On the 16th April 1922, former First World War enemies Germany and Russia signed the Treaty of Rapallo.  Both countries had been excluded from the League of Nations, and this acted as a catalyst for the pact.

The Western powers were startled by the agreement.  When Germany drew up the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, Russia had been forced to sign away large swathes of land.  The Treaty of Rapallo meant the two countries abandoned all territorial and financial arguments stemming from Brest-Litovsk and, instead, to “co-operate in a spirit of mutual goodwill in meeting the economic needs of both countries”.

The Treaty of Rapallo was particularly important for Russia, as it was the first international recognition of the Bolsheviks as the official government.  However, it was the military clauses – most of them secret – that were most valuable to both sides.  German factories producing military goods were able to move to Russia, effectively bypassing the Treaty of Versailles limits on German weaponry.  Furthermore the two armies conducted joint training exercises deep inside Russia, which enabled the German army to continue to use technology banned by Versailles such as tanks and war planes.

Russia benefited from this agreement as well.  They were able to see Western European military technology, and work with German engineers who shared techniques that were to be the bedrock of Stalin’s Five Year Plans.

The Rapallo Treaty alarmed the Western Powers, but the danger was short-lived.   By the middle of the 1920s, Germany under Stresemann had begun to improve relations with them as a result of the Locarno Treaties, meaning a close relationship with Russia was less vital.

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2 comments on “16th April 1922: Treaty of Rapallo signed by Germany and Russia

  1. For decades now, the interpretation of the German-Russian Treaty of Rapallo (April 16, 1922) has been failed also by professional historians. Together with a strong media reception, a concerning the historical facts quite weird “double myth” in the history of international relations has been constructed.
    Your above mentioned contribution unfortunately adds to this largely misleading interpretation quite strongly: The path to Rapallo had nothing to do with German-Russian intrigue against the “West”. It was the outcome of a dramatic diplomatic situation evolving during the international economic conference in Genoa (April 10 – May 22, 1922), where all the delegations jockeyed to secure their own national financial advantages in the so-called Russian question. Imagining themselves to have been cornered now also on this issue, the leading members of the German delegation claimed that they were acting in financial self-defence. Accordingly, on Easter Sunday they renegotiated the treaty between Germany and Soviet Russia that had been prepared since February 1922. After only a few hours, the agreement was signed in the “Oval Hall” of the “Imperial Palace Hotel” in today’s Santa Margherita Ligure, the temporary residence of the Russian delegation during that time and worth to visit until today. German foreign minister Rathenau, the leading German diplomat Ago von Maltzan and the German Chancellor Wirth were in fact quite right in justifying their ‘Rapallo step’, notably with reference to British and Italian conference management. Referring to article 116 (3) of the Treaty of Versailles in the so-called ‘London Memorandum’, the Allies had unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Germany from representing her own financial and economic interests and to bring Soviet Russia into the fatal Versailles debtors system to keep the first German democracy down instead of trying to support a modern democratic nation-building. That was in part achieved in the years after the Ruhr Crisis 1923.
    See more under http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/volltextserver/6751/ or http://www.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-retro/34-3-2007/0103-0126