Yalta Conference, sometimes called the
Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut
Conference, was the wartime meeting from 4 February 1945
to 11 February 1945 among the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union—President Franklin D. Roosevelt
, Prime Minister Winston Churchill
, and General
Secretary Joseph Stalin
respectively—for the purpose of discussing Europe's postwar
reorganization. Mainly, it was intended to discuss the
re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe.
conference convened in the Livadia Palace near Yalta, the
It was the second of three wartime
conferences among the Big
(Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin). It had been preceded by
the Tehran Conference
in 1943, and
it was followed by the Potsdam
, which Harry S Truman
attended in place of the late Roosevelt.
leaders were trying to establish an agenda for governing post-war
Churchill's Soviet policy differed vastly
from that of Roosevelt, with the former believing Stalin to be a
"devil"-like tyrant leading a vile system. In 1942, U.S. Ambassador
to the Soviet Union William Christian Bullitt,
's thesis prophesied the "flow of the Red amoeba into
Europe". Roosevelt responded to Bullitt, Jr. with a statement
summarizing his rationale for war time relations with Stalin:
On the Eastern Front
the Front Line at the end of December 1943 remained in the Soviet
Union, but by August 1944 Soviet forces were inside Poland and
parts of Romania in their relentless drive West. By the time of the
Conference, Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov's forces were 65 km from
Stalin's position at the conference was one
which he felt was so strong that he could dictate terms. As U.S.
delegation member and future Secretary of State James F. Byrnes
commented, "[i]t was not a question
of what we [the West] would let the Russians do, but what we could
get the Russians to do." Moreover, Roosevelt had hoped for Stalin's
commitment to participate in the United
Stalin, insisting that his doctors opposed any long trips, rejected
Roosevelt's suggestion to meet on the Mediterranean. He offered, instead, to meet at the Black Sea resort of Yalta, in the Crimea.
had an agenda for the Yalta Conference: Roosevelt asked for Soviet
support in the U.S. Pacific War
specifically invading Japan; Churchill pressed for free elections
and democratic governments in Eastern
and Central Europe (specifically
Poland); and Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of
political influence in Eastern and
Central Europe, an essential to the
USSR's national security strategy.
Poland was the
first item on the Soviet agenda.
Stalin stated that "[f]or
the Soviet government, the question of Poland was one of honor" and
security because Poland had served as a historical corridor for
forces attempting to invade Russia. In addition, Stalin stated
regarding history that "because the Russians had greatly sinned
against Poland", "the Soviet government was trying to atone for
those sins." Stalin concluded that "Poland must be strong" and that
"the Soviet Union is interested in the creation of a mighty, free
and independent Poland." Accordingly, Stalin stipulated that
demands were not negotiable: the Soviet
Union would keep the territory of eastern Poland they had already
annexed in 1939
Poland was to be compensated for that by extending its Western
borders at the expense of Germany. Comporting with his prior
statement, Stalin promised free elections in Poland despite the
recently installed by him in Polish territories
occupied by the Red Army
Roosevelt wanted the USSR to enter the Pacific War
with the Allies
. One Soviet
precondition for a declaration of war against Japan was an American
recognition of Mongolian independence from China, and a recognition
of Soviet interests in the Manchurian railways and Port Arthur; these were agreed without Chinese representation
Stalin agreed that the Soviet Union would
enter the Pacific
three months after the defeat of Germany.
A Big Three meeting room.
Roosevelt met Stalin's price, hoping the USSR could be dealt with
via the United Nations
. Later, many
Americans considered the agreements of the Yalta Conference were a
"sellout", encouraging Soviet expansion of influence to Japan and
Asia, and because Stalin eventually violated the agreements in
forming the Soviet bloc
the Soviets had agreed to join the United Nations, given the secret
understanding of a voting formula with a veto power for permanent
members of the Security Council
thus ensuring that each country could block unwanted
At the time the Red Army had occupied and held much of Eastern
Europe with military three times greater than Allied forces in the
West. The Declaration of Liberated Europe did little to dispel the
sphere of influence agreements that had been incorporated into
The Big Three ratified previous agreements about the post-war
occupation zones for Germany: three zones of occupation, one for
each of the three principal Allies: The Soviet Union, Great
Britain, and the United States (France later received one also,
when the USA and the UK ceded parts of their zones). Berlin itself,
although in the Russian zone, would also be divided into three
sectors (and eventually became a Cold War
symbol because of the division's realization via the Berlin Wall, built and manned by the Soviet-backed East German
Also, the Big Three agreed that all original governments would be
restored to the invaded countries (with the exception of the French
government, which was regarded as collaborationist; in Romania and
Bulgaria, where the Soviets had already liquidated most of the
governments; the Polish
was also excluded by Stalin) and that all
civilians would be repatriated.
A more casual picture of the Big Three at Yalta.
Military situation at the end of the conference.
Key points of the meeting are as follows:
- There was an agreement that the priority would be the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war Germany would be
split into four occupied zones.
- Stalin agreed that France might have a
fourth occupation zone in Germany and Austria but it would have to
be formed out of the American and British zones.
- Germany would undergo demilitarization and denazification.
- German reparations were partly
to be in the form of forced labor. (see
labor of Germans in the Soviet Union). The forced labor was to
be used to repair damage Germany inflicted on its victims.
- Creation of a reparation council which would be located in
status of Poland was
discussed. It was agreed to reorganize the communist
Government of the Republic of Poland that had been installed by
the Soviet Union "on a broader democratic basis."
- The Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line, and Poland would receive
territorial compensation in the West from Germany.
- Churchill alone pushed for free elections in Poland. The
British leader pointed out that UK "could never be content with
any solution that did not leave Poland a free and independent
state". Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland, but
eventually never honored his promise.
- Citizens of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia were to be handed over to their
respective countries, regardless of their consent.
- Roosevelt obtained a commitment by Stalin to participate in the
- Stalin requested that all of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics
would be granted United Nations
membership. This was taken into consideration, but 14 republics
- Stalin agreed to enter the fight against the
Japan within 90 days after the defeat of
- Nazi war criminals were to be hunted down and brought to
- A "Committee on Dismemberment of Germany" was to be set up. The
purpose was to decide whether Germany was to be divided into
several nations, some examples of partition plans are shown
File:Map-Germany-1945.svg | The eventual partition of Germany into
Image:Duitslandchurchill.png | Partition plan from Winston Churchill
Image:Duitslandroosevelt.png | Partition
plan from Franklin D. Roosevelt
Image:Germany Morgenthau Plan.png | Morgenthau Plan
Section of the Report Addressing Democratic Elections
The Big Three further agreed that democracies would be established,
all liberated European and former Axis satellite countries would
hold free elections and that order would be restored. In that
regard, they promised to rebuild occupied countries by processes
that will allow them "to create democratic institutions of their
own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter -- the
right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which
they will live". The report that resulted stated that the three
would assist occupied countries to form interim government that
"pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free
elections of the Governments responsive to the will of the people"
and to "facilitate where necessary the holding of such
The Declaration contained no mechanisms for the enforcement of its
principles. The agreement called on signatories to “consult
together on the measures necessary to discharge the joint
responsibilities set forth in this declaration.” During the Yalta
discussions, Molotov inserted language that weakened the
implication of enforcement of the declaration.
Poland, the Yalta
report further stated that the provisional government should "be
pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as
possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret
The agreement could not conceal the importance of
acceding to pro-Soviet short-term Lublin government
control and of eliminating language calling for supervised
According to President Roosevelt, “if we attempt to evade the fact
that we placed somewhat more emphasis on the Lublin Poles than on
the other two groups from which the new government is to be drawn I
feel we will expose ourselves to the charges that we are attempting
to go back on the Crimea decision." Roosevelt conceded that the
language of Yalta was so vague that the Soviets would be able to
“stretch it all the way from Yalta to Washington without every
technically breaking it.”American government officials such as
Harry Hopkins conceded that the Soviet position on the predominance
of the Lublin Poles in any provisional government comported with
the compromises worked out at Yalta. Scholars believe that the
recognition of the Lublin Government by the Western powers meant
acceptance of predominant Soviet influence in postwar Poland.
The final agreement stipulated that “the Provisional Government
which is now functioning in Poland should therefore be reorganized
on a broader democratic basis with the inclusion of democratic
leaders from Poland and from Poles abroad.” The language of Yalta
conceded predominance of the pro-Soviet Lublin Government in a
provisional government, albeit a reorganized one.
Poland and the Eastern Bloc
Although suspicious of Stalin, even Churchill believed that,
because of Stalin's strong promises and admission of guilt over
Poland, that Stalin might keep his word regarding Poland, remarking
"Poor Neville Chamberlain
believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I'm
wrong about Stalin."
At the time, over 200,000 troops of the Polish Armed Forces in the
were serving under the high command of the British Army.
these men and women were originally from the Kresy region of eastern Poland including cities such
as Lwow and Wilno.
been deported from Kresy to the Russian Gulags when Hitler and Stalin occupied
Poland in 1939 in accordance with the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
When two years
formed an alliance against Hitler, the Kresy
Poles were released from the Gulags in Siberia, formed the Anders Army
and marched to Persia to create the
under British high
These Polish troops were instrumental to the Allied
defeat of the Germans in North Africa and
Italy, and hoped to return to their homes in Kresy in an
independent and democratic Poland at the end of the War.
Yalta, Churchill agreed that Stalin should keep the
Soviet gains Hitler agreed to in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, including Kresy, and carry out Polish
population transfers .
Consequently, Churchill had
agreed that tens of thousands of veteran Polish troops under
British command should lose their Kresy
to the Soviet Union. In reaction, thirty officers and men from the
Churchill defended his actions at Yalta in a three-day Parliamentary
debate starting 27 February 1945,
which ended in a vote of
. During the debate, many MPs openly
criticised Churchill and passionately voiced loyalty to Britain's
Polish allies and expressed deep reservations about Yalta.
Moreover, 25 of these MPs risked their careers to draft an
amendment protesting against Britain's tacit acceptance of Poland's
domination by the Soviet Union. These members included: Arthur Greenwood
; Sir Archibald Southby, 1st
; Sir Alec
Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 3rd Earl of Ancaster
. After the failure of
the amendment, Henry
Strauss, 1st Baron Conesford, the Member of Parliament for Norwich, resigned his seat in protest at the British
treatment of Poland.
When the Second World War ended, a Communist
government was installed in Poland. Most
Poles felt betrayed
wartime allies. Many Polish soldiers refused to return to Poland,
because of the Soviet
repressions of Polish citizens
, the Trial of the Sixteen
executions of pro-democracy Poles, particularly the former members
of the AK (Armia Krajowa
). The result was the Polish Resettlement Act 1947
Britain's first mass immigration law.
The Western Powers soon realized that Stalin would not honor his
free elections promise regarding Poland. After receiving
considerable criticism in London following Yalta regarding the
atrocities committed in Poland by Soviet troops, Churchill wrote
Roosevelt a desperate letter referencing the wholesale deportations
and liquidations of opposition Poles by the Soviets. Roosevelt,
however, maintained his confidence in Stalin, reasoning that
Stalin's early priesthood training had "entered into his nature of
the way in which a Christian gentleman should behave." On March 1,
Roosevelt assured Congress that "I come from the Crimea with a firm
belief that we have made a start on the road to a world of peace."
By March 21, Roosevelt's Ambassador to the USSR Averell Harriman
that "we must come clearly to realize that the Soviet program is
the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and
democracy as we know it." Two days later, Roosevelt began to admit
that his view of Stalin had been excessively optimistic and that
"Averell is right."
Four days later, on March 27, the Soviet NKVD
arrested 16 Polish opposition political leaders that had been
invited to participate in provisional government negotiations. The
arrests were part of a trick employed by the NKVD, which flew the
leaders to Moscow for a later show trial
followed by sentencing to a gulag
thereafter argued to Roosevelt that it was "as plain as a pike
staff" that Moscow's tactics were to drag out the period for
holding free elections "while the Lublin Committee consolidate
their power." The fraudulent Polish
, held in January 16, 1947 resulted in Poland's
official transformation to undemocratic communist
state by 1949.
Following Yalta, in Moscow, when Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov
expressed worry that
the Yalta Agreement's wording might impede Stalin's plans, Stalin
responded "Never mind. We'll do it our own way later." While the Soviet
Union had already annexed
several occupied countries as (or into) Soviet Socialist Republics, other
countries in eastern Europe that it occupied were converted into
Soviet-controlled satellite states,
such as the People's
Republic of Poland, the People's Republic of Hungary,
the Czechoslovak Socialist
Republic, the People's Republic of Romania,
the People's Republic of
Albania, and later East Germany from the Soviet zone of German occupation.
Eventually the United States and the United Kingdom made
concessions in recognizing the then Communist-dominated regions,
sacrificing the substance of the Yalta Declaration, while it
remained in form.
Potsdam and the atomic bomb
The Potsdam Conference
from July to August 1945, which included the participation of
, who had replaced
Churchill as Prime Minister. At Potsdam, the Soviets denied claims
that they were interfering in the affairs of Romania, Bulgaria, and
Hungary. The conference resulted in (1) the Potsdam Declaration
surrender of Japan, and (2) the Potsdam Agreement
regarding the Soviet
annexation of former Polish territory east of the Curzon Line, and,
provisions, to be addressed in an eventual Final Treaty ending
World War 2, for the annexation of parts of Germany east of the
into Poland, and
northern East Prussia into the Soviet Union.
Four months after the death of Roosevelt, President Truman ordered
the dropping of an atomic bomb on
on August 6, which was 88 days after the Soviet Union
had agreed to enter the Pacific War within 90 days.
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