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Ivan Maisky

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Title: Ivan Maisky  
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Subject: Aarno Yrjö-Koskinen, Soviet–Finnish Non-Aggression Pact, Foreign involvement in the Spanish Civil War, Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement, Mensheviks
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Ivan Maisky

The Soviet–Finnish Non-Aggression Pact signed in Helsinki on 21 January 1932. On the left the Finnish foreign minister Aarno Yrjö-Koskinen, and on the right the Ambassador of the Soviet Union in Helsinki Ivan Maisky.[1]

Ivan Mikhailovich Maisky (also spelled Maysky; Russian: Ива́н Миха́йлович Ма́йский) (19 January 1884 – 3 September 1975) was a Soviet diplomat, historian, and politician, notable as the Soviet Union's Ambassador to the United Kingdom[2][3] during much of World War II.

Life and career

Ivan Maisky was born Jan Lachowiecki in H.G. Wells, and Beatrice Webb.

At the outbreak of the Russian Civil War and the revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion in Siberia, Maisky returned to Russia and settled in Samara, where he joined the local Komuch government, for which he was banished by the Mensheviks.

In 1921, he officially joined the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) which started his career within the communist system of power in Russia. In 1922 he started working as a diplomat at various posts including London, Tokyo, and Helsinki, but in 1924, he also served as the first editor of the Petrograd literary magazine Zvezda.

In 1929, he became the Soviet ambassador to Finland. A close collaborator of Maxim Litvinov, Maisky was an active member and the Soviet envoy to the Committee of Non-Intervention during the Spanish Civil War.

In 1932 he returned to London as the official Soviet envoy to the United Kingdom, a post he held until 1943.[4] Before the outbreak of World War II, Maisky dealt with a number of crises including intense British hostility towards the Soviets as a result of the Winter War with Finland.[5]

In 1941, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Maisky was responsible for the normalization of relations with the Western Allies. Among other pacts, he signed the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement of 1941, which declared the Nazi-Soviet Pact null and void.[6] It also normalized relations between the Soviet Union and the Polish government-in-exile and allowed for hundreds of thousands of Poles to be released from the Soviet Gulag.

During these years in London, he reassured Joseph Stalin that Britain had no interest in signing a separate peace with Germany while pressuring Britain to open a "second front" against the Germans in northern France.[5] He maintained close contact with Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden and personally visited the Foreign Office every day to get the latest news.[7]

In 1943, he was recalled to Moscow, where he became the Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs, and led a number of commissions planning possible Soviet strategies for ending the war and for the immediate postwar world. Maisky's commission focused particularly on the dismemberment of Germany, heavy reparations (including forced labor), severe punishment of war criminals, and long-term Soviet occupation. He also recommended maintaining a "viable Poland," albeit with significantly modified borders. In terms of postwar planning, Maisky envisioned a Europe with "one strong land power, the USSR, and only one strong sea power, Britain." His concerns about American ideological hostility led him to see Britain as a more viable long-term partner because he believed they would be more conservative going into the postwar world. He anticipated a struggle between the two, which would push Britain closer to the Soviet Union.[8] Consequently, he joined Soviet delegations to the conferences in Yalta and Potsdam.

In 1945, he retired from active service in Soviet diplomacy and devoted himself to history. From 1946 onwards he was a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In 1953, shortly before Stalin's death, he was arrested[9] and sentenced to six years in prison for alleged espionage. In 1955, however, he was released, cleared of all charges and fully rehabilitated. In 1966 Maisky signed the so-called Letter of 25 Soviet writers, scientists and cultural figures, addressed to Leonid Brezhnev and expressing opposition to a possible rehabilitation of Stalin.[10]


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  5. ^ a b Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953 Yale University Press, 2006
  6. ^ Ivan Maisky Memoirs of a Soviet Ambassador: The War 1939-43 trans. Andrew Rothstem London: Hutchison & Co. Publishers Inc. 1967, pg. 174.
  7. ^ Fraser Harbutt, Yalta 1945: Europe and America at the Crossroads, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 109
  8. ^ Fraser Harbutt, Yalta 1945: Europe and America at the Crossroads, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 110-111.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Письмо деятелей науки и культуры против реабилитации Сталина

External links

Who Helped Hitler?, book written by Maisky, published in English in 1964.

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