Several key issues affected trade negotiations between the British and Soviet governments during the 1920s - compensation for properties or businesses which had been confiscated by the Bolsheviks (the Soviets counter-claimed by asking for compensation for damage caused by British intervention in the Russian civil war); payment of foreign debts that had been owed by the Tsarist and Provisional governments and written off by the Bolsheviks; and the inclusion and (in)effectiveness of commitments in trade agreements to refrain from hostile propaganda or military activity.
Sources on particular economic policies can also be found by searching our digitised documents - for example, for New Economic Policy.
The Soviet economy
- Russian Workers and control of industry, [1918?]. Leaflet published by the People's Russian Information Bureau. It was intended to promote "the progress made by the nationalisation of industry under the Soviet Government" in the midst of the civil war.
- A Year in Soviet Russia: brief account of the legislative work of 1917-1918. The People's Russian Information Bureau pamphlet summarises decrees passed during the first year of the Bolshevik administration, including those which relate to economic management.
- Resolutions and regulations of the IX Congress of the Russian Communist Party, 29th March-4th April 1920. The pamphlet, published by the Executive Committee of the Communist International, includes a section on "The immediate problems of economic construction".
- Trotsky: The Single Economic Plan, 1920. Text of speech by Trotsky, circulated by the Russian Press Review in December 1920.
- Report (political and economic) of the Committee to Collect Information on Russia, 1921. Extensive British government report, including a summary of the economic situation in Russia between 1914-1919, and information about Soviet economic policy, nationalisation and conditions for workers. It includes extracts from Soviet sources.
- The Russian Economist, journal of the Russian Economic Association in London, [1921?]. The special report focuses on labour conditions in Russia, including information about the effects of Soviet economic policies on labour and industry.
- Bulletins of Russian Economic and Financial Information, no.1, June 1921. Anti-Bolshevik bulletin produced by the Executive Committee of the Conference of Members of the Russian Constituent Assembly. It focuses on "the most painful, the most disconcerting and the most difficult of the problems of the economic life of Soviet Russia" - transport.
- Report on economic conditions in Russia, with special reference to the famine of 1921-1922 and the state of agriculture. Extensive 1922 League of Nations report on Russia. The main focus is on agriculture and the causes and effects of the famine, but the publication also includes statistical data on Russian industry, transport and prices and currency.
- Russia's Economic Future by C.G. Rakovsky, 1923. The pamphlet by the Soviet diplomat promotes economic progress in Russia and was issued by the National "Hands Off Russia" Committee in Britain to encourage the idea of trade and normalised economic relations. The Committee also published a rebuttal of Accusations against M. Rakovsky, Official Agent of the Russian Government to Great Britain.
- The state of labour in Leningrad during 1924: atlas of diagrams. Decorative charts presented to Fred Bramley, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, by the Council of Trade Unions in Leningrad. They contain statistical data about industry and conditions of industrial workers in Leningrad.
- Russia: the official report of the British Trades Union delegation of Russia and Caucasia, 1925. The delegation visited the Soviet Union in November and December 1924. Its extensive report includes sections on finance, industry and foreign commerce.
- Conditions in Soviet Russia, [1925?]. Report by the anti-Bolshevik Social Democratic Federation. It looks in particular at taxation and conditions for co-operative societies.
- Report of the English and French Delegation of the Workers' International Relief to the economic enterprises of the WIR in Soviet Russia, 1925. The report includes descriptions of WIR's building, film and export businesses in Moscow, and agricultural enterprises elsewhere in the Soviet Union.
- The Economist Russian supplement, March 1927. The supplement looks at the economic situation in the Soviet Union, including sections on economic administration, currency, credit and finances, communications, labour and social conditions, state capitalism and private capitalism, production, leading industries and foreign trade.
- The economic situation in the USSR at the end of 1927. Copy of article published in Socialist Messenger, a Menshevik newspaper.
Anglo-Soviet trade: Co-operatives
- The Russian Co-operator: a journal of co-operative unity, vol.1, no.12, November 1917. The (pre-Bolshevik Revolution) journal was published to promote the idea that the "British and Russian Co-operative Movements [should] become linked together in a close, powerful union of commercial and business relations". It includes a review of the past year.
- The Russian and British co-operative movements: an experiment in international co-operation, 1919. Pamphlet by Frederick Rockell, published by (and promoting the work of) the Russo-British Co-operative Information Bureau.
- The All-Russian Central Union of Consumers' Societies: The Centrosojus, 1920. Illustrated pamphlet published by the Joint Committee of the Russian Co-operative Organisations in London. It promotes the work of the Russian co-operative movement.
Anglo-Soviet trade: Views of businesses
- Peace and trade with Russia: striking endorsement of labour policy, January 1921. Draft article by Fred Bramley, Assistant Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, written in response to (and summarising) an article in the 'Financier' on Russian trade negotiations and the British Foreign Office's obstruction of traders.
- Russia a Ruined Country - Merchant's Indictment of Soviet Rule - Why External Trade is Impossible - The Risk for British Contractors. Unfavourable view of conditions for British businesses in Russia, written by a Russian customer of a Birmingham firm. It was published in the journal of the National Union of Manufacturers in February 1921.
- To capture Russian trade, June 1922. Report of "an optimistic address on the trade conditions and prospects in Eastern Europe" made in Ipswich by the Estonian businessman Lionel G. Jaekel, reproduced in the National Union of Manufacturers journal.
- Copies of correspondence between the journalist E.D. Morel and Sir Ronald McNeill, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1922. Morel provides quotes and statements from businessmen to reinforce his argument that "the absence of normal diplomatic relations with Russia is an obstacle to the development of Anglo-Russian trade relations".
- Memorandum of interview with Mr. R. McKenna, Chairman of the Midland Bank, 1926. The Trades Union Congress interview deals with the granting of credit facilities to the Soviet Union.
- Copy of resolution from the Association of British Creditors of Russia, 1926. The resolution (which opposed trade agreements with or granting of credits to the Soviet Union) was submitted to the Federation of British Industries and discussed at their Grand Council meeting on 14 July 1926. The majority of Council members were opposed to the resolution and in favour of continuing trade with Russia.
- Russian Oil Scheme, August 1926. Daily Mail report of the formation of the Independent Oil Distributing Company, Ltd., to "to exploit the sale in this country of Russian oil obtained from British-owned wells in Russia, which have been confiscated by the Bolsheviks without compensation to their owners".
Anglo-Soviet trade: Civil war and the 1921 trade agreement
After several lengthy rounds of negotiations, the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement was signed on 16 March 1921. It was intended as a preliminary agreement, before the signing of a formal peace treaty, to regulate economic and political relations between the two countries.
- Council of Action leaflets produced during the British labour movement's campaign against military intervention in the Polish-Soviet War. The leaflets set out potential benefits of British trade with Russia.
- Russian trade agreement, 1921. National "Hands off Russia" Committee leaflet, which publishes the preamble and three disputed clauses of the proposed trade agreement between the British and Soviet governments.
- Soviet Russia's reply to the British Government, re the proposed trading agreement, February 1921. National "Hands off Russia" Committee leaflet. It publishes Chicherin's response to Britain's proposals for the agreement to include sections that dealt with subversive propaganda or revolutionary insurrection, and counter-proposals regarding British intervention against the Soviet regime.
- Russo-British peace negotiations: a year's "progress", 1921. Pamphlet published by the National "Hands Off Russia" Committee. It provides a summary of Anglo-Soviet relations between February 1920-1921, including negotiations over the trade agreement (amidst a backdrop of military intervention).
- Correspondence with M. Krassin respecting Russia's foreign indebtedness, 1921. Diplomatic correspondence between Britain and Russia (published by the British government) regarding pressure for the Soviet regime to take on responsibility for Tsarist debts as a requirement for other governments to provide credit. Part of the document is in French (a translation is included).
- Memorandum on the Anglo-Bolshevist trade agreement concluded in London on the 16th of March 1921. Pamphlet published by the Executive Committee of the Conference of Members of the Constituent Assembly of Russia (an anti-Bolshevik organisation exiled in Paris). It protests "energetically" against the resumption of trade between the two countries.
- Trade with Russia: the facts, [1921?]. Pamphlet published by the National "Hands Off Russia" Committee, aimed at "the labour movement of Great Britain". It contains a published version of an interview with Leonid Krasin (head of the Russian Trade Delegation in London) on 29 November 1921.
- Industrial Position of Soviet Russia and the Prospects of Foreign Trade, 1921. Pamphlet by R. Arsky, published by the Communist International. It focuses on the "struggle on the industrial front", including data on different industries, and puts forward the Soviet view of trade with imperialist countries (concluding that "by ceding part of our products and raw materials to foreign countries, we achieve at times concrete political advantages; also, we simply pursue by this means a far-sighted economic policy which will ultimately make sure our final triumph").
Anglo-Soviet trade: The Genoa and Hague conferences
Representatives of 34 countries met at the Genoa economic and financial conference in April-May 1922 to plan the economic reconstruction of Europe following the First World War. The relationship between the Soviet Union and the other European powers was a key issue. The debate continued at the Hague conference in June-July 1922.
- Papers relating to the International Economic Conference, Genoa, April-May 1922. British government publication which contains key documents produced during the negotiations at Genoa, including copies of memoranda exchanged between the delegations and reports.
- Report on Russian negotiations at Genoa, May 1922. Private report written by A.G. Marshall of Becos Traders Ltd. (a company originally known as the British Engineering Company of Siberia). He had been asked to advise the British government "as an expert in connection with their negotiations for the resumption of normal trade relationships with Russia".
- Memorandum sent to the Russian delegation at the International Economic Conference, Genoa, 3 May 1922. It sets out the proposals of the delegations of Italy, France, Great Britain, Japan, Poland, Roumania, Switzerland and Sweden for the resumption of Russian trade.
- Genoa Conference: Russia's reply to the Powers, June 1922. The Soviet response to the Allied memorandum, published by the National "Hands off Russia" Committee.
- The Hague Conference: interview with the Russian Delegation, July 1922. Pamphlet produced by the National "Hands off Russia" Committee. It focuses in particular on the effects (economic and otherwise) of foreign intervention in the Russian civil war.
Anglo-Soviet trade: The 1924 treaties
The first Labour minority government was formed in January 1924, with James Ramsay Macdonald in the posts of both Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. The Labour government formally recognised the Soviet Union and attempted to normalise economic relations through two draft treaties. The treaties included provisions for Britain to be given the trading status of "most favoured nation", for payment of partial compensation to some British creditors for economic losses as a result of the revolution, and for a settlement of a fishing dispute. Once the agreed compensation had been paid, it was intended that a third treaty would be ratified, allowing the British government to guarantee a loan so that the Soviet Union could purchase goods from British companies. The defeat of the Labour government in the November 1924 general election meant that the treaties never got beyond the draft stage. Documents relating to the 1924 general election campaign (and the key role that the issue of Soviet Russia played) are also available.
- Draft of proposed general treaty between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1924.
- Draft of proposed treaty of commerce and navigation between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 1924.
- Forty-thousand British creditors ask the reason why, 1924. Leaflet opposing the treaties, published by the Association of British Creditors of Russia.
- The truth about the Russian treaties, 1924. Election leaflet produced on behalf of John Wilmot, Labour candidate for East Lewisham.
- Russian Credit: British Bankers' Conditions, 1924. Article from The Times, reproducing a memorandum "on the subject of the restoration of Russian credit in Great Britain" sent by leading bankers to the Prime Minister.
- Report of meeting between the members of the Russian delegation and the Industrial Group of Labour Members of Parliament, May 1924. The question of war debts and compensation was a key part of discussions at the meeting.
- The Anglo-Soviet Treaties, September 1924. Labour Party pamphlet produced to promote the treaties. It emphasises the potential benefits to British workers as a result of increased trade with the Soviet Union.
- The workers and the Anglo-Russian treaty: why the treaty must be ratified, September 1924. Pro-treaty pamphlet by A.A. Purcell and E.D. Morel, published by the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee.
- Lloyd George's loans to Russia: facts and figures, September 1924. This Independent Labour Party pamphlet counters Lloyd George's criticism of the proposed treaties by providing information about loans made by his government to the Tsarist administration ("that is to say, Mr. Lloyd George loaned £650 millions to a Government which was bankrupt, and which he himself described as corrupt!").
- Labour Party leaflets and circulars, promoting the idea of the treaties and trade with Russia. They were produced in the run-up to the 1924 general election.
- British workers and Russia, September 1924.
- The Anglo-Russian Treaties, September 1924.
- Big Orders for Britain, October 1924.
- Tories support the Russian Treaty, October 1924.
- Liberal Dealings with Russia, October 1924.
- The Truth and The Treaty, October 1924.
- Truth about the Russian Treaties, October 1924.
Anglo-Soviet trade, 1925-1927
- Notes on the King's Speech, February 1925. Memorandum produced by the Joint Research Department of the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party. It argues against the statement that "the Trade Agreement of the 16th March 1921 does all that is at present possible to foster mutual trade".
- Anglo-Russian Trade: how it could be immediately increased by the Overseas Trade Acts and Trade Facilities Acts, 1925. Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee pamphlet by A.A. Purcell, promoting the idea of Anglo-Russian trade.
- Daily Herald Soviet Union Trade Supplement, May 1925. Illustrated newspaper supplement, promoting the idea of Anglo-Soviet trade. It includes articles by Christian Rakovsky, Chargé d'Affaires of the Soviet Union, G.J. Sokolnikov, People's Commissar for Finance, and Leonid Krasin, People's Commissar for Foreign Trade.
- Report of deputation to the Prime Minister from the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, 23 June 1925. The first part of the verbatim report deals with the nationalisation of the British mining industry. The second section covers diplomatic recognition of and British trade with the Soviet Union, and includes statements by the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, on the subject. The Prime Minister refused to meet another TUC deputation in 1926 "on the ground that the views of the Government had not changed" - a report on this is also available.
- Russian orders for British factories, August 1925. Trades Union Congress and Labour Party notes for speakers, promoting Anglo-Soviet trade.
- Memorandum on trade relations "obtained from the Embassy", [1925?]. The memorandum was passed to the Trades Union Congress by the Soviet Embassy. It includes information about the Soviet government's planned imports and exports.
- Possibilities of British-Russian trade: an investigation by British Members of Parliament, 1926. Detailed report published by the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee following the visit of a delegation to the Soviet Union in September-October 1925.
- Supplementary material to the report made to the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee by M.I. Khlopliankin, Chairman of the Trade Delegation of the USSR in Great Britain, 28 June 1926.
- Statement made by Arkady P. Rosengolts, Soviet Ambassador to Britain, regarding the "question of extending the Trade Facilities Act and the Export Credit Scheme to trade with the Soviet Union", July 1926. The statement was made during his interview with the Trades Union Congress General Council.
- Trade with Russia, 1926. Private statement on some of the practicalities of Russian trade made by W.P. Coates of the Anglo-Russian Parliamentary Committee to the Trades Union Congress General Council.
- Memorandum on negotiations between the British and Russian governments regarding debts and trade, [1926?]. The memo was drafted for the Trades Union Congress General Council to send to the Prime Minister, but was never submitted.
- Russia and trade facilities: a reply to Mr. Samuel, 1926. The TUC memorandum includes statistical data regarding Anglo-Soviet trade.
- The credits granted to the Soviet organisations in England, 1926. Statistical data regarding imports and exports.
- Anglo-Soviet Trade 1920-1927: its extent and prospects of development before the severance of relations between Great Britain and the USSR. Special report published by Trade and Engineering Review in 1927, aimed at British businessmen, and intended to "assist the reader to form an opinion on the magnitude of the loss to both countries as a result of the recent events" (the diplomatic break between Britain and the Soviet Union).
- Trade with Russia, June 1927. Article from The Times, reviewing the likelihood "of any serious interruption or of any considerable development" in trade following the diplomatic break.
- Trade with Russia and relations with the Soviet government, June 1927. Transport and General Workers' Union circular by Ben Tillett (a member of the 1924 Trades Union Congress delegation to the Soviet Union), attacking the "vagaries of the present crazy Cabinet" and break in relations.
More documents on the effect of the diplomatic break on trade between Britain and the Soviet Union are highlighted in our section about the ARCOS raid and the break in Anglo-Soviet relations, 1927.