The Pact of Friendship, Neutrality, and Nonaggression between Italy and the Soviet Union, also known as the Italo-Soviet Pact, was a diplomatic agreement between the Soviet Union and Italy. Signed on 2 September 1933, the agreement was in place until 22 June 1941 when Italy declared war on the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The pact built on earlier economic relations (traditionally strong between the countries), seeking to ensure security in the Balkans and for a time mutual suspicion of German intentions.
|Pact of Friendship, Neutrality, and Nonaggression between Italy and the Soviet Union|
|Signed||September 2, 1933|
|Expiration||June 22, 1941|
|Languages||Italian and Russian|
The Soviet Union and Italy had maintained contacts since 26 December 1921 and full diplomatic relations since 7 February 1924, making Mussolini's Italy the first Western nation to recognize the Soviet Union. Some members of the Italian Communist Party, such as Luigi Tolentino from Palermo lived in exile in the Soviet Union, which caused some political friction and accusations of harbouring "subversives." On 6 May 1933, the two moved closer together by agreeing an economic pact supporting industrialisation goals; Italy required access to Soviet oil and coal, while the Soviets were interested in Italian innovations in the aviation, automobile and naval industries. The ideological controversy between Fascism and Bolshevism was largely considered as an internal matter and relations were built up nevertheless.
Reports in the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union were keen to stress the military aspect of this. In September 1933, a Soviet military mission visited Rome and Vladimir Petrovich Potemkin who served as Soviet Ambassador to Italy from 1932 until 1934, expressed "gratitude for the exceptional attention devoted to the Soviet mission by the Italian command and government," while a general from the Italian military stated, "the Italian Army has feelings which go deeper than the usual professional ones toward the Red Army. These feelings have been strengthened as a result of the Italo-Soviet Pact."
Potemkin sent an invite to the Undersecretary of State, Fulvio Suvich, for an Italian mission to visit the Soviet Union in return. Representatives of the Italian Army and the Italian Navy, including a Brigadier General, toured the Soviet Union for two weeks, though the Italian Air Force did not as Italo Balbo blocked the plan. There were further friendly exchanges in 1933 as an Italian submarine visited Batum on the Black Sea and three Soviet vessels visited Naples. This was in preparation for the visit of Maxim Litvinov. There were plans that captains from the Red Fleet would meet Benito Mussolini, but in the end this did not happen.
These developments also coincided with Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany and as there was an element of uncertainty not only between the Soviets and Germany at the time, but also Italy and Germany (not least over the issue of the potential annexation of Austria and furthermore Italian-controlled territories in South Tyrol). A third element to this relationship was the Turkish Republic. While the Soviet ships were in Naples, the Turkish Ambassador to Italy made a visit to the Soviet admiral on board. A potential Soviet-Italian-Turkish stability alliance troubled Berlin. Bernardo Attolio, who had been the Italian Ambassador to Moscow in 1930 and helped to pave the way for the 1932 agreement, called the military contacts a "tradition" and mutually beneficial, in that it helped to build Italian military and technological prestige. In the aftermath of these exchanges, Mussolini mobilised Italian troops in the summer of 1934 and had them placed on the Brenner Pass, aiming to ensure Austrian independence against the July Putsch.
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