The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression agreement signed between Germany and the Soviet Union in Moscow on August 23, 1939, one week before the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of World War II. It was officially called the Treaty of Non-Aggression between the Third Reich and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was informally called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact because it was signed by the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. By this agreement, each country promised not to join any nation or group of nations that were at war or in a state of war with the other party. This pact was in effect until June 22, 1941, which was the date when the Third Reich began Operation Barbarossa, which was the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Aside from the promise of non-aggression, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact contained a secret clause which divided Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. This agreement was an ominous forerunner of potential political and territorial rearrangements of Eastern Europe. With the green lights granted by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939, and divided the country between them. Next, the Soviet Union annexed a chunk of Finnish territory, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and eastern and northern Romania.
Territorial changes after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Punic Wars was a series of three armed conflicts fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 to 146 BC. Carthage was originally a Phoenician colony and the Latin name for a Phoenician is “Poenus,” which leads to our English adjective “Punic.” The cause of the Punic Wars was the clash of interests between the Carthaginian Empire and the Roman Republic, which were the two main centers of power in the western Mediterranean area. The Carthaginians were a semitic people, the Romans indoeuropean, a mixture of Latin and Sabine tribes.
At the outbreak of the First Punic War, Carthage was the dominant power of the Western Mediterranean, with an extensive maritime empire. On the other hand, Rome was a republic that had expanded its borders to protect itself from invasions as it had been attacked, besieged, and sacked before in the past (from the Etruscans, Samnites, and the Celts), and as a consequence the Romans viewed any foreign move towards its sphere of influence with distrust, building a strong, disciplined army.
During the Second Punic War, the Carthaginian General Hannibal Barca, besieged Rome and almost defeated it. Nevertheless, he and his army would be defeated by an unknown, yet audacious and talented Roman General, Scipio, at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. By the end of the Third Punic War, after more than a hundred years and the deaths of thousands of soldiers from both sides, Rome had conquered the Carthaginian Empire and, to allay its already paranoid visions of an aggressive ancient world, razed the city of Carthage to the ground, literally wiping it off the face of the Earth as it would become the only and most powerful state of the Western Mediterranean in the process.
The Roman victories over Carthage in the Punic Wars gave Rome a preeminent status, which it would retain until the division of the Roman Empire into the Western Roman and Byzantine Empires by Diocletian in 286.
The Great Interregnum was a period of chaos which began in 1250 with the death of Frederick II of the House of Hohenstaufen. Although the princes obediently followed the Pope’s instructions electing new emperors, like Richard Earl of Cornwall and Alfonso of Castile, they had no real power as the empire fragmented and fell into a state of anarchy. Finally, in 1273 the German princes met in Frankfurt to elect a German Emperor. On September 29, they gave the Imperial Crown to Rudolph of Habsburg who took the throne as Rudolph I. He was crowned in Aachen Cathedral on Ocober 24, 1273. During his reign he extended his territory, anexing the Duchy of Austria and establishing the capital in Vienna. He also went to war against King Ottokar II of Bohemia, who refused to recognize Rudolf.
Rudolf I died in 1291. Before his death he attempted to secure the election of his son Albert as German Emperor. However, the princes refused, because of the increasing power of the Habsburgs and elected Count Adolf of the House of Luxemburg, who reigned until 1298. Upon his death, Albert, Rudolf I’s son was elected Emperor. Albert did not leave a successor on the throne and for many years until 1437, the Imperial Crown was seized alternatively by the Houses of Luxemburg, Baviera, and Bohemia.
In 1347, Charles IV, of the House of Luxemburg, took the throne. The new Emperor decided to regulate the conditions and the Imperial election procedures, which until then had depended on the customs and the whim of the feudal princes. So, in 1356, he wrote a Constitution which was called the Golden Bull, because of the color of the official seal that was attached to the parchment. The Golden Bull established that the Emperor’s election had to take place in Frankfurt, and that only seven princes electors who had absolute independence in their territories had to take part in the election process.
The Golden Bull also ordained that the Emperor had to share the government with a special assembly called Diet, which was made up of three houses; the princes electors, the lords, and the burgs. The Emperor could not create taxes without the Diet’s authorization, nor could he mobilize the military forces without the Diet’s approval. Thus the Emperor became the theoric chief of a confederation of independent principalities.
The last Emperor of the House of Luxemburg was Segismund who reigned between 1410 and 1437, and was succeeded by his son-in-law Albert II, Duke of Austria. From then on the Habsburgs recovered the Imperial Crown, which they kept until 1806, when Napoleon Bonaparte destroyed the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, that is to say, the First Reich.