WI: Stalin drops dead just before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact

Suppose a scenario where Stalin suffers an unexpected stroke or some freak accident, around late July or early August 1939. By that point, Germany had already determined to go to war with Poland soon, France and Britain had repudiated their policy of appeasement, Soviet-Western talks mostly reached a dead end, while Soviet-German negotiations were still ongoing, however with no agreement yet in sight. What happens next? Several issues to consider

1. first of all, Stalin’s succession. This is just after the great purge, thus there aren’t many people in positions of leadership who could possibly inherit a stable government. There’s Beria I assume, as horrible as that sounds. But other candidates for Stalin’s OTL successor like Malenkov and Khrushchev were not yet senior enough to be considered for the role. I don’t know enough about Soviet internal politics of the time to answer this more clearly.

2. Perhaps more importantly, effect on the outbreak of ww2. I’m gonna throw a guess and say that the war starts as per OTL, however without a German-Soviet pact as the Soviet government is in too much chaos to properly negotiate. As a result the Germans conclude that they would also be in too much chaos to resist a German occupation of Poland. Thus the Germans are able to occupy all of poland. However no Molotov-Ribbentrop also means reduced trade between Germany and the USSR, which affects Germany’s longer-term strategic planning.

3. Further in down the line, when do the two countries go to war? Cause I think we can all agree that would happen eventually any way.
 
1. first of all, Stalin’s succession. This is just after the great purge, thus there aren’t many people in positions of leadership who could possibly inherit a stable government. There’s Beria I assume, as horrible as that sounds. But other candidates for Stalin’s OTL successor like Malenkov and Khrushchev were not yet senior enough to be considered for the role. I don’t know enough about Soviet internal politics of the time to answer this more clearly.

Beria has been head of the NKVD for less than a year and is at this point in time only a candidate member of the Politburo. Malenkov and Krushchev are, as you say, not senior enough. Kruschev has just been sent to Ukraine to act as regional overlord there, and Malenkov is running cadres and a Central Committee secretary. None of those three have the clout to take over at this juncture.

My bet would be Molotov. Long-term member of the leadership and close associate of Stalin, chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (basically the premier) since 1930 and recently appointed People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs. He's also a Russian, unlike Beria.
 
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Probably delays the Winter War and without the Pacet the Baltic states don't get absorbed by the SU (or at least not so early
 
Well the First prediction is a likely less deadly Ostfront for the Soviets
Better for France too, as Moscow won't send the orders for the local Communists to undermine the War effort. That, and a need to keep forces in occupied Poland.

As noted above, my vote would also be for Molotov.
 
Better for France too, as Moscow won't send the orders for the local Communists to undermine the War effort. That, and a need to keep forces in occupied Poland.

As noted above, my vote would also be for Molotov.
Wasn't Beria or the drunkard in 2 place for succession?
 

thaddeus

Donor
the Polish war plan (or part of it) was to withdraw to the Romanian Bridgehead https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_Bridgehead while they were also in a defensive pact with Romania https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish–Romanian_Alliance

the M-R Pact (along with the rapid collapse of Poland) seems to have quashed any of these plans? (for resupply thru Romania and/or Romania declaring war and directly assisting Poland itself)

IDK what the Soviet position would be, seems they might still be tempted into an arrangement where they gain some of the territories they gained historically? (from Poland and Romania)
 
Don't forget that Soviet forces are fighting with Japan in the Far East (the Nomonhan incident). What was Molotov's take on that theater? Stalin was happy to shut it down with status quo ante (and the Japanese thoroughly intimidated).
 

thaddeus

Donor
Don't forget that Soviet forces are fighting with Japan in the Far East (the Nomonhan incident). What was Molotov's take on that theater? Stalin was happy to shut it down with status quo ante (and the Japanese thoroughly intimidated).

here any German-Soviet pact is not being signed right in the middle of that conflict, which we can assume the Japanese were not too happy about historically (IDK honestly, have never read any analysis on their reactions)

ideally from the German perspective there would be a Continuation War between USSR-Japan in this scenario, as there was between USSR-Finland historically?
 
here any German-Soviet pact is not being signed right in the middle of that conflict, which we can assume the Japanese were not too happy about historically...
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed on 23 August. The Soviet counterattack against the Japanese incursion began on 20 August and continued till 31 August. Fighting ceased after that, but the formal cease -fire was agreed on 15 September.
 

thaddeus

Donor
Don't forget that Soviet forces are fighting with Japan in the Far East (the Nomonhan incident). What was Molotov's take on that theater? Stalin was happy to shut it down with status quo ante (and the Japanese thoroughly intimidated).

here any German-Soviet pact is not being signed right in the middle of that conflict, which we can assume the Japanese were not too happy about historically (IDK honestly, have never read any analysis on their reactions)

ideally from the German perspective there would be a Continuation War between USSR-Japan in this scenario, as there was between USSR-Finland historically?

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed on 23 August. The Soviet counterattack against the Japanese incursion began on 20 August and continued till 31 August. Fighting ceased after that, but the formal cease -fire was agreed on 15 September.
don't understand your point, mine was that under THIS scenario (from the OP) there is no M-R Pact, thus Germany is not striking up some arrangement with the Soviets while their erstwhile ally Japan is battling them.
 
Molotov is already Chairman of the Council (AKA "Prime Minister") so him "ruling" the USSR is a given. But I think that there would a concensus that one people could not concentrate all the powers again like Stalin (the Great Purge remained a great source of anguish for his inner circle enven if they all signed lists). Except the remaining old bosheviks to form an alliance since they worked (and lived together) for two decades now. That means Kaganovich and Mikoyan being allied to Molotov, Voroshilov likely remaining at the head of Minister of Defence. The NKVD? Probably still headed by Beria but he would closely monitored by the others since they all knew that Stalin's power was due to his tight control over the Security Apparatus.
So a Collegial Dictatorship (like in the 1928-1932 years), prone to be more moderate than OTL but still VERY brutal (remember that Molotov and Kaganovich ardently supported the collectivisation in 1930).
Foreign Policy? The MR pact was Molotov's baby, partially designed against Litvinov's wishes, who was hated by Molotov btw. So expect the pact to be somewhat followed in its earlier phases. I think the Baltics will still become Soviet but Finland and Bessarabia are less certain (still, Molotov wasn't a great diplomat and could be rather brutal. One advantage, he adored and listened to his wife who was smarter than him). Romania may thus remain cautiously neutral or another Bulgaria when Barbarossa comes: supplying oil to Germany but no men (so no Odessa, and a Fall Blau far deadlier for Germany if it comes to that).
And of course, disaster like Kiev would certainly be avoided (but not the initial ones like Minsk).
 

thaddeus

Donor
The MR pact was Molotov's baby, partially designed against Litvinov's wishes, who was hated by Molotov btw. So expect the pact to be somewhat followed in its earlier phases. I think the Baltics will still become Soviet but Finland and Bessarabia are less certain ... Romania may thus remain cautiously neutral or another Bulgaria when Barbarossa comes: supplying oil to Germany but no men (so no Odessa, and a Fall Blau far deadlier for Germany if it comes to that).
And of course, disaster like Kiev would certainly be avoided (but not the initial ones like Minsk).

if the Winter War and the unplanned occupation of N. Bukovina do not occur we might see a longer period of German-Soviet cooperation? the former convinced the Nazis of Soviet weakness and the latter threatened their Romanian oil supply.

or alternatively, the Soviets may "digest" the Baltics and Bessarabia, and be in the midst of a later invasion of Finland just prior to a German invasion East?

who do we think drove the Soviet designs on Bulgaria, was that primarily Stalin or a general Soviet view?
 
I think the Winter War and Bukovina are two different issues: Romania was an opportunistic move in a typical Stalinist fashion (the francophile country, so far relatively pro Entente, was suddenly isolated in June 1940). I doubt Molotov who be able to have the geopolitical level of cunning improvisation Stalin had. Finland is about securing Leningrad and again, Molotov followed Stalin there since the very beginning OTL so expect negociations as OTL. Finland may or may not accept, but that's another matter.
I think asking someone like Drakonfin is a good idea there.

About cooperation between Germany and the USSR... Eeerrr... Molotov's wife is jewish and he adored her. And Kaganovich is jewish too. So they have plenty of reasons not to be enthusiastic regarding Germany, especially after June 1940. OTL, Stalin had Litvinov and Molotov's wife discreetly removed from positions of influence, partially to please the Nazis: Molotov was happy about the first case but quite resentful for the second.
 
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