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The Soviet economy and Anglo-Soviet trade

The state of labour in Leningrad during 1924These documents provide views and comment on the Soviet economy and the extent and desirability of Anglo-Soviet trade. Many, but not all, are from a left-wing perspective.

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

Anglo-Soviet trade: Co-operatives

Anglo-Soviet trade: Views of businesses

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.

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.

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.

Anglo-Soviet trade, 1925-1927

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.