USSR joins the League of Nations

18 September 1934

September 18, 1934 general meeting of the League of Nations adopted a resolution on the admission of the USSR into the League and the inclusion of its representative to its Board as a permanent member.

League of Nations, an international organization whose aim was the development of cooperation between nations and guarantee of peace and security, was created after World War I in 1919. The main bodies of the League of Nations were: the Assembly (its sessions were held annually in September and attended by all members of the League Nations), the Council of the League of Nations and a permanent secretariat headed by the Secretary General.

The official languages of the League of Nations were French and English.

The Charter of the League, produced by a special commission established at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919-1920 and included in the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, and other peace treaties which completed the World War I of 1914-1918 was originally signed by 44 states, including 31 states that participated in the war on the side of the Entente or joined it, and 13 states which had been neutral during the war. The USA had not ratified the Charter of the League of Nations and was not among its members.

Since its inception, the League of Nations was one of the centers, which planned and developed anti-Soviet campaigns by imperialist powers. The Soviet government was fighting against attempts of the League of Nations to intervene in the internal affairs of the young Soviet republic. Nevertheless, it actively participated in conferences and meetings on disarmament held by the League of Nations. In mid-1930s, due to rising threat from Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and militarist Japan, the governments of some countries began to seek cooperation with the Soviet Union in the framework of the League of Nations and outside it.

September 15, 1934 thirty delegates of the League of Nations addressed the Soviet government with a telegram, inviting the Soviet Union to join the League and “bring its valuable cooperation". Delegates of four more countries informed via diplomatic channels of their decision to vote for the Soviet Union. The same day, the Soviet Government replied by letter to the chairman of the Assembly that it accepted the proposal for international cooperation for peace and is ready to become a member of the League.

September 18 the issue of the Soviet Union joining the League of Nations was considered at the meeting of the Assembly. 39 members of the League voted for the acceptance of the USSR; 3 of them (Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland) were against and 7 member states abstained from the vote. Not a single vote was against the inclusion of the Soviet Union in the Council of the League. However representatives of ten countries abstained. Thus, the USSR joined the League of Nations and became a permanent member of the Council.

Accepting the proposal to join the League of Nations, the USSR Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov said that the USSR could not support all the resolutions of the League of Nations, and considered its Charter was not perfect. In particular, the 12th and 15th articles legalized war in some cases and the 23rd did not provide racial equality for all peoples. He said that the Soviet Union fully understands the idea of uniting the nations since the Soviet Union itself is a sort of a League of Nations, housing 185 nationalities.

In December 1939, after the beginning of Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940, the Council of the League excluded the USSR from the League of Nations. By January 1940 the League ceased its activity in resolving political issues. At the last session of the Assembly on April 18, 1946 it was decided to transfer the assets and property of the League to the United Nations Organization, and its social and economic functions were merged with the Economic and Social Council.

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