The German Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Schulenburg) to the German Foreign Ministry
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No. 615

Moscow, January 17,1938.
Tgb. Nr. A/73
(Pol. V 487)

Subject: The closing of foreign Consulates in the Soviet Union and the abolition of Soviet Consulates.

In continuation of the previous reports of the 11th(1) and 13th.

Last summer and fall, the Soviet Government, invoking the "principle of parity," requested Poland, Japan, Germany, and Italy to limit their Consulates to a number corresponding to that of the Soviet Consulates in each of these countries. A total of 14 foreign Consulates (5 Italian, 5 German, 2 Japanese, and 2 Polish) had to be closed.

In the Diplomatic Corps here, this demand by the Soviet Government was interpreted primarily as an action against the States with which the Soviet Government is not on good terms, rather than as a measure arising out of the generally hostile attitude of the Soviet Government toward foreigners. Meanwhile this view has proved erroneous and the Diplomatic Corps now knows better. A few days ago the Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Potemkin, informed the Ambassadors of Britain, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, as well as the Ministers of Czechoslovakia, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Latvia, that as regards the States they represented, also, the Soviet Government would carry out the principle of parity in the number of Consulates on either side. According to a communication from Potemkin to the Swedish Minister here, the Soviet Government will make the same request of Denmark as soon as the newly appointed Danish Minister has assumed his post. Potemkin has also notified the Ambassadors of Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan that the Soviet Government will abolish the majority of its Consulates located in the countries represented by them.

The fact that the Soviet Government has requested even friendly States such as Czechoslovakia and Turkey to effect parity in the Consular system, as well as the closing of Soviet Consulates in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, which is obviously done merely for the purpose of reducing the number of Consulates of these countries in the Soviet Union, indicates plainly that this procedure against foreign Consulates in the Soviet Union has its origin in the constantly increasing preponderance of the forces hostile to foreigners, in the espionage psychosis, and in the tendencies directed toward as complete isolation as possible from foreign countries. The closing of almost all Consulates in the Near East indicates abandonment of the traditional Russian policy and a great limitation of the possibilities for Soviet activities in these countries. Britain, especially, will be pleased by this voluntary renunciation on the part of her old opponent in power politics.

The Soviet Government's action shows very clearly that foreign policy has to give way to domestic policy. Litvinov has to accommodate himself to this predominance of domestic policy.

I have been able to ascertain the following details regarding the most recent action of the Soviet Government.

In Leningrad the Soviet Government has requested the closing of the British, Estonian, Latvian, and the three Scandinavian Consulates. They are the only Consulates which those countries have in the Soviet Union, except for Norway, which still has a Consulate in Archangel. If the Soviets' demands are met, there will henceforth be only a Polish and a Finnish Consulate in Leningrad. The Soviet Union apparently could not or would not, for the time being, demand the closing of the Polish Consulate in Leningrad, since it concluded an agreement with Poland regarding Consulates as recently as last August. The Finns will apparently be permitted to retain their Consulate because the Soviets do not for the time being wish to.give up their Consulate in Viborg.

The demand for the closing of the Norwegian Consulate in Leningrad is in violation of the existing treaties between Norway and the Soviet Union. In the treaty of friendship and consular rights it was agreed that the Consulates which had already been opened at the time of the conclusion of the treaty (i.e., it was a question of Leningrad and Archangel) should continue to exist and that Norway should have the right to establish Consulates in all the cities of the Soviet Union in which there was a Consulate of a third country or in which one might be established. The Norwegian Minister here has told Potemkin that in view of the existing treaty provisions he would advise his Government to reject the Soviet demand for the closing of the Consulate in Leningrad. The closing of the Norwegian Consulate in Archangel has not been requested, since the Soviets have a Consular agent in Spitzbergen.

My Swedish colleague suggested to Potemkin that a Soviet Consulate be opened in Sweden, in order to save the Swedish Consulate in Leningrad. M. Potemkin answered, significantly, that the Soviet Government was not at all interested in the opening of new Consulates. The Soviet Government had decided to close the foreign Consulates in question. This decision was inalterable. Potemkin sought to mitigate the Swedish Minister's protest by a reference to the fact that the Soviet Government had requested even Qzecho. slovakia, with which it was on close terms of friendship, to close its Consulate in Kiev.

The Czechoslovak Minister here informed me that his Government would close the Consulate in Kiev. He was particularly exasperated by the fact that the Soviets had refused to compensate Czechoslovakia, upon return of the Consular building, for the not inconsiderable funds she had spent in improving it.

Turkey is to close four of its five [sic] Consulates (Odessa, Batum., Tiflis, Baku, Leninakan, and Erivan). The Soviets will close their Consulates in Smyrna and Kars and retain only Istanbul. They have suggested to the Turks that they maintain their Consulate in .Odessa. This Soviet proposal may be explained by the fact that there is still an Italian Consulate in Odessa, whereas the Consulates in the Black Sea harbors of Batum and Novorossiisk, as well as an the Consulates in the Caucasus except the Iranian Consulate in Tiflis, are to be closed. From the Soviet standpoint, moreover, the existence of a Turkish Consulate in Odessa is relatively unobjectionable, because Turkey has far fewer interests there than for example in Baku, Erivan, or Leninakan, in which localities there are Turkish tribes.

The Turkish Ambassador rejected the Soviet Russian demands, declaring that such a procedure between friendly countries appeared to him to be out of place. The Soviet Government ought rather to carry on friendly negotiations with Turkey in this matter. If it was not inclined to do so, the Turkish Government would presumably forego all Consular representation in the Soviet Union and also demand the closing of the Soviet Consulate in Istanbul. The Turkish Ambassador hopes that the threat of closing Istanbul will prove to be an effective means of exerting pressure ....(2)

The 3 Soviet Consulates in Afghanistan will be closed. The Afghan Government has been requested to close all its Consulates in the Soviet Union. Afghanistan maintains Consulates at Tashkent and Merv at the present time. The Afghan Ambassador told me that Afghanistan has a treaty right to maintain Consulates in Tashkent and Merv. In this treaty 7 places in the Soviet Union in which Afghanistan is entitled to open Consulates are mentioned by name. The Soviets have the right to maintain 5 Consulates in Afghanistan. For 2 years the Afghan Government has been carrying on fruitless negotiations with the Soviet Government for the modification of the existing treaty provisions in order to be able to open Afghan Consulates in places other than those provided for in the treaty. The Afghan Ambassador is of the opinion that, by invoking existing treaties, rejection of the Soviet demand is quite possible. In that case, however, the Soviets would surely embark on a policy of making impossible the Consulates' existence, which is already scarcely endurable, as well as any practical activity.

On the basis of earlier agreements Iran has the right to maintain 9 Consulates in the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union has the right to 11 Consulates in Iran. At the present time there are 5 Iranian Consulates in the Soviet Union (Tiflis, Batum, Baku, Erivan, and Ashkhabad), whereas there are 6 Soviet Consulates in Iran. The Soviets have made known to Iran their intention of continuing the maintenance of a Consulate only in Pehlevi and of closing the rest. At the same time the Iranian Government has been requested to close 4 Consulates in the Soviet Union and to retain Tiflis as its only Consular post. The Iranian Ambassador here expressed himself to me to the effect that his Government was most interested in the retention of Baku. If the Soviets insisted that the only Iranian Consulate in the Soviet Union be located at Tiflis, the Iranian Government for its part would perhaps specify a place of its choice for the only Soviet Consulate in Iran.

In case the second action of the Soviets against foreign Consulates achieves its purpose, 17 more Consulates would cease to exist. That the Soviet Government is firmly resolved under all circumstances to carry out its requested closing of the 17 Consulates is shown by the statements just made in the Supreme Council by Zhdanov, the Leningrad party leader. Zhdanov explained there were many Consuls in Leningrad. Some of them had exceeded their authority and had done things which were not permissible. Their continued presence in Leningrad was therefore undesirable. The dignity of the Soviet Union required the attainment of parity. In this connection I should like to point out that the Soviet Government uses the "principle of parity" only when it is to its advantage. Thus, for example, the Soviet Government does not apply the "principle of parity" to the United States, since there are 3 Soviet Consulates, in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, while the United States has opened no Consulate in the Soviet Union.

Only the Consulates of China (10) and of Manchuria (2: Blago-veshchensk and Chita) have thus far been exempt from both actions of the Soviet Government. Meanwhile it does not appear to be out of the question that the Soviet Government, in case of the successful conclusion of the present action, will attempt to restrict still further the number of foreign Consulates in the Soviet Union. This would, to be sure, only be possible if the Soviet Government closed some of its own Consulates which it deemed superfluous and then, again invoking the principle of parity, demanded the closing of a corresponding number of foreign Consulates in the Soviet Union.

Aside from this direct procedure aimed at the closing of the Consulates, there are the indirect but none the less systematic efforts of the Soviet Government to try by every possible chicanery to make the existence of the Consulates still remaining and the performance of any Consular work impossible. Thus, for example, the agencies of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs in Leningrad and Minsk have been closed. The Consulates located there will hereafter have to take all their requests to the chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the White Russian Republic or the chairman of the Leningrad Executive Committee. The position of agent in Khabarovsk has been vacant for a year. The work of the Japanese Consulate General there has been almost completely paralyzed. Inquiries it makes of the local officials remain unanswered.

They are trying to make the further stay of the Japanese Consuls in Vladivostok and Blagoveshchensk impossible by making it very difficult for them to procure food. The Norwegian Consul in Archangel is also the object of a great deal of chicanery. The Norwegian Legation consequently fears that the Norwegian Consulate there can no longer be maintained. The local Soviet officials have attempted to refuse to extend the residence permits of several Italian employees of the Italian Consulate General in Odessa on the very significant grounds that they had already been residents of Odessa prior to their employment at the Consulate. The Italian Embassy hopes that the residence permit will be granted on the basis of its representations. The difficulties with which our Consulate in Novosibirsk, in particular, and also our Consulate General in Kiev have to contend are well known.


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(2) Omission indicated in the original. Back

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