitrov, having been informed by Marty about his discussions with General
Ernest Petit, head of the French military mission in Moscow, had warned the
French communist “once again to be extremely cautious, because all such persons
as Petit are intelligence agents”.26 Bogomolov’s impressions of Petit were more
positive27 but, in general, his opinions of de Gaulle were very cautious. In March,
he cabled to Moscow that “antagonisms between Gaullists supported by
Communists and the followers of General Giraud appeared in France. These
disputes do not signify that de Gaulle is more democratic than Giraud. They are
both anti-democratic and reactionaries. But de Gaulle is closer to the National
Resistance Front in France”.28
Internal estimates within the NKID were not quite as uniform as is sometimes
indicated by scholars. There were more positive estimations of de Gaulle coming
from the Soviet Ambassador to Great Britain Ivan M. Maisky. In January, when
contemplating the possible body to govern those parts of the French colonial
empire which had broken away from Vichy, he summed up the Soviet position in
his diary in the following manner: “The aim of all of this is to create a more
authoritative French centre which could be more independent in regard of England
and the USA. Moscow does not want to be drawn into the game of the General’s
ambitions. It is not recommended that any declaration be made to the British
government. But de Gaulle is preferable to Giraud”.29 Later, in June, Maisky
stressed two keys factors as to why it was that de Gaulle outweighed Giraud in
24 Dekanozov to Dimitrov (7th February 1943). Cited in: Mikhaïl M. Narinski, “Moscou et le Parti communiste
français pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale (1942 – 1944)”, in Soutou et Hivert, dir., L’URSS et l’Europe, p. 233.
25 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, pp. 259, 261-263, 282.
26 Ibid., 259.
27 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 1. From Bogomolov’s diary (16th May 1943).
28 Cited in: Marina Ts. Arzakanyan, “Le rapprochement franco-soviétique pendant la Seconde guerre mondiale”, in
Soutou et Hivert, dir., L’URSS et l’Europe, p. 133.
29 Ivan M. Maiskii, Dnevnik diplomata. London. 1934–1943 [A diplomat’s diary. London. 1934–1943], vol. 2, pt. 2
(Moscow: Nauka, 2009), p. 192.
Moscow’s eyes: the former took an uncompromising attitude” towards Germany
and Vichy and supported “the restoration of a democratic regime”.30
On the contrary, Giraud and former Vichy followers, Moscow thought, had
preference over de Gaulle in the eyes of London and Washington. The Soviet
Ambassador to Washington, Alexei A. Gromyko, repeatedly emphasised the idea
that “undoubtedly the English and the Americans want to obtain the union of the
Frenchmen at the expense of de Gaulle’s concessions and the weakening of his
influence. That would mean the relative strengthening of Giraud’s positions”31. De
Gaulle himself supported such a conceptual dichotomy. On the 11th May, speaking
to Bogomolov, he underlined: “My contradictions with Giraud are the
contradictions between the position of France and that of the United States”.32
Information about the pro-Vichy sympathies of Washington also came through
intelligence channels. Some reports by the People’s Commissariat of State Security
(NKGB), one of the main Soviet foreign intelligence agencies, laid it on thick
stating that “there is an opinion that the American government without doubt
would make a deal with Pétain if it had such a possibility”.33 Regarding Giraud as
more accommodating to the British and the Americans, Moscow had an important
motive to support de Gaulle as a rather more independent leader who might pursue
a more balanced policy, not solely based on recommendations from Washington
and London.
Nevertheless, in May 1943, de Gaulle’s score was not very high in NKID circles.
While attending the results of the de Gaulle – Giraud negotiations on the new
overseas Resistance body, Bogomolov was not particularly encouraging to de
Gaulle, informing him rather evasively that “the general position of the USSR is to
support and sympathise with all anti-Hitlerite forces, which are participating in one
way or another in the struggle against Hitlerite Germany.”34 The meeting that took
place with de Gaulle on the 26th May, before the General’s departure to Algiers for
negotiations with Giraud, left Bogomolov with a bad impression: … from the
very beginning it was clear that de Gaulle had given up in his struggle against
Giraud and is going to Algiers in a very nasty mood”.35 Dejean, whose opinion was
rather important for Bogomolov, played his role in shaping the low Soviet estimate
of de Gaulle’s chances. During a meeting on the 22nd May, Dejean was highly
critical of de Gaulle. He told Bogomolov that de Gaulle had retreated from his
position on the creation of a provisional French government (only an executive
committee would be created), had given in to the Americans on the question of the
30 Ibid., p. 319.
31 SFO, vol. 1, p. 218-219. See also: Ibid., p. 227-228.
32 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 15. From Bogomolov’s diary (28th May 1943).
33 Nikolai P. Patrushev et al., eds., Organy gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine:
Sbornik dokumentov [The state security agencies of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War: Collection of documents]
[Hereafter – OGB] vol. 4, pt. 2 (Moscow: Rus’, 2008), p. 283.
34 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 16. From Bogomolov’s diary (28th May 1943).
35 Ibid. L. 4. From Bogomolov’s diary (30th May 1943).
military command and, finally, Dejean criticised de Gaulle’s “childish policy”
regarding the British: “De Gaulle amused himself for a long time making silly
scenes to Churchill and now he pays for it by being left without [British] support in
the face of the USA”.36
Rapprochement with caution: The Kremlin, NKID and de Gaulle in June-
October 1943.
It seems that creation of the French Committee of National Liberation (CFLN) in
Algiers on the 3rd June (with de Gaulle and Giraud as co-presidents) was
responsible for pushing de Gaulle’s ratings in Moscow higher. The General was
undoubtedly not written-off. In the instructions sent by People’s Commissar for
Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav M. Molotov to Bogomolov on the 16th June, the day
after receiving the British note about the CFLN and one day before Garreau asked
for Soviet recognition of the Committee, there was more of Maisky’s earlier ideas
than the estimations of Bogomolov and Dimitrov. Molotov emphasised the fact
that de Gaulle had wider support in France than Giraud and that the former
maintained an unappeasable attitude to Vichy and Nazi Germany.37
In addition to the establishment of the CFLN, the successful mission of Jean
Moulin to France, crowned in May 1943 by the creation of the National Council of
the Resistance which expressed its support for de Gaulle,38 also gave the General
more weight in the eyes of Moscow.39 Furthermore, taking into account the role
and influence of French communists in the home Resistance, the rapprochement
between the latter and de Gaulle was a guarantee for Moscow that de Gaulle’s
attitudes to Vichy would remain firm and that his foreign policy stance would not
be anti-Soviet. In talks with Frenchmen in London, Bogomolov stressed the idea
that Gaullism in France and Gaullism in London were not the same thing: the
former was regarded as a movement linked to broader social and political forces,
whereas the latter represented more narrow political strata.40 The stronger the
representatives of the home Resistance were in the CFLN, the better it was for
NKID actions were fully in tune with Stalin’s position. The specificity of the latter
consisted in the broader view of Soviet diplomacy as a whole that Stalin was better
placed to have. Moreover, he was sometimes able to overstep ideological barriers,
the sort of action that would have been risky for other Soviet officials. The episode
of November-December 1942 when Stalin approved the American deal with
Admiral Jean François Darlan against the opinions of Molotov, Maisky and
36 Ibid. L. 7-8. From Bogomolov’s diary (29th May 1943).
37 AVP RF. F. 059. Op. 10. P. 23. D. 183. L. 106-107. Molotov to Bogomolov (16th June 1943).
38 SFO, vol. 1, p. 187.
39 Soutou, “La France Libre”, p. 143.
40 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 13. From Bogomolov’s diary (29th May 1943).
Ambassador to the USA Maxim M. Litvinov might be cited as proof of Stalin’s
ability to be pragmatic.41
Stalin preferred de Gaulle to Giraud but did not want the “French question” to
prejudice the main thrust of his diplomacy the relations with the USA and Great
Britain that resolution of the crucial, second front” issue depended on. The fact
that de Gaulle’s attempts, made from 1942 onwards, to organise a personal
meeting with Stalin failed (in April 1943, the General even tried to interest the
Kremlin dictator by effecting eventual contact with his son Yakov who was in the
German camps),42 certainly demonstrated that too close a rapprochement with the
CFLN did not constitute a priority for Moscow. Various grandiose ideas emerging
from de Gaulle’s entourage (in August 1943, the director of his cabinet, Gaston
Palevsky, said to the Soviet representative in Algiers that “all important affairs of
post-war Europe would be decided by two powers the USSR and France”43) also
failed to improve the image of CFLN in Stalin’s eyes.
Stalin’s actions on the question of CFLN recognition during the summer of 1943
revealed the above-mentioned pattern. After Molotov expressed to the British
Ambassador Archibald C. Kerr the Soviet desire to recognise the CFLN according
to the French formula (“as the body, capable henceforth of leading French military
efforts and of supporting inter-Allied cooperation and providing for and defending
all the interests of France”), Churchill, in a personal message of the 23rd June,
asked Stalin to wait. The latter consented,44 not because he was accustomed to
giving in, but because relations with the British were of more importance in his
eyes than those with the French. This was particularly true during the summer of
1943 when Stalin, seeing how the Italian armistice negotiations were proceeding,
wanted to increase Soviet participation in the Anglo-American dialogue. In a
message of the 22nd August, proposal he made to Roosevelt and Churchill that a
tripartite military-political commission be created “for consideration of problems
related to negotiations with various Governments falling away from Germany”45
was a clear sign of this intention. The time was not ripe for disputes with London
and Washington on the “French question”.
At the same time, the desire persisted to demonstrate that the Soviet Union had a
more friendly approach to the CFLN than the USA or Great Britain. It revealed
itself in the formula of the joint recognition of the CFLN made on the 26th August.
When passing on this news to Raymond Schmittlein, Garreau’s deputy in Moscow,
Molotov characterised the Soviet formula of recognition as being merely more
brief and more simple” than the American and the British one, but in reality it was
more than that: the CFLN was recognised by Moscow as “the representative of the
41 Pechatnov and Magadeev, Perepiska, pp. 293, 298-302.
42 SFO, vol. 1, p. 259.
43 Ibid., p. 253.
44 Pechatnov and Magadeev, Perepiska, vol. 1, pp. 489-490.
45 Ibid., p. 531.
national interests of the French Republic and the governing body of all French
patriots, fighting against Hitlerite tyranny”,46 which gave it far more weight than
the British or American formulations. The French Foreign Ministry later saw in
this Soviet formula a desire to conserve the “advance” over the British and
Americans on the question of recognition that had already been acquired in 1942.47
Another important motive of Moscow for granting such a formula was to
strengthen the position de Gaulle, who was associated with the idea of CFLN as a
prototype of provisional government. Earlier in June, reacting to Churchill’s
message to Stalin, Molotov wrote to Bogomolov: “As you see, the English and the
Americans continue to postpone the recognition of the Committee trying, possibly,
to obtain full submission of de Gaulle to Giraud, that is in fact, submission to their
line on the question of the attitude to the French Committee and to French affairs
in general, or even trying to obtain de Gaulle’s elimination”.48 De Gaulle’s steps
subsequent to the recognition of CFLN, first of all the creation of the Consultative
Assembly in Algiers on the 17th September “in which all shades of opinion were
represented, including the Communists”,49 proved to Moscow the value of the
steps it had taken. The CFLN’s prevarication over the agreement to receive a
Soviet diplomatic representative in Algiers “produced some discontent in the
Kremlin”50 (according to the French Foreign Ministry estimate) but did not give
rise to any profound change in the Soviet position.
De Gaulle’s next attempt to organise a visit to Moscow (in the autumn of 1943 he
spoke about this with the Soviet representative in Algiers, Avalov, alias of the
Soviet intelligence officer Ivan I. Agayants) met with a warmer response than in
the past. On the 13th October, Bogomolov, who had finally obtained French
consent to arrive in Algiers, informed de Gaulle that Moscow was well-disposed
regarding his possible visit but needed more detailed propositions from de Gaulle,
including the proposed date of the visit.51 The absence of any propositions from de
Gaulle and Stalin’s political realignment towards the Western Allies prevented this
visit from being realised in 1943.
The Moscow conference of the foreign ministers of the three main Allies (19th-30th
October 1943) showed clearly that the process of the Soviet-French rapprochement
knew its limits. Stalin’s decision to improve relations with the USA and Great
Britain influenced the Soviet stance on the “French question”, engendering a more
reserved tone. In preparing for the conference, Soviet officials formulated
Moscow’s views in the following manner: If the English government initiates
46 SFO, vol. 1, pp. 250-252.
47 Archives Nationales, Paris [Hereafter AN], Archives privées [Hereafter AP], Papiers Bidault 457 AP 82. Note sur
les rapports franco-soviétiques de 1941 à 1944 (25 Octobre 1944).
48 AVP RF. F. 059. Op. 10. P. 23. D. 183. L. 96-99. Molotov to Bogomolov (25th June 1943).
49 Maxwell Adereth, The French Communist Party: a Critical History (1920–84) (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1984), p. 123.
50 AN, 457 AP 82. Note sur les rapports franco-soviétiques de 1941 à 1944 (25 Octobre 1944)
51 Marina Ts. Arzakanyan, “De Goll’ i Rossiia” [De Gaulle and Russia], in Pyotr Cherkasov, ed., Rossiia i Frantsiia
[Russia and France], vol. 7 (Moscow: Nauka, 2006), p. 366.
discussion on the question of the formation of a French government, then the
Soviet delegation should state as follows: ‘In principle the Soviet Government does
not argue against the formation of a French government. But, as it is known, the
Soviet government has only recently obtained the possibility of sending its own
diplomatic representative to Algiers and does not have the necessary information
even for the discussion of the question, never mind speaking about taking any
decision on it’”.52
Moscow had no desire to hurry, not only because the results of the internal struggle
between de Gaulle and Giraud still seemed unclear at that point, but also due to a
desire not to disturb relations with the USA and Great Britain. Differences between
London and Washington concerning de Gaulle made the situation even more
complicated. The NKID had devoted a great deal of attention to these before the
Moscow conference. The voluminous noteOn the US and British position on the
French question” (comprising 45 pages), prepared by Solomon A. Losovsky,
Molotov’s deputy, and Comintern veteran Dmitrii Z. Manuilsky, was a clear
indication of this fact. In addition to the Anglo-American disagreements, this note
stressed the following ideas: Great Britain and the USA had placed their bet on
reactionary forces in France out of fear of the revolutionary movement, and they
aimed to reduce the French colonial empire.53
During the Moscow conference, Molotov, as head of the Soviet delegation, tried
not to sharpen the differences with the English and Americans. On the 24th
October, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden presented his
“Main scheme of governing the liberated France”, minimising the role of the
CFLN in favour of the Allied military commander. Molotov clearly indicated that
he had important caveats about it. Though the internal NKID estimations were
harsh – the British wanted “to obtain from the Soviet Union sanction for the
uncontrollable activity of Anglo-American AMGOT in liberated France”,54
Molotov preferred to act more diplomatically. The question was referred to the
European Advisory Commission (EAC).
Another important aspect characterising the Soviet position on France was
revealed clearly during the Moscow conference, namely, that France was not
regarded as a member of the privileged Big Three club, and that there would be
bodies where only the USSR, USA and Great Britain would be represented. On the
23rd October, during an internal meeting with Soviet officials, Stalin, judging from
a rare source, the handwritten notes of Molotov’s deputy Andrei Y. Vyshinsky,
insisted that initial membership in the London Commission (future EAC) would be
limited to three states.55 On the 24th October, an NKID document, which appeared
52 AVP RF. F. 07. Op. 4. P. 26. D. 13. L. 49. Our propositions to point 4 of the agenda (s.d.) [October 1943].
53 The main points of this memorandum were summarised by Molotov in his note to Stalin on the 18th October. See:
AVP RF. F. 06. Op. 5-b. P. 39. D. 6. L. 25.
54 AVP RF. F. 06. Op. 5-b. P. 42. D. 44. L. 97 [S.n.]
55 Vyshinsky’s note was as follows: “Membership of Lond[on Commission] – from 3 states” [underlined in
original]. See: AVP RF. F. 07. Op. 4. P. 26. D. 13. L. 1оb [S.n.].
as a reaction to Eden’s propositions about the EAC, stated clearly: “To consider it
inappropriate that the representative of the French Committee have a permanent
Thus, while giving the CFLN favourable treatment in matters of recognition,
Moscow was not simultaneously prepared to entertain all the ambitious goals of de
Gaulle and his entourage, or to seriously harm relations with the USA and Great
Britain. As Vyshinsky and de Gaulle agreed later during the meeting on the 23rd
November in Algiers, the best option for the Soviet Union and CFLN was to build
bilateral friendly relations without damaging their cooperation with London and
Washington.57 In the beginning of November, Dejean’s analysis followed the same
paradigm; he advised the French Foreign Ministry not to attempt to use Moscow as
leverage against London and Washington.58 It was evident that any such attempts
would harm Soviet-French relations.
Stalin’s changing attitude: France in the Soviet diplomacy and post-war
planning from Tehran conference to de Gaulle’s visit to Moscow.
By the end of 1943, Soviet policy regarding the CFLN pursued several different
aims: to strengthen that wing of the CFLN headed by de Gaulle which was
preferred over men linked to Vichy; to facilitate the work of the French
communists and growth of their influence in France once the label of foreign
agents” had fallen out of use (as had been one of Stalin’s ideas during the
dissolution of Comintern in May 1943);59 to help such potential leadership of
France as was more independent in relations with the USA and Great Britain. All
these aims could be attained through cooperation with de Gaulle. But, as Stalin’s
position during the Tehran conference (28th November – 1st December 1943)
revealed, Soviet diplomacy concerning the “French question” had other important
aspects too.
After the discussions in Tehran, the Western Allies were really surprised. On the
13th December, in his account of the conference made to the Cabinet, Eden
mentioned “one of the most interesting facts”, namely the critical mood of Stalin in
regard to France and his view of the French state as “rotten”.60 As early as the 28th
November, during his personal meeting with Roosevelt, Stalin, perhaps
intentionally saying precisely the words Roosevelt would be glad to hear, criticised
de Gaulle sharply. According to him, de Gaulle “was not realist in policy. He
considers himself as a representative of the real France that he certainly does not
56 Kynin, Georgii P., and Jochen Laufer, eds., SSSR i germanskii vopros: Dokumenty iz Arkhiva vneshnei politiki
Rossiiskoi Federatsii [USSR and the German question: Documents from the Archive of Foreign Policy of the
Russian Federation], vol. 1 (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 1996), p. 329.
57 The French record of the meeting is published in: Charles de Gaulle, Voennye memuary: Edinstvo 1942–1944
[War Memoirs: Unity, 1942–1944] (Moscow: AST, 2003), pp. 676-679.
58 AN, 457 AP 82. Note de Dejean sur les relations franco-soviétiques (3 Novembre 1943).
59 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, pp. 275-276.
60 NA, CAB 65/40/15 War Cabinet, 169 Conclusions, Confidential Annex (13th December 1943).
represent. De Gaulle did not understand that there are two Frances: the symbolic
France, which he represents, and the physical France, which should be punished
for her aid to the Germans”.61 These ideas were developed by Stalin during the
dinner à trois on the 28th November. The memorandum of the US delegation
summarised them as the “thesis that the French nation, and in particular its leaders
and ruling classes, were rotten and deserved to be punished for their criminal
collaboration with Nazi Germany… He [Stalin] appeared to attach little
importance to De Gaulle as a real factor in political or other matters”.62
Stalin also took a strong stance against the reestablishment of the French colonial
empire in its entirety. Contrary to Dejean’s expectations that the CFLN could enlist
Soviet support on this issue,63 Stalin, at his meeting with Roosevelt on the 28th
November, promoted the idea that Indochina should not be returned to the
French.64 Later, on the 30th November, Molotov discussed with Eden and H.
Hopkins the possibility of transferring Bizerte and Dakar under international
What were the reasons behind Stalin’s position as formulated in Tehran? Charles
Bohlen, a member of the American delegation, thought that it was primarily
diplomatic sounding.66 This reason certainly had its place but other factors were
also important. Firstly, many of Stalin’s demands regarding France concerned the
colonial territories, as anti-colonialism had for a long time been a strong theme of
Soviet foreign policy. The gaining of independence by former colonies widened
the space for Soviet diplomatic manoeuvring. Secondly, Stalin’s sharp remarks
had, among others, the aim of discrediting the former French elites and the Vichy
regime, thereby preparing ground for the political renovation of France after the
Pursuing his political goals, Stalin at the same time expressed ideas which, it
seemed, sat most deeply in his mind. He argued with Churchill in Tehran that the
French had opened the front” to the Germans and had not fought seriously in
1940,67 later going on to develop the same thesis with an interlocutor whom he
regarded with more sympathy. On the 17th May 1944 in Moscow, during his talk
with the Polish-American Professor Oskar Lange (a source little used by historians
of Soviet-French relations), Stalin spoke about the absence of patriotism in France
before the war, comparing it negatively to Britain. He stressed the idea that a new
generation, not affected by the Germans, “masters to corrupt people”, must be
61 Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial’no-politicheskoi istorii [Russian state archive of social and political
history], Moscow [Hereafter RGASPI]. F. 558. Op. 11. D. 234. L. 4. Record of the meeting between Stalin and
Roosevelt (28th November 1943). This phrase was omitted in the published version of the record. See: Sovetskii
Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh, vol. 2, p. 90.
62 FRUS, The Conference at Cairo and Tehran, p. 514.
63 AN, 457 AP 82 Note de Dejean sur les relations franco-soviétiques (3 Novembre 1943).
64 Gromyko, Sovetskii Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh, vol. 2, p. 91.
65 RGASPI. F. 558. Op. 11. D. 234. L. 64. From Molotov’s diary (30th November 1943).
66 FRUS, The Conference at Cairo and Tehran, p. 514.
67 Ibid.
raised in France. Stalin emphasised that the Vichy contribution to the German war
effort was significant: “If Hitler did not have France now, he would be in an
extremely bad way”.68 Certainly Stalin was not alone in these estimates. The
attitude to the French leaders of 1940 expressed by Maisky, who occasionally
showed more empathy for Western statesmen than other NKID officials, was close
to Stalin’s. In February 1943, thinking about the war as a “cruel historical test”, he
concluded that “France simply failed”.69 In January 1944, he doubted that the
“contemporary generation of Frenchmen would be able to overcome the spiritual
consequences of the catastrophe that they have survived if the course of events
does not result in a real proletarian revolution”.70
A third factor influenced Stalin at Tehran. When he spoke of the weakening of
France as punishment for her role in the war, these words seemed to reflect inter
alia his uncertainty concerning the political status and orientation of France after
the war. For Stalin, who seriously feared the resurrection of Germany and the
repeat of German aggression,71 a strong France represented a possible ally in this
eventual new struggle. As Stalin said to General Petit during their meeting in
Moscow on the 15th September 1943, in the future, France will be reborn we
will aid the French from now on. Until, he adds as a joke, we need help
ourselves”.72 At the same time, Stalin certainly paid a compliment to Petit. He was
not so sure that France would soon be reborn and, it can be supposed, he was not
sure in 1943 either if such a potentially strong France would really be an advantage
for the Soviet Union.
Stalin’s words in Tehran showed that alongside the question “Who will lead post-
war France?”, another had gained in importance; “What will be the future place
and political alignment of France in Europe and the world?” By the end of 1943,
certainty of the final German defeat had become pronounced in Moscow. Maisky’s
extensive note of the 11th January 1944, one of the first detailed analyses of the
post-war world and of Soviet interests in it, had a special section on France.
Maisky’s main idea reflected the caution felt about too strong a future France: “For
the USSR it is advantageous, in my opinion, to endorse the restoration of France as
a more or less major (krupnoi) European power, though it would be
disadvantageous to make special efforts to restore its former military might”.73 But
the important part of equation which was not mentioned by Maisky was the
question as to what people would govern this “more or less major European
68 The Soviet record of the meeting is published in: Al’bina F. Noskova, “Stalin i Pol’sha. 1943-1944 gody” [Stalin
and Poland. 1943-1944], Novaya i noveishaya istoriya [Modern and current history], no. 3 (2008), p. 135.
69 Kynin, Laufer, SSSR i germanskii vopros, vol. 1, p. 195.
70 Ibid., p. 340.
71 He spoke repeatedly about it both to the capitalist leaders during the international conferences and to foreign
communists and pro-Soviet figures in a more amicable atmosphere. See, for example: Gromyko, Sovetskii Soyuz na
mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh, vol. 2, p. 117; Noskova, “Stalin i Pol’sha”, p. 133; Banac, The Diary of Georgi
Dimitrov, p. 368.
72 SFO, vol. 1, pp. 269-273.
73 Kynin, Laufer, SSSR i germanskii vopros, vol. 1, pp. 338-339.
The first of half of 1944 was not a very propitious period for Soviet-French
relations. Analysing the reasons behind this “weakening” (relâchement) of bilateral
cooperation, the French Foreign Ministry singled out two main factors: first, the
“atmosphere impregnated seriously by pétainisme” which the Soviet
representatives encountered in Algiers and which negatively affected Moscow’s
attitude to the CFLN; and second, the “policy of tight cooperation with the United
States” initiated by the Soviet Union after the Tehran conference.74
Both reasons, the internal” and “external”, were immensely important. The
political situation in Algiers was not simple. On the one hand, Moscow saw that de
Gaulle’s position was strengthened: the General had managed to eliminate Giraud
from the position of CFLN co-president (6th November 1943) and then from the
military command of its forces (14th April 1944). His willingness to include
Communists in the CFLN (on the 4th April, Fernand Grenier became Commissar
for Air and François Billoux became Commissar of State) was also welcomed.
Instructions given by Dimitrov to the French communists in March 1944 stressed
the necessity of not spoiling relations with de Gaulle and of placing at the centre
the fundamental issues of the war”: the formation of a French army and its active
participation in combat, purging the state and military apparatus, and aiding the
armed partisan groups in France.75
But, on the other hand, Moscow’s attitude to the CFLN was not limited to this
alone. Bogomolov’s telegrams from Algiers showed that pro-Soviet tendencies in
Consultative Assembly were not strong.76 On the contrary, the influence of the
other political camp, which Moscow associated with pro-Vichy sympathies and
orientation towards the USA and Great Britain, seemed to be rather significant.
Among the key personalities of this camp were named René Massigli, Commissar
for Foreign Affairs, who, according to Bogomolov, “dreamt” of a France
dominated by rightist political parties;77 Jean Monnet, an “old brother-in-arms of
Massigli”,78 a man “closely linked to financial circles, first of all, of the USA”, as
concluded Lozovsky after the talk with Cot;79 André Le Troquer, Commissar of the
Liberated Metropolitan Territories, and “enemy of the communists”, as Garreau
characterised him in talk with Dekanozov.80
The former Soviet notion persisted that de Gaulle himself might be an acceptable
personality while his entourage included pro-Vichy sympathisers. In May, Stalin
shared this point of view with Lange: “Now there is de Gaulle in France but he is
74 AN, 457 AP 82. Note sur les rapports franco-soviétiques de 1941 à 1944 (25 Octobre 1944).
75 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, p. 304-305.
76 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 183. D. 4. L. 118. Sergeev to Dekanozov (27th December 1943) referring to
Bogomolov’s information.
77 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 12. From Bogomolov’s diary (29th May 1943).
78 Ibid. L. 23. From Bogomolov’s diary (17th July 1943).
79 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 70. From Lozovsky’s diary (21st April 1944).
80 Ibid. L. 88. From Dekanozov’s diary (8th May 1944).
surrounded by Vichy defectors. He, Comrade Stalin, does not know whether these
defectors are reliable or not. Now de Gaulle put these traitors of France on trial, but
he, Comrade Stalin, does not know if this will help de Gaulle”.81 Though Moscow
followed with attention such events as the arrest of former Vichy officials Pierre-
Étienne Flandin, Marcel Peyrouton, Pierre Boisson and others in December 1943
and the execution of Pierre Pucheu in March 1944, there were doubts that such
trials would be continued82 or that they would bring the renovation of the French
elite and “the renewal of the French people”83 (according to Dimitrov’s
instructions to the French communists).
“External” reasons also mattered. After Tehran’s warming of relations with the
USA and Great Britain, Moscow did not wish to disturb the new relationship. The
forthcoming Overlord” made this particularly important. As Molotov said to the
Yugoslavian communists who arrived in Moscow in April, now the situation on
the fronts of struggle against Germany is such that the Allies will be more active
and it is important for us to maintain good relations with them in this period”.84 If
US and British participation in the war was expected to increase, the contribution
of the French forces remained rather insignificant, when judged by Soviet
standards. In June 1943, speaking to Martial Valin, French Commissar for Air,
Bogomolov defended the Soviet military’s reticence in the contacts with the
French representatives in the following manner: “… when France once more has a
6-million army and, as a consequence, the possibility of entering into direct and
specific cooperation with the Red Army on the battlefield, then the Soviet
command will, possibly, go further in disclosing its plans and intentions When
Frenchmen speak of France, they should not forget that France is in Hitler’s pocket
and that the most difficult task in the liberation of France, namely the defeat of
Hitlerite armies, rested mainly on the shoulders of the Soviet Union”.85 Through
his questions to de Gaulle himself, Bogomolov also alluded to the fact that the
military contribution of the CFLN did not seem of great importance to him.86
The idea that the CFLN pretended to more than its resources and forces justified
was shared by more than Bogomolov. The persistent French demands concerning
membership in the EAC made to Moscow from November 1943 onwards (not
without British stimulation) irritated the NKID. Molotov remained noncommittal
but gave a hint of hope: “in the future it will result in this [French membership in
the EAC]”.87 It was not only French demands that exasperated Moscow but some
French actions too. On February 12th, speaking to Garreau, Vyshinsky expressed
his astonishment that the Soviet Union had not been informed by the French
81 Noskova, “Stalin i Pol’sha”, p. 136.
82 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 70. From Lozovsky’s diary (21st April 1944).
83 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, p. 305.
84 Igor’ V. Bukharkin, Stanislav Stoyanovich, et al., eds., Otnosheniya Rossii (SSSR) s Yugoslaviei, 1941-1945 gg.:
Dokumenty i materialy [Relations of Russia (USSR) with Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Documents and materials]
(Moscow: Terra-Knizhnyi klub, 1998), p. 239.
85 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 21. From Bogomolov’s diary (24th June 1943).
86 Ibid. L. 17. From Bogomolov’s diary (28th May 1943).
87 SFO, vol. 1, p. 312.
authorities of their intentions to conclude financial and mutual aid agreements with
Britain (signed on the 8th February in Algiers). Garreau tried to soften the Soviet
reaction by referring to the French dependence on Anglo-American weapons and
equipment and the anti-Soviet mood of some CFLN members.88
Nor was de Gaulle’s persistent denial to permit Thorez to go to Algiers welcomed.
In May, Dimitrov and Manuilsky even considered clandestine methods for
transporting Thorez to France.89 De Gaulle’s famous speech of the 18th March in
Algiers (in which he suggested a western European grouping that would be
“extended to Africa, in close relations with the East and notably the Arab States,
and whose arteries would be the Channel, the Rhine, and the Mediterranean”)90 did
not pass unnoticed by the NKID. Though Garreau tried to minimise its significance
and persuade Soviet diplomats that it had been a short-sighted” step of de
Gaulle,91 the Soviet point of view was guarded. On the 10th July, while speaking to
Cot, Dekanozov stressed anti-federation arguments which the NKID had already
developed during the Moscow conference: the debates about post-war federations
were premature, federations could infringe upon the sovereign rights of the states,
and they might have an anti-Soviet orientation.92
Taking into account all these considerations it was not surprising that by May 1944
Stalin’s prognosis about the French revival was more sombre than that which he
revealed to Petit in September 1943. Making allusion to the eventual role of France
as an anti-German ally, he said to Lange: “He, comrade Stalin, will thank fate if
France rises sooner than he expects. But he thinks that France will need around
twenty years”.93
The imperative of common decisions: The USSR, the “Grand Alliance” and
the “French question”, June-November 1944.
The Kremlin understood that while the Anglo-American landing in Normandy
would liberate French territory it would at the same time constitute a serious
political challenge for de Gaulle. Through Garreau it was known that the consent
of Washington and London to French participation in Overlord” had been
obtained with difficulties, and even so, the contribution of CFLN forces remained
small: two light armoured divisions, one infantry division and two paratrooper
battalions.94 The intelligence information from NKGB residents in Washington and
London remained controversial: some cables indicated that de Gaulle followed the
path of concessions to the Americans while trying to represent himself as the
88 Ibid., vol. 2, pp. 19-20.
89 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, p. 317.
90 Cited in: Paul-Marie, de la Gorce, “De Gaulle and Britain,” in Richard Mayne and Douglas Johnson, eds., Cross
Channle Currents: 100 Years of the Entente Cordiale (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 113.
91 SFO, vol. 2, p. 38. Cot estimated this speech of de Gaulle even harsher, as a “folly”. See: AVP RF. F. 0136. Op.
28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 68. From Lozovsky’s diary (21st April 1944).
92 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 105-106. From Dekanozov’s diary (11th July 1944).
93 Noskova, “Stalin i Pol’sha”, p. 136.
94 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 31-32. Garreau to Molotov (28th January 1944).
defender of France from communism and revolution (2nd March),95 while others
underlined that Washington’s attitude to de Gaulle remained negative: Eisenhower
purportedly received instructions not do anything which could lead to the
recognition of the CFLN as the French government (5th April),96 and the
Americans were prepared to make use of “reactionary elements after the
liberation of France (24th June).97
The first events which followed the successful landing of the Western Allies also
caused some anxiety that the latest intelligence estimates were right. On the 24th
June, Garreau informed Dekanozov that the Americans installed a prefect in
Bayeux, the first town liberated from the Germans, who had links to Vichy,
disregarding thereby the wishes of the local inhabitants. Garreau criticised the
American idea to have only a CFLN liaison officer in Eisenhower’s staff, seeing in
this schema a “modified AMGOT”.98
Despite the important events in France marked by successful actions of the
Resistance and de Gaulle, the liberation of Paris on the 25th August being among
the most spectacular achievements, Moscow’s attitude to the provisional French
government (officially created on the 3rd June) did not change significantly.
Clearly, the fact that the provisional government was supported by the French
population and found its base on French territory raised its prestige (earlier, in July,
Bogomolov had indicated to Massigli that all negotiations about a possible Franco-
Soviet treaty might take place only after the liberation of France),99 but this did not
signify that the French question” became a priority for Moscow. In June, when
Garreau tried to obtain Soviet support in negotiations with US representatives
about the civil administration in liberated France, Dekanozov repeated the
traditional idea that the Soviet attitude to de Gaulle was positive, but added that “it
is necessary to take into account that the Soviet government wishes to be in full
contact with its main Allies in this most responsible moment of the war. It is
known that the Germans are trying to use all means to breach the unity of the
Allies. Our aim is not to allow that and to conserve unity. This determines in a
significant manner the position of the Soviet government on many questions,
including the French question”.100 In August, Garreau’s attempts to obtain Soviet
commitment to support French membership in the EAC ended with the same
result: Dekanozov indicated that the Big Three would have to make a common
decision on this issue.101
Bogomolov’s earlier evident sceptical attitude to de Gaulle also persisted. In his
long report of the 31st August, the Soviet diplomat characterised de Gaulle as a
95 Patrushev, OGB, vol. 5, pt. 2 (Moscow: Rus’, 2007), pp. 219-220.
96 Ibid., p. 296.
97 Ibid., p. 537.
98 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 101. From Dekanozov’s diary (26th June 1944).
99 SFO, vol. 2, p. 83.
100 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 102. From Dekanozov’s diary (26th June 1944).
101 Ibid. L. 116. From Dekanozov’s diary (3rd August 1944).
representative of the “interests of that faction of French imperialism which had an
anti-German orientation”. The Soviet Ambassador stressed pragmatic reasons for
de Gaulle’s rapprochement with the Soviet Union (as a means of exerting pressure
on the Anglo-Americans) and concluded that the general direction of his policy
gives more weight to the idea that de Gaulle had anti-Soviet tendencies, rather than
sympathy for the USSR”. Unlike Stalin, Bogomolov thought that “in the present
European situation we are not interested in the rapid rebirth of a strong France
The real stimulus that enabled the Soviet-France rapprochement to develop had
come, strangely enough, from the American side. Soon after Eisenhower
designated a “French zone of interior” (20th October) free of combat where power
could be transferred to the French authorities, Washington recognised de Gaulle’s
provisional government (23rd October). London rushed to do the same.
Recognition by Moscow, which had only been informed of the Anglo-American
recognition a posteriori,103 came the same day.
This shift in Soviet-French relations was distinctly felt. Even on the 21st October
when speaking to Dejean in Paris, Bogomolov repeated the already familiar ideas:
the necessity for the USSR to maintain cooperation with the other Allies and not to
act separately, and the imperative to take into account the present realities which
he opposed to the tendency of some Frenchmen to “base today’s policy on future
possibilities”.104 Two days later, the mood of Moscow was already different. The
Soviet press praised French military efforts and was full of articles which foresaw
a great role to be played by France in the future.105 When notifying Garreau of the
Soviet recognition (though Dekanozov underlined that the Soviet government
acted unanimously with the Americans and British), he informed him privately that
the Soviet government supported the inclusion of a French representative in the
EAC. But he clearly demonstrated that Moscow could not understand why Paris
continued to ban Thorez’s return to France.106 Dekanozov welcomed
“consolidation of the democratic base of the French provisional government”,
alluding to its reorganisation on the 9th September by adding more representatives
from the National Council of Resistance, mainly Christian Democrats (their leader
Georges Bidault107 becoming Foreign Minister) and Communists. The National
Council was regarded in Moscow as a body which was ready to effect a more
radical renovation of France and where pro-Soviet sympathies were more strongly
represented than in the CFLN.108
102 Memo by Bogomolov (31st August 1944). Published by Marina Ts. Arzakanyan in: Petr Cherkasov, ed., Rossiia i
Frantsiia [Russia and France], vol. 2 (Moscow: Nauka, 1998), pp. 272-288.
103 SFO, vol. 2, p. 124.
104 AN, 457 AP 82. Note de Direction Europe, Ministère des Affaires étrangères (25 Octobre 1944).
105 Ibid. Garreau à Paris (24 Octobre 1944).
106 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 124-130. From Dekanozov’s diary (25th October 1944); Documents
diplomatiques français [Hereafter DDF], 1944, vol. 2 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1996), p. 149.
107 Garreau characterised him to Dekanozov as “quite a prominent personality … He will play a big role in the
future”. See; F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 119. From Dekanozov’s diary (10th September 1944).
108 Ibid. L. 118-119, 122. From Dekanozov’s diary (10th September 1944, 26th September 1944).
During the Dekanozov – Garreau talk, the outlines for large-scale diplomatic
linkage were already evident: if the Gaullists lifted ban on Thorez’s return and
allowed Communists to have their voice inside France, the Soviet Union would
support France in certain questions of European politics. One other important
element of this linkage was also named during the meeting. It was no coincidence
that Garreau mentioned the fact that the Polish Committee of National Liberation
(PCNL, formed in Moscow on the night of the 22nd July, soon transferred to
Lublin) gave consent to receive a French representative to deal with the
repatriation of French citizens. At the same time, the PCNL demanded the dispatch
of a Polish representative to France. The question of establishing official relations
inevitably arose.
This specific linkage of the French and Polish questions was an important aspect of
Soviet diplomacy. The fact that the Soviet embassy to the Allied governments-in-
exile in London managed relations with both the Polish government (until the
suspension of relations in April 1943) and French authorities (before the formation
of the CFLN in Algiers) had its influence but can hardly have been paramount. For
Moscow, which had perceived Poland as one the main enemies throughout the
entire interwar period, and which regarded French influence in Poland as of some
importance (taking into account the mutual aid treaty of 1921),109 the securing of
the Soviet western border meant inter alia that the French (and Western in general)
presence in Poland would be seriously reduced.
During 1943–44, there were some apprehensions about French plans and actions
regarding the Polish government-in-exile and post-war Poland. Different
information came to Moscow through diplomatic channels and from the French
communists, namely, the information about de Gaulle’s critical attitude towards
the pro-Soviet Polish military formations in the USSR (the Polish 1st Tadeusz
Kościuszko Infantry Division),110 about intelligence sharing between French and
Polish officers on the territory of Iran,111 and about the delivery of money to the
Polish government-in-exile by the French authorities (from Polish funds deposited
in the French Bank).112 As Bogomolov’s talks with Dejean witnessed, the latter
“for all his sympathies to the USSR” was in favour of a “strong independent
Poland on the borders of the Soviet Union”.113 De Gaulle himself told Bogomolov
that he was, on the one hand, for a “free, independent Poland”, and, on the other,
for the Soviet Union having “the best strategic frontiers on the West and, certainly,
109 Though historians stress that this treaty did not amount to any real alliance and French aid to Poland in the
Soviet-Polish War had been limited, Moscow perceived it as being more effective. See: Frédéric Dessberg, Le
triangle impossible. Les relations franco-soviétiques et le facteur polonais dans les questions de sécurité en Europe
(1924–1935). Bruxelles: P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2009.
110 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 183. D. 4. L. 105. From Jean (1st December 1943).
111 Ibid.
112 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 76-77. From Lozovsky’s diary (21st April 1944).
113 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 9. From Bogomolov’s diary (29th May 1943).
in the Baltic”. He was ready to support the Curzon Line as the Soviet-Polish border
despite his regrets about the way the USSR had obtained it in 1939.114
This “Polish factor” in Soviet-French relations demonstrated that Moscow’s
attitude to the French provisional government was determined not only by the
situation in bilateral relations but also by broader Soviet strategic interests. In the
end of 1944, two terms were essential to Soviet reflections on the future
geopolitical role of France in Europe: “sphere of interest” and Western bloc”. As
early as 1943, Soviet diplomats had supposed that “post-war Western Europe,
liberated from the Hitlerite regime, would be situated in the immediate English
sphere of influence”.115 The extensive memorandum with the indicative title On
the perspectives and possible basis of Soviet-British cooperation” prepared by
Molotov’s deputy Litvinov on the 15th November, viewed post-war Europe as
being divided between two great spheres of influence: the British (Holland,
Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece) and the Soviet (Finland, Sweden,
Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, the Slavic countries of the Balkan
Peninsula, and Turkey). Though the countries in the respective spheres of influence
were theoretically forbidden to conclude treaties against the will of their patron”,
France, according to Litvinov, should constitute an exception, having the option to
join to the Soviet-British treaty of May 1942.116
The Kremlin and NKID were well aware that there were other projects for the
post-war organisation of Europe being discussed at the same time. November –
December 1944 was the time when Moscow was bombarded by its own
Ambassadors in Washington and London (Aleksei A. Gromyko and Fyodor T.
Gusev respectively), as well by NKGB summaries which were devoted to one
theme, namely, the plans to form a post-war “Western bloc” consisting of Great
Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, having an anti-German as
well as anti-Soviet direction.117
The fact that France was not considered part of the Soviet sphere of influence and
that a Soviet military presence was not planned there meant that Moscow would
not be able to influence French domestic politics or its foreign orientation directly.
This elevated the importance of two other instruments. The first, the PCF, whose
leadership in March 1944 had already been instructed not to prepare for revolution
but “to popularise and defend sincere friendship between France and the USSR”.118
On the 18th November, while instructing Thorez before his departure from
Moscow, Stalin repeated that the PCF ought “to advocate the rebirth of a militarily
and industrially powerful France and the creation of a democratic regime (the
114 Ibid. L. 17. From Bogomolov’s diary (28th May 1943).
115 AVP RF. F. 0512. Op. 4. P. 31. D. 307. L. 10. Note by Shtein (22nd September 1943).
116 AVP RF. F. 06. Op. 6. P. 14. D. 143. L. 83. Memo by Litvinov (15th November 1944). See also: Vladimir O.
Pechatnov, “The Big Three after World War II,” Cold War International History Project, Working Paper No. 13
(Washington DC, May 1995), pp. 12-14. Available at
117 Pechatnov and Magadeev, Perepiska, vol. 2, pp. 316-319.
118 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, p. 305.
Allies want a weak France as well as a weak Italy)”. Thorez was told “not to defy
the de Gaulle government; to maintain a loyal stance”.119 The second instrument in
the hands of Moscow was the diplomatic rapprochement, which aimed not only to
prevent the anti-Soviet tendencies of France and its drive to the “Western bloc” but
also gave more opportunities and weight to the PCF inside the country. If the
Soviet Union were a partner of France, the PCF could use its pro-Soviet stance as
an advantage.
Concluding these reflections about Polish and PCF factors, it can be said that the
Soviet-French rapprochement was conditioned on two important concessions from
Paris: firstly, French assent to the strengthening of the Soviet position in Poland
and Eastern and Central Europe in general; secondly, the willingness of the French
government to give more room for PCF political action inside France. The latter
precondition was clearly understood by Paris. During the Dekanozov – Garreau
talks of the 23rd October, Garreau said that the matter of Thorez’s return would
soon be resolved.120 On the 28th October, while preparing for his visit to Moscow,
De Gaulle sent a cablegram to Thorez, permitting his return to France after the
publication of decree on amnesty for war criminals (Thorez was officially
considered a deserter).121 It was not by accident that de Gaulle’s desire to go to
Moscow was expressed to Bogomolov only after this message was sent, namely on
the 8th November. Moscow’s consent came five days later.122
The understanding that Soviet-French rapprochement would not increase the
possibilities of Paris in Eastern and Central Europe was slower in coming.
Garreau’s meeting with Dekanozov on the 14th November took place against the
background of some positive news: France had just been admitted to the EAC
(Garreau saw in this the result of the Soviet initiative), and Moscow had given
consent to de Gaulle’s visit. Even so, Garreau’s attempts to secure the dispatch of
French diplomatic representatives to Bucharest and Sofia and a diplomatic agent to
Helsinki met with a cool reception on the Soviet side: Dekanozov foresaw “great
difficulties” in the resolution of this question.123
In addition to the European and domestic political dimensions of Soviet-French
relations, there was also a colonial aspect. Stalin’s remarks made in Tehran had not
been accidental. If Europe was seen by Moscow as divided into “spheres of
influence” where definite rules of the game would exist,124 competition on the
periphery seemed far more open in character. In January 1944, Maisky focussed
his attention to the important post-war aim of the Soviet Union in the Arab world
119 Ibid., pp. 342-343.
120 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 125. From Dekanozov’s diary (25th October 1944).
121 Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 342.
122 SFO, vol. 2, 143.
123 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 135. From Dekanozov’s diary (17th November 1944).
124 Among these, Litvinov cited the absence of “too close relations” between countries within the “sphere of
influence” and Western great powers, the absence of treaties between them which did not correspond to Soviet
interests, and the absence of foreign (not Soviet) military, naval and air bases on the territories of the countries in
question. See: AVP RF. F. 06. Op. 6. P. 14. D. 143. L. 84. Memo by Litvinov (15th November 1944).
(Iraq, Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt), namely, “strengthening of
Soviet influence in the economic, cultural and political spheres”125 (which he
hoped to achieve without conflicts with the USA and Great Britain). Maisky
thought that opening of consulates in Syria and Lebanon would be one of the first
steps towards this (as well as a diplomatic mission in Iraq and consulate in
On the 18th May, in realisation of this idea, Dekanozov informed Garreau of the
Soviet desire to open two general consulates in Damascus and Beirut. According to
Dekanozov, Garreau’s reacted “with great approval” reminding him that he had
previously made similar propositions.126 The question asked by the French
diplomat (as to whether this supposed the opening of diplomatic missions or
consulates), prompted the NKID to demand, two days later, consent for the
opening of the diplomatic missions. Garreau’s answer was again in the positive.127
Though the beginning of the process went smoothly, there was already some
anxiety from the French side two months later. Establishment of diplomatic
relations with Syria (21st 22nd July) by the Soviet Union (Lebanon would soon
follow) provoked Garreau to ascertain the French position: France wished to
maintain her special positions and interests in these countries for the period of 20
to 25 years.128 The position taken by the Soviet diplomat Nikolai V. Novikov (in
July 1944 he had been sent on a mission to Syria and Lebanon to secure the
establishment of diplomatic relations with these countries) was the opposite.
Speaking to Syrian Prime Minister Saadullah al-Jabri on the 30th July and to a
British diplomat on the 31st July, he repeatedly stated that the USSR would not
support French demands to secure positions acquired in the Levant.129 This was the
key question: how would the Soviet-French rapprochement influence Soviet policy
in this zone of special French interests?
What did the Soviet-French alliance change? France in Soviet foreign policy
from December 1944 to February 1945.
Stalin’s consent to meet with de Gaulle in December 1944 can be explained by a
complex set of reasons. The unanimous recognition of the French provisional
government by Big Three in October had opened the way to rapprochement with
de Gaulle without causing any evident damage to relations with the USA and Great
Britain. The strengthening of de Gaulle’s position inside France, reorganisation of
the government and consent to Thorez’s return all indicated that Moscow’s gamble
on him as democratic leader had proved its worth. Moreover, rapprochement with
Paris was useful as a means of forestalling any possible anti-Soviet turn of France
(the idea of the “Western bloc”) and of strengthening the position of the PCNL.
125 Kynin, Laufer, SSSR i germanskii vopros, vol. 1, p. 346.
126 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 89. From Dekanozov’s diary (19th May 1944).
127 Ibid. L. 90. From Dekanozov’s diary (20th May 1944).
128 Ibid. L. 112. From Dekanozov’s diary (3rd August 1944).
129 Rami Ginat, “Syria’s and Lebanon’s Meandering Road to Independence: The Soviet Involvement and the Anglo-
French Rivalry,” Diplomacy & Statecraft, vol. 13 (2002), p. 107.
De Gaulle’s famous visit to Moscow (2nd – 10th December 1944), while not
proceeding without difficulties, was crowned by a twenty-year alliance treaty
aimed at preventing German aggression.130 The negotiations around the treaty and
the treaty itself revealed three important aspects of Soviet policy regarding France
as it stood by the end of 1944.
Firstly, France was regarded by Moscow as an important ally in the event of a
German resurgence. On the 2nd December, during the first meeting between Stalin
and de Gaulle, the basis for agreement between the USSR and France was already
discovered, namely, the threat of renewed German aggression and the common
desire to prevent it. This idea governed the Molotov – Bidault negotiations in
which the details of the treaty were agreed. On the 8th December, during the last
formal meeting with de Gaulle, Stalin underlined it one more time using his
famous geopolitical and strategic argument: “… France and Russia131 should
understand each other better than others, because they are first to meet the
attack”.132 The fact that the Soviet-French military negotiations took place in
Moscow was also significant. On the 6th December, during the meeting between
General Alphonse Juin, Chief of Staff of the French Army, and his Soviet
counterpart General Aleksei I. Antonov, besides the traditional exchange of
information, Antonov proposed the idea of intelligence sharing concerning German
troops on the Western front.133 At the same time, Juin’s references to the French
forces which were available in Europe (eight divisions armed by the Americans)
clearly demonstrated that the two armies were not equal.
The second aspect of Soviet policy on France was likewise nothing new. As
previously, Stalin made it clear that in some questions Soviet-French relations are
subordinated by Moscow to the imperatives of the “Grand Alliance”. On the 2nd
December, Stalin made it clear to de Gaulle that one of the crucial questions for the
General – the French frontier on the Rhine cannot be discussed à deux even
though some earlier NKID documents had been sympathetic to the French
demands in principle.134 The same thesis that it was necessary to listen to the
British opinion – was evident in Molotov’s proposition to Bidault on the 7th
December to conclude an Anglo-Soviet-French tripartite agreement (the idea had
been suggested by Churchill in a personal message to Stalin on the 5th December).
Though Stalin himself initially proposed a bilateral Soviet-French treaty similar to
the Soviet-British one,135 he was prepared to consent to Churchill’s proposal.136
130 The Soviet documents on de Gaulle’s visit are published in: SFO, vol. 2. The French documents are available in:
DDF, 1944, vol. 2. See also: Mikhaïl M. Narinski,“De Gaulle face à Staline,” in Philippe Oulmont, dir., De Gaulle
chef de guerre: De l’appel de Londres à la libération de Paris 1940-1944 (Paris: Plon, 2008), pp. 464-482.
131 It seems that Stalin used this term intentionally to play up to de Gaulle – the latter always speaking about
“Russia” rather than “the Soviet Union”.
132 SFO, vol. 2, p. 198.
133 DDF, 1944, vol. 2, pp. 395-399.
134 Kynin, Laufer, SSSR i germanskii vopros, vol. 1, pp. 441, 445-446.
135 This was especially evident in the French record of the meeting. See: DDF, 1944, vol. 2, p. 353.
Why did Stalin finally consent to de Gaulle’s demand for a bilateral treaty? This
leads to the third aspect of the Soviet policy: Moscow wanted to use Soviet-French
rapprochement to further her interests in the crucial “Polish question”. As Gregor
Dallas put it, “de Gaulle’s encounter in Moscow became a tug-of-war over
Poland”.137 On the 6th December, de Gaulle reiterated his idea that an independent
Poland friendly to the Soviet Union should exist after the war. He did not exclude
that a Polish government different from the government-in-exile might later be
recognised (subject to unanimous decision of the main Allies). Though Stalin
wanted to get de jure recognition of the PCNL from de Gaulle as the concession
for a bilateral Soviet-French treaty, this turned out to be a difficult task. On the 7th
and 9th December, Molotov failed to persuade Bidault to establish diplomatic
relations with the PCNL. However, de Gaulle’s consent to receive representatives
of the PCNL and to send his own representatives to Lublin was regarded by the
NKID as an important step in the process of gaining the PCNL international
recognition: it amounted to the establishment of “de-facto relations,” as the NKID
cablegram to the Soviet Ambassadors stressed.138 The tactics which the French had
previously followed, attempting to use rapprochement with Moscow as a means of
applying pressure on the USA and Great Britain, were now adopted by the Soviet
Union itself. John W. Young’s conclusion about the Soviet-French negotiations in
December 1944 seems justified: Stalin made an anti-German alliance with her
[France], which pleased the French Communists (whilst upsetting the British) but
he had not conceded any major role for France in Big-Three decision-making”139.
The general lines of the Soviet policy on the “French question” as they were
clearly demonstrated in December 1944 would remain largely the same by the time
of the Yalta Conference. The idea of France forming part of the British sphere of
influence was retained. On the 11th January, reiterating the main ideas of his
November memorandum, Litvinov stressed the fact that France was in the British
sphere but nonetheless she should maintain her alliance treaty with the Soviet
Union.140 Molotov’s main concern was Poland. For him, the situation around the
French government gave the opportunity to insist on the Soviet upper hand in
Polish affairs. In February 1945, Molotov noted on one of Vyshinsky’s
memorandum: Poland, that’s a big affair! But we do not know how the
governments in Belgium, France, Greece, etc. are to be organised. We were not
asked ... We didn’t interfere, because this was the zone of actions of Anglo-
American troops [underlined in the original I.M.]…”141 Whether it was
intentional or not, even the original names of the CFLN and PCLN (recognised as
136 An internal NKID report about de Gaulle’s visit underlined that it was the French leader who had insisted on a
bilateral, Franco-Soviet treaty, though the Soviet side, reacting to Churchill’s proposal, “declared that for us the idea
of a trilateral treaty was acceptable”. See: AVP RF. F. 059. Op. 12. P. 6. D. 33. L. 129-131. From Moscow to Soviet
Ambassadors (14th December 1944).
137 Gregor Dallas, 1945, The War That Never Ended (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), p. 329.
138 AVP RF. F. 059. Op. 12. P. 6. D. 33. L. 129-131. From Moscow to Soviet Ambassadors (14th December 1944).
139 John W. Young, “Stalin and de Gaulle,” History Today, vol. 40 (1990), p. 26.
140 Kynin, Laufer, SSSR i germanskii vopros, vol. 1, 596.
141 AVP RF. F. 06. Op. 7. P. 39. D. 588. L. 1. Molotov’s resolution on Vyshinsky’s memo [s.d.] [February 1945].
the Provisional Government of Poland by the Soviet Union on the 5th January
1945) were very similar.
There was little change in the Soviet attitude towards French participation in Big
Three summits. Though de Gaulle was particularly angered by Roosevelt’s actions
before and after the Yalta Conference (absence of invitation and preliminary talks,
and an invitation to meet in Algiers a posteriori), all three leaders were in fact
against de Gaulle’s invitation.142 The fact of French military weakness mattered.
As Churchill and Stalin agreed in Yalta, the entrance fee to the Big Three club was
too high for France; between 3 and 5 million soldiers.143
It was Churchill, not Stalin, who was the main defender of the “French cause” at
Yalta, securing her participation in the Control mechanism for Germany while
Stalin was sceptical about this proposition.144 Stalin continued to regard France as
part of the Western world, a country which was always closer to Great Britain and
the USA than to the USSR; this view persisted even in spite of the alliance treaty.
What really interested Stalin at Yalta was how to use the “French argument” to
forward Soviet interests in the Polish question”. Anglo-American differences on
the question of French membership in the Control Commission for Germany
(Churchill endorsed this while Roosevelt opposed) gave Stalin diplomatic
leverage. “Stalin could expect to ensure British cooperation on Poland and other
controversial matters by siding with the Francophobic President, which he
promptly did. The Soviet leader, always a skilled negotiator, could now juxtapose
Britain’s need for France with the Soviet need for a friendly’ Poland”.145 During
the plenary meeting of the 8th February, he also tried to establish another parallel:
between a de Gaulle government which “also was not elected, and composed of
different elements” and the Provisional Government of Poland: “Why demand
more from Poland than from France?”, he asked.146 Though this kind of
argumentation brought little in the way of results, in the end Stalin’s version of a
solution to the “Polish question” would prevail.
Thus, though it appears strange, the alliance treaty did not change much with
regard to the Soviet attitude to France. By the end of December, Bogomolov was
already preventing French diplomats from expecting any radical changes in matters
of bilateral relations. He insisted that it was necessary to act with prudence, not to
use the Soviet-French alliance against the USA and Great Britain, not to rush into
dispatching diplomatic representatives to former Axis countries, but to have a
142 Marina Ts. Arzakanyan, “Frantsiia i Ialtinskaia konferentsiia” [France and the Yalta conference], Paper presented
at the conference “70-letie Ialtinskoi konferentsii glav gosudarstv antigitlerovskoi koalitsii[70 years of the Yalta
conference of the leaders of anti-Hitlerite coalition] (Moscow, 25th-26th February 2015).
143 Gromyko, Sovetskii Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh, vol. 4 (Moscow: Politizdat, 1984), p. 110.
144 Ibid., pp. 65-67. Though Stalin consented in the end, he took into account that territory for the French zone of
occupation was given by the British and the Americans, not by the Soviets.
145 Fraser J. Harbutt, Yalta 1945: Europe and America at the Crossroads (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2010), p. 292.
146 Gromyko, Sovetskii Soyuz na mezhdunarodnykh konferentsiyakh, vol. 4, p. 144.
policy based on real and not potential possibilities. As one French diplomat
concluded, in general, it is necessary to act with prudence. Russia holds
prejudices against France yet”.147
French reactions to Yalta enforced these prejudices. In March, speaking to Georges
Catroux,148 the new French ambassador to Moscow, Stalin raised a number of
claims with the French. He disliked that they addressed their grievances about
Soviet actions to the British and not directly to the USSR, and he refuted the
information that the Soviet Union had not recognised the privileged position of
France in Syria and Lebanon at Yalta. On the last point Stalin showed some
comprehension of French interests. He asked Catroux: “Do you want to stay there
[in Syria and Lebanon]?” After General’s answer (“Yes, it is a strategic carrefour”)
Stalin said: “I understand”.149 Stalin’s words were evasive but, to judge from the
subsequent steps of the Soviet Union in the Syrian and Lebanon questions,150 it
seemed that his anti-colonial mood had not disappeared. The Soviet-French anti-
German alliance did not mean that the USSR would support France in the Middle
In October 1944, stressing the changing realities of the military and political
situation in Europe and the world, Bogomolov said to Dejean: “The USSR is a
very Great Power. Suffering incredible losses, it ended the isolation in which it had
sojourned for so long. It was a very bloody drama but here is the result. Henceforth
it will be impossible to underestimate the role of the Soviet Union in Europe”.151
The Second World War radically changed the balance of power between the Soviet
Union and France, strengthening the role of former and weakening the position of
the latter. This position of strength characterised Soviet policy on France for the
whole period of 1943–45 and explains many of its features: the ideas about the
unreality of certain French claims and demands, the desire to conserve the
privileged Big Three decision-making process, and the dependence of the Soviet
French policy on the dynamics of relations inside the “Grand Alliance”.
That is not to say that the reputation of the pro-French character of Soviet actions –
from extended recognition of the CFLN in August 1943 to bilateral alliance in
December 1944 – is without foundation. But the motives of these actions were
147 AN, 457 AP 82. Conversation avec Bogomolov (25 Décembre 1944).
148 Information which came to Moscow about Catroux before his appointment was different. The Soviet embassy to
the Allied governments-in-exile characterised him as a former friend of Giraud, with Cot telling the Soviet officials
that Catroux “is reactionary like all military men, but first of all, he is a good soldier and has given many services to
the Committee [CFLN]” and, finally, Garreau speaking of him as an “intelligent, quite educated political
personality”. See: AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 183. D. 4. L. 46. Reference note on the National Committee of
Fighting France (12th December 1942); AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 69, 141. From Lozovsky’s diary
(21st April 1944), From Dekanozov’s diary (28th December 1944).
149 AN, 457 AP 82. Catroux à Paris (20 Mars 1945). The Soviet record may be found in: SFO, vol. 2, pp. 291-297.
150 Ginat, “Syria’s and Lebanon’s Meandering Road to Independence”, pp. 96-122.
151 AN, 457 AP 82. Note de Direction Europe, Ministère des Affaires étrangères (25 Octobre 1944).
pragmatic. Besides the permanent strategic reason (to prevent renewed German
aggression) there were other more fluid ones. In 1943, this was mainly support of
de Gaulle as a more acceptable leader than the Anglo-American protégés, while in
1944, it was the desire to forestall any possible anti-Soviet drift of France, to
strengthen the position of the PCF and to reinforce PCNL legitimacy.
The treaty of alliance and mutual aid of the 10th December 1944 constituted the
high point of the Soviet-French rapprochement, while demonstrating
simultaneously its limits. It did nothing to alter Moscow’s view of France as part
of the British sphere of influence or Stalin’s estimate that she was too weak to be a
member of the Big Three club. French attempts to play Britain against the Soviet
Union and vice versa were not excluded and prompted suspicions.
During the whole period, de Gaulle’s factor was of great importance. In this sense,
Soviet-French relations in 1943–45 could be regarded as part of interactions over a
broader period. There is something to say for comparisons between Soviet-French
relations during the two de Gaulle eras: 1941–1946 and 1958–1968. In both cases,
Moscow viewed the General with suspicion, but recognised him as a French
politician truly capable of affording himself significant freedom of manoeuvre in
relations with Washington and London. And this asset, both in the times of the
“Grand Alliance” and during the Cold War, was always appreciated in Moscow.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
1945 is a monumental, multi-dimensional history of the end of World War II. Dallas narrates in meticulous detail the conflicts, contradictions, motives, and counter-motives that marked the end of the greatest military conflict in modern history and established lasting patterns of deceit, uncertainty, and distrust out of which the Cold War was born. Beginning with the siege of Berlin, Dallas describes in simple human terms the interactions of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Hitler, Zhukov, Truman, de Gaulle, Macmillan, along with others relatively unknown, vividly portraying the interpenetration of the daily with the epochal, the obscure with the great political events taking place on the world stage. A grand narrative of diplomatic mistakes, military accidents, and the chaos inherent in human affairs,1945 draws the reader into a profound reflection on the basic shaping forces of history, the arbitrary ways we objectify its conflicts, and the subtle, almost invisible filaments that enmesh public events with private passions.
This article attempts to describe and examine the process of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR, Syria, and Lebanon. While it places special emphasis on the reaction of Britain and France - the hegemonic powers in the Levant, to this development, it also examines the implications of the growing French-British tension in this area on the Soviet-Syrian-Lebanese process of rapprochement. This article covers the period from mid-1944 - the beginning of the Soviet-Lebanese-Syrian diplomatic dialogue, to 1950 - the year which marked Syria's tilt towards neutralism and the powers reaction to it.
Stalin i Pol'sha and industrially powerful France and the creation of a democratic regime
  • Noskova
93 Noskova, " Stalin i Pol'sha ", p. 136. 94 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 31-32. Garreau to Molotov (28 th January 1944). and industrially powerful France and the creation of a democratic regime (the 114 Ibid. L. 17. From Bogomolov's diary (28 th May 1943).
Stalin and de Gaulle
  • John W Young
John W. Young, "Stalin and de Gaulle," History Today, vol. 40 (1990), p. 26.
Stalin i Pol'sha From Lozovsky's diary
  • Noskova
81 Noskova, " Stalin i Pol'sha ", p. 136. 82 AVP RF. F. 0136. Op. 28. P. 186. D. 8. L. 70. From Lozovsky's diary (21 st April 1944).
From Bogomolov's diary
  • L Ibid
Ibid. L. 4. From Bogomolov's diary (30 th May 1943).
From Dekanozov's diary (8 th
  • . L Ibid
Ibid. L. 88. From Dekanozov's diary (8 th May 1944).
The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov
  • Banac
Banac, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, p. 317.
The Big Three after World War II Cold War International History Project, Working Paper No Available at
  • Pechatnov
Pechatnov, " The Big Three after World War II, " Cold War International History Project, Working Paper No. 13 (Washington DC, May 1995), pp. 12-14. Available at 117 Pechatnov and Magadeev, Perepiska, vol. 2, pp. 316-319.
Organy gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine: Sbornik dokumentov [The state security agencies of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War: Collection of documents
  • Nikolai P Patrushev
Nikolai P. Patrushev et al., eds., Organy gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine: Sbornik dokumentov [The state security agencies of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War: Collection of documents] [Hereafter – OGB] vol. 4, pt. 2 (Moscow: Rus', 2008), p. 283. 34 AVP RF. F. 136. Op. 27. P. 184. D. 10. L. 16. From Bogomolov's diary (28 th May 1943).