a1 University College, Cork
This article uses recently released documents from the Soviet diplomatic archives to examine the Merekalov–Weizsäcker meeting of April 1939. It argues that these documents show that western historians have been mistaken in assuming that this meeting was the occasion for Soviet signals of a desire for détente with Nazi Germany. The significance attached to the meeting in this respect is part of the cold war myth that the USSR's negotiations for a triple alliance with Great Britain and France in the spring and summer of 1939 were paralleled by secret Soviet–German discussions which eventually lead to the Nazi–Soviet pact of August 1939. The article seeks to demolish those elements of the myth that concern the Merekalov–Weizsäcker encounter and to present an alternative interpretation of the provenance and meaning of the so-called political overture by the Soviet ambassador at the meeting.