Curzon's Ultimatum

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Curzon’s Ultimatum


a memorandum of the British government composed by Foreign Secretary G. Curzon and delivered to the Soviet government on May 8, 1923. The British government demanded that the Soviet government recall its diplomatic representatives from Iran and Afghanistan and apologize for these representatives’ allegedly improper actions against the British Empire, establish a three-mile zone of coastal waters along the Murmansk shore (instead of 12 miles), and pay financial compensation for the repressive actions of Soviet agencies with respect to British spies; the British government also tried to claim the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of the USSR under the pretext of fighting against so-called religious persecutions and the like. The memorandum was in the nature of an ultimatum; the British government threatened to cancel the British-Soviet trade agreement of 1921 if the Soviet government would not consent to fulfill the demands of the memorandum fully and unconditionally within ten days. The ultimatum created conditions for the stepped-up activity of interventionist anti-Soviet elements and greatly increased the danger of war; it immediately preceded the assassination of V. V. Vorovskii in Lausanne on May 10, 1923.

In its reply of May 11, 1923, and in the diplomatic correspondence that followed Curzon’s ultimatum and lasted until June 18,1923, the Soviet government vigorously rejected the demands of the British government and agreed only to satisfy some minor requests (such as the release of British trawlers seized in Soviet territorial waters).

The Soviet people were indignant about the ultimatum, and the international proletariat, first of all, the working class of Great Britain itself, responded to it with a broad movement of solidarity with the Soviet Union. For a number of reasons other Western powers did not support the ultimatum. Great Britain’s virtual international isolation, the exacerbation of its domestic political situation and, above all, the firmness of the Soviet government’s position compelled Great Britain to abandon Curzon’s ultimatum for all intents and purposes. Thus, the attempt to dictate policy to the Soviet state failed. The Soviet government demonstrated the firmness of its policy and its readiness to carry out a policy of peaceful coexistence between the USSR and the capitalist states on the basis of equality.


Dokumenty vneshnei politiki SSSR, vol. 6. Moscow, 1962. Pages 288–302.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.