IGCSE History Component-2: Specimen Questions with Answers 3 - 3 of 6


Section C: International Option

The Search for International Peace and Security, 1,919 - 45

The Soviet Union and the League of Nations

3. Read the sources and then answer both parts of the question.

Source A

The Soviet Union is not a member of the League of Nations and does not participate in it’s work. The Soviet Union is not prepared to share the responsibility for the imperialist policy of the League of Nations, for the ‘mandates’ which are distributed by the League for the exploitation and oppression of colonial countries, for the war preparations which are approved by the League, preparations which must inevitably lead to imperialist war. The Soviet Union does not participate in the work of the League because the Soviet Union is fighting with all it’s energy against all preparations for imperialist war. The Soviet Union is not prepared to become a part of that camouflage for imperialist ambitions represented by the League of Nations. The League is the meeting place of imperialist leaders who settle their business there behind the scenes.

From the speech by Stalin, speaking to foreign delegates in 1,927.

Source B

The Soviet Union is about to join the League of Nations. The latest turn in Soviet diplomacy, which marks such a sharp departure from former days , is being justified in the Russian governmental press. Japan has quit the League; Germany has quit the League – which eliminates from its ranks the two most direct enemies of the Soviet Union. The departure of Germany and Japan from the League changes its political complexion, however little it alters its imperialist character. For Russia, joining the League is a major change of policy. Faced on the eastern and western fronts by two powerful enemies whose immediate aim is military attack, the Soviet Union hopes to take advantage of their leaving the League by joining with those who have remained within it. But what a price is being paid! It means that the Soviet Union will be helping to cover up all the misdeeds, crimes, hypocrisies and deceptions of the League.

From an article in an American communist magazine, 1,934.

Source C

The organisation of peace! Could there be a more urgent task for the cooperation of all nations? Very little has been done so far to encourage peace. Once it was believed that war could be averted by resolutions and declarations. Now, everybody knows that the exponents of war are not to be intimidated by paper obstacles. We are now confronted with the task of averting war by more effective means, especially since the failure of the Disarmament Conference, on which such high hopes were placed. It is quite clear that peace and security cannot be organised simply by promises and assurances. I am aware that the League does not possess the means for the complete abolition of war. I am, however, convinced that, the determination and cooperation of all its members, a great deal could be done to prevent war.

Litvinov, first delegate of the Soviet Union to the League of Nations, addressing the League of Nations’ Assembly, 1,934.

Source D

The League of Nations is twenty years old but, judging by outward appearance, it could be two thousand years old. Dishonourably born, dishonourably buried will be the fate of the League of Nations. The League is the child of the criminal Versailles Treaty. It was created to strengthen Anglo-French power in Europe. With the expulsion of the Soviet Union, the League simply confirmed its political and moral bankruptcy. Soviet proposals for disarmament were ignored by the League. Small countries cried in vain for help from the League. Under the strict supervision of its Anglo-French masters, the League did nothing. The weakness of the League became more and more evident. If there was still any authority left, it was only because the Soviet Union was a member. She gave some lease of life to this failing institution. The League couldn’t act as the instrument of peace. The expulsion of the Soviet Union is clear proof of this.

From an article in the Soviet newspaper ‘Pravda’, 1,940. [Note: The Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations following its invasion of Finland in 1,939. ]

Answer both parts of the question with reference to the sources.

Question 3 (1 of 2 Based on Passage)


Describe in Detail


‘The Soviet Union did not believe that the League of Nations could encourage peace and security. ’ How far do Sources A to D support this view?


  • Source A supports the assertion. It argues that the League actually allows for war among the capitalist powers. The Source maintains that the League acts as a camouflage for the aggressive policies of these powers. Source A is a speech by Stalin, the Soviet leader, to a group of foreign delegates in 1,927, the tenth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. He will want to stress the superiority of communism over capitalism. Thus, it is unreliable. This evaluation is supported by contextual knowledge. In 1,927, the leading capitalist powers were disarming rather than rearming.
  • Source D also supports the assertion in that it sees the League as, from the start, a feeble and failing institution, dominated as it was by France and Britain. There was some hope when the USSR joined but that hope had gone now it was being thrown out.

  • Source D comes from the official Soviet newspaper reporting after the League of Nations had expelled the USSR. Thus, it is bound to be very critical of the League. Several of its critical assertions are not supported by contextual knowledge: it is extremely unreliable.

  • The remaining sources can be interpreted as either challenging the assertion or supporting it.

  • Source B supports the assertion in that it argues that the League remained imperialist: the departure from the League of Germany and Japan ‘little alters its imperialist character’.

  • Source B challenges the assertion in that it argues that joining the League might enable the USSR maintain peace and [collective] security against Germany and Japan.

  • Source B’s analysis of the situation in 1,934 can be supported by contextual knowledge. It also has few illusions about the League, which it maintains is still pro-imperialist. Finally, it finishes by criticizing the USSR for its hypocrisy, an unusual line for a communist journal to take. Thus, it is more reliable than not.

  • Source C supports the assertion in that it says that the League could not uphold peace, as shown by the failure of the Disarmament Conference.

  • Source C challenges the assertion in that it says that the League could uphold peace in the future [now that the USSR has joined] .

  • Source C is a speech by the Soviet representative to the League of Nations in 1,934, the year when the USSR joined the League. It is critical of the League in the past, more optimistic about its future – not unsurprisingly. Given the speaker, the audience and the event, this is a very unreliable source.


  • In the wake of the 1,917 revolution, the USSR, the first and only Marxist state of the time, was neither invited to the Paris peace talks nor accepted as a member of the League of Nations. In the 1920s, as the League established itself, the USSR criticised it on ideological grounds. Soviet sources claimed that the League of Nations had been established simply to enhance the power of Britain and France, the two dominant imperialist powers. By 1,934, circumstances had changed. The USSR faced the challenge of Nazi Germany to the west and imperialist Japan to the east, both expansionist powers.

  • The withdrawal of Japan and Germany, in 1,933 and 1,934 respectively, undermined the reputation of the League of Nations. These withdrawals helped decide Stalin to join the League for reasons of security. The Soviet Union remained a member of the League until 1,940, consistently arguing for a more proactive approach to issues such as disarmament and opposition to aggressive actions (e. g. over the Italian invasion of Abyssinia) .

  • By the late 1930s, it was clear that the League of Nations had failed in its primary aim to preserve peace and security, most notably with the outbreak of World War II in 1,939. In December 1,939, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations following its invasion of Finland.

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