FEBRUARY 1945 Yalta Conference - History

FEBRUARY 1945 Yalta Conference - History

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Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin

The Allies leaders met at Yalta from February 4th to 111th 1945. Major, important agreements were reached, including the terms for the Soviet entry into the war with Japan, and the division of post-war Germany. Stalin gave assurances as to the ability of the nations of Eastern Europe to determine their own destiny, pledges that the Soviets later never kept. In addition, the basic structure of the United Nations was settled at Yalta.

President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Marshall Stalin, met at Yalta in the Southern Soviet Union. The meeting was a continuation of the earlier dialogue between Churchill and Stalin. In that meeting, Churchill and Stalin had discussed spheres of influence in post-war Europe, and Churchill was reported to have written down a list of countries in which he recorded both nations and percentages. Accordingly, he wrote down; Romania-90%, Soviets-10%, Allied Yugoslavia-50% Allies-50%.

The meeting began on February 2nd.

The first order of business was a discussion of at what point the Soviets would enter the war against the Japanese. The Soviets agreed to enter the war within three months of the end of the war with Germany. The Soviets' political demands included the transfer of the Kurile Islands to the Soviets, recognition of the Soviet sovereignty over Outer Mongolia, and other concessions. Finally, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to a four-power trusteeship over Korea.

At the conference, Roosevelt agreed that the new borders of Poland would be the Curzon line (the boundary which had existed at the end of World War I before the Russo- Polish war). In return, the Poles would receive land from Germany, thus moving the border for Poland Westward.

One of the most significant issues discussed was the ruler of Poland. It was agreed that the Soviet puppet-regime (called the "Lublin Poles") would initially rule. This agreement called for free and democratic elections in Poland.

The three parties agreed to four- party control of Germany.

The major disagreement over the operations of the United Nations was resolved, with the Soviets agreeing to the American proposal regarding the use of the veto in the Security council. The Soviets requested that two of their republics receive separate representation in the U.N. The USA and the United Kingdom agreed.

The Yalta Conference, to this day, is seen by many as an incident of appeasing the Soviets. Others perceive the conference as a reflection of the power of Soviet troops advancing on Germany at the time.

Yalta Conference

The Yalta Conference, also known as the Crimea Conference and codenamed Argonaut, held February 4–11, 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union to discuss the postwar reorganization of Germany and Europe. The three states were represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively. The conference was held near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov Palaces.

The aim of the conference was to shape a postwar peace that represented not only a collective security order but also a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of Europe. The meeting was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. However, within a few years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, the conference became a subject of intense controversy.

Yalta was the second of three major wartime conferences among the Big Three. It was preceded by the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and was followed by the Potsdam Conference in July 1945. It was also preceded by a conference in Moscow in October 1944, not attended by Roosevelt, in which Churchill and Stalin had spoken of European Western and Soviet spheres of influence. [1]

The Yalta Conference as One of the Most Important Events in History

The Yalta Conference was one of the most important events in history, let alone, this century. It took place from February 4 to February 11, 1945, at Yalta, Crimea, a port/resort. The three main individuals at this meeting were Churchill of Great Britain, Roosevelt of the United States and Stalin of the U.S.S.R, known back then, and now known as Russia.

Roosevelt had two primary goals at Yalta, and he secured them both, during the negotiations. One these key objectives was to involve Stalin in the war against Japan.

The Americans had lost too many people since the battles fought with Australia against Japan were bloody ones. And, since it was not clear how to defeat the Japanese since they were so devoted to their country (recall the Kamakasi), Roosevelt wanted Russian involvement in the war. His other major objective at the Crimea conference was to ensure the creation of the UN along the lines proposed by the Americans. FDR believed that the UN was the only device that could keep the United States from slipping back into isolationism after WWII(1).

After detailed explanations of the UN proposal, by Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius, Stalin and Churchill agreed to the guidelines proposed. Because Churchill strongly wanted to have certain countries in the British commonwealth accepted into the UN, Roosevelt was unable to deny Stalin the admission of Soviet Ukrainian and Belorussian republics in the UN.Another very important matter on the table of discussions at Yalta was Poland. Since Poland was a very large country and situated between Germany and Russia. It was also a very will strategically placed country. So, at the Yalta conference it was discussed whether Poland would be allowed to have free elections. Stalin was greatly opposed to having supervised (by the Americans, British and Soviets) election in Poland and so. Another matter of great importance and Crimea was the reparations to be received from Germany. The Russians wanted a set amount of $50 million. They also wanted 50% of this money. However, a historian close to Roosevelt, advised him that this would be a bad idea. He believe that it would open the door to all sorts of deliberations in the future. One last matter was the issue of an occupation zone for France and the related matter of a seat for France on the Allied Control Commission, to be established in Berlin as soon as they surrendered. Churchill took the initiative on this issue, arguing with great energy that France be given both and occupation zone and a seat of the ACC. The British prime minister was understandable anxious to engage France in the task of occupying and controlling Germany in the general to rebuild French power with a view to help offset the Soviet military presence in Central Europe. After much behind the scenes talks and debates, FDR was finally convinced to give France a seat in the ACC. Stalin agreed, but it in no way affected the size of the Soviet occupation, so it was of no real interest to him. It had always been understood that any zone for France would be formed out of part of the British and American zones, already made out.

Churchills concern about particular issues reflected in his apprehension that the United States would not maintain an armed presence in Europe. Stalin had noted that a prolonged presence of American military forces would be necessary in Europe. In reply to Stalins comment, he said that American forces should not stay very long. This opinion was underlined by FDR when in a telegram to Churchill he stated that You know, of course that after Germanys collapse I must bring American troops home as rapidly as transportation problems will permit(2). So, it came as no surprise to Churchill, when at Yalta, FDR stated that American troops will not remain in Germany for more than two years after the war. He later explained in more detail why he made such a decision, and he stated that the American public will be more involved in world activity since they now were in a international organization created by them and their troops were back in the country. Finally, Stalin accepted a declaration of a Liberated Europe (after a few modifications made), on based on an American Draft. While little more than a statement of an intent to consult about he achievement of a democratic government in liberated Europe, is at least kept the door open for discussions to this end.

Before ending with my conclusion, I would like to discuss what has become the issue of many debates. Roosevelts health during these discussions.

It is believed that during the discussions, FDR was not feeling very well, and it is a factor, which many historians believed had affected his performance at the meetings. Witnesses disagree on FDRs physical condition at Yalta, although the long tip and the demands of the negotiating schedule must have been taxing on a man in increasingly declining health(3). Perhaps a man by the name of Anthony Eden has provided the best answer we are likely to receive to this question that the Presidents declining health altered his judgment, though his handling of the Conference was less sure than it might have been. Another issue that has made the debate tables throughout the world is the division of Germany. The Teheran suggestion was the Germany be divided into five parts. So, the division of Germany itself was postponed until later, when prime ministers met in London, but it was denied again by Stalin. Roosevelt died two months later, after the Yalta conference in Warm Springs, Georgia. It was declared that his death was due to a brain hemorrhage. Many rumors were circling about, but the most important and the most believed was the Roosevelt had committed suicide, realizing what a grave mistake he had made. The long suffering of the people of Europe, to get away from Hitler was replaced by more than 45 years of slavery from the communists.

It is not clear why Roosevelt declared that he had made a very good deal at Yalta, because in the agreement, he gave Stalin all of Eastern Europe and some Japanese islands. In return, Stalin did nothing. The agreement called for Stalin to join the war against Japan, however, the Soviet Union did not declare war on Japan until several days after the atomic bombs crippled Japan for the past 4 decades and a half. Thus, Stalin got all that territory for free.

As a conclusion, I would like to discuss the influence that this pact had on the world where I came from. I was raised in a communist country (due to this pact) and I can tell the people a few things about how life was like. My dad, having lived through a lot of these changes going on after the war, (communists taking over) has told me many stories about the oppression the communists brought to Romania after the war. In fact, the Stalin promised at Yalta that Romania would have free elections, but only 16 days after the conference, the Russians destroyed the democratic government instituted in the country and established communism.

The Russians caused much pain to this small country, Romania, killing many people and making them pay for being allied to Germany for a small part of the war. The fact that Germany took over Romania did not matter to the Russians who made Romania give all of its agricultural products to Russia for more than 10 years along with many other taxations and pay-backs. One of the biggest way the Russians influenced the Romanian people, was by killing all of its highest intellect. Any person with higher education (than high school) that did not seem to agree with the concepts of communism (let alone talk or write against the government) was immediately put to death.

Freedom is took for granted and the pain that a small country like that had to go through will not be forgiven in the years to come. Certainly, my generation will not forget it, and I will pass on to my children the many stories of great oppression that Romania had to go through after the war. And I hope that this painful memory will never be forgotten. I will criticize FDR for doing this to Eastern Europe, because it ruined one of the most beautiful, and educated places in the world. Eastern Europe has proved that it can take the pain and oppression of its captors and it will live through the economic crisis that has affected it because of the fall of this communist empire. Bibliography:


During the Yalta Conference, the Western Allies had liberated all of France and Belgium and were fighting on the western border of Germany. In the east, Soviet forces were 65 km (40 mi) from Berlin, having already pushed back the Germans from Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. There was no longer a question regarding German defeat. The issue was the new shape of postwar Europe. [2] [3] [4]

The French leader General Charles de Gaulle was not invited to either the Yalta or Potsdam Conferences, a diplomatic slight that was the occasion for deep and lasting resentment. [5] De Gaulle attributed his exclusion from Yalta to the longstanding personal antagonism towards him by Roosevelt, but the Soviets had also objected to his inclusion as a full participant. However, the absence of French representation at Yalta also meant that extending an invitation for De Gaulle to attend the Potsdam Conference would have been highly problematic since he would have felt honor-bound to insist that all issues agreed at Yalta in his absence to be reopened. [6]

The initiative for calling a second "Big Three" conference had come from Roosevelt, who hoped for a meeting before the US presidential elections in November 1944 but pressed for a meeting early in 1945 at a neutral location in the Mediterranean. Malta, Cyprus and Athens were all suggested. Stalin, insisting that his doctors opposed any long trips, rejected those options. [7] He proposed instead for them meet at the Black Sea resort of Yalta in the Crimea. Stalin's fear of flying also was a contributing factor in the decision. [8] Nevertheless, Stalin formally deferred to Roosevelt as the "host" for the conference, and all plenary sessions were to be held in the US accommodation at the Livadia Palace, and Roosevelt was invariably seated centrally in the group photographs, all of which were taken by Roosevelt's official photographer.

Each of the three leaders had his own agenda for postwar Germany and liberated Europe. Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the Pacific War against Japan, specifically for the planned invasion of Japan (Operation August Storm), as well as Soviet participation in the United Nations. Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe, specifically Poland. Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe as an essential aspect of the Soviets' national security strategy, and his position at the conference was felt by him to be so strong that he could dictate terms. According to US delegation member and future Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, "it was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do." [9]

Poland was the first item on the Soviet agenda. Stalin stated, "For 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. [10] 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". [10] 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 Polish government-in-exile demands were not negotiable, and the Soviets would keep the territory of eastern Poland that they had annexed in 1939, with Poland to be compensated for that by extending its western borders at the expense of Germany. Contradicting his prior stated position, Stalin promised free elections in Poland despite the existence of a Soviet sponsored provisional government that had recently been installed by him in the Polish territories occupied by the Red Army.

Roosevelt wanted the Soviets to enter the Pacific War against Japan with the Allies, which he hoped would end the war sooner and reduce American casualties.

One Soviet precondition for a declaration of war against Japan was an American official recognition of the Mongolian independence from China (the Mongolian People's Republic had been a Soviet satellite state from its from 1924 to World War II). The Soviets also wanted the recognition of Soviet interests in the Manchurian railways and Port Arthur but not asking the Chinese to lease. Those conditions were agreed to without Chinese participation.

The Soviets wanted the return of Karafuto, which had been taken from Russia by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, and the cession of Kuril Islands by Japan, both of which were approved by Truman.

In return, Stalin pledged that the Soviet Union would enter the Pacific War three months after the defeat of Germany. Later, at Potsdam, Stalin promised Truman to respect the national unity of Korea, which would be partly occupied by Soviet troops.

Furthermore, the Soviets agreed to join the United Nations because of a secret understanding of a voting formula with a veto power for permanent members of the Security Council, which ensured that each country could block unwanted decisions. [11]

The Soviet Army had occupied Poland completely and held much of Eastern Europe with a military power three times greater than Allied forces in the West. [ citation needed ] The Declaration of Liberated Europe did little to dispel the sphere of influence agreements, which had been incorporated into armistice agreements.

All three leaders ratified the agreement of the European Advisory Commission setting the boundaries of postwar occupation zones for Germany with three zones of occupation, one for each of the three principal Allies. They also agreed to give France a zone of occupation carved out of the US and UK zones, but De Gaulle had the principle of refusing to accept that the French zone would be defined by boundaries established in his absence. He thus ordered French forces to occupy Stuttgart in addition to the lands earlier agreed upon as comprising the French occupation zone. He only withdrew when threatened with the suspension of essential American economic supplies. [12] Churchill at Yalta then argued that the French also needed to be a full member of the proposed Allied Control Council for Germany. Stalin resisted that until Roosevelt backed Churchill's position, but Stalin still remained adamant that the French should not be admitted to full membership of the Allied Reparations Commission to be established in Moscow and relented only at the Potsdam Conference.

Also, the Big Three agreed that all original governments would be restored to the invaded countries, with the exceptions of Romania and Bulgaria, where the Soviets had already liquidated most of the governments, [ clarification needed ] and Poland, whose government-in-exile was also excluded by Stalin, and that all of their civilians would be repatriated.

Declaration of Liberated Europe Edit

The Declaration of Liberated Europe was created by Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin during the Yalta Conference. It was a promise that allowed the people of Europe "to create democratic institutions of their own choice". The declaration pledged,l that "the earliest possible establishment through free elections governments responsive to the will of the people." That is similar to the statements of the Atlantic Charter for "the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live." [13]


Japanese rule (1910–1945) Edit

When the Russo-Japanese War ended in 1905 Korea became a nominal protectorate of Japan, and was annexed by Japan in 1910. The Korean Emperor Gojong was removed. In the following decades, nationalist and radical groups emerged to struggle for independence. Divergent in their outlooks and approaches, these groups failed to come together in one national movement. [5] [6] : 156–160 The Korean Provisional Government in exile in China failed to obtain widespread recognition. [6] : 159–160

World War II Edit

At the Cairo Conference in November 1943, in the middle of World War Two, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek agreed that Japan should lose all the territories it had conquered by force. At the end of the conference, the three powers declared that they were, "mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, . determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent." [7] [8] Roosevelt floated the idea of a trusteeship over Korea, but did not obtain agreement from the other powers. Roosevelt raised the idea with Joseph Stalin at the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Stalin did not disagree, but advocated that the period of trusteeship be short. [6] : 187–188 [9]

At the Tehran and Yalta Conferences, Stalin promised to join his allies in the Pacific War in two to three months after victory in Europe. On 8 August 1945, two days after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, but before the second bomb was dropped at Nagasaki, the USSR declared war on Japan. [10] As war began, the Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Forces in the Far East, Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky, called on Koreans to rise up against Japan, saying "a banner of liberty and independence is rising in Seoul". [11]

Soviet troops advanced rapidly, and the US government became anxious that they would occupy the whole of Korea. On 10 August 1945 two young officers – Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel – were assigned to define an American occupation zone. Working on extremely short notice and completely unprepared, they used a National Geographic map to decide on the 38th parallel as the dividing line. They chose it because it divided the country approximately in half but would place the capital Seoul under American control. No experts on Korea were consulted. The two men were unaware that forty years before, Japan and pre-revolutionary Russia had discussed sharing Korea along the same parallel. Rusk later said that had he known, he "almost surely" would have chosen a different line. [12] [13] The division placed sixteen million Koreans in the American zone and nine million in the Soviet zone. [14] Rusk observed, "even though it was further north than could be realistically reached by US forces, in the event of Soviet disagreement . we felt it important to include the capital of Korea in the area of responsibility of American troops". He noted that he was "faced with the scarcity of US forces immediately available, and time and space factors, which would make it difficult to reach very far north, before Soviet troops could enter the area". [15] To the surprise of the Americans, the Soviet Union immediately accepted the division. [11] [16] The agreement was incorporated into General Order No. 1 (approved on 17 August 1945) for the surrender of Japan. [16]

Soviet forces began amphibious landings in Korea by 14 August and rapidly took over the north-east of the country, and on 16 August they landed at Wonsan. [17] On 24 August, the Red Army reached Pyongyang, the second largest city in Korea. [16]

General Nobuyuki Abe, the last Japanese Governor-General of Korea, had established contact with a number of influential Koreans since the beginning of August 1945 to prepare the hand-over of power. Throughout August, Koreans organized people's committee branches for the "Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence [ko] " (CPKI), led by Lyuh Woon-hyung, a left-wing politician. On 6 September 1945, a congress of representatives was convened in Seoul and founded the short-lived People's Republic of Korea. [18] [19] In the spirit of consensus, conservative elder statesman Syngman Rhee, who was living in exile in the US, was nominated as President. [20]

Division (since 2 September 1945) Edit

Soviet occupation of northern Korea Edit

When Soviet troops entered Pyongyang, they found a local branch of the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence operating under the leadership of veteran nationalist Cho Man-sik. [21] The Soviet Army allowed these "People's Committees" (which were friendly to the Soviet Union) to function. In September 1945, the Soviet administration issued its own currency, the "Red Army won". [11] In 1946, Colonel-General Terentii Shtykov took charge of the administration and began to lobby the Soviet government for funds to support the ailing economy. [11]

In February 1946 a provisional government called the Provisional People's Committee was formed under Kim Il-sung, who had spent the last years of the war training with Soviet troops in Manchuria. Conflicts and power struggles ensued at the top levels of government in Pyongyang as different aspirants manoeuvred to gain positions of power in the new government. In March 1946 the provisional government instituted a sweeping land-reform program: land belonging to Japanese and collaborator landowners was divided and redistributed to poor farmers. [22] Organizing the many poor civilians and agricultural labourers under the people's committees, a nationwide mass campaign broke the control of the old landed classes. Landlords were allowed to keep only the same amount of land as poor civilians who had once rented their land, thereby making for a far more equal distribution of land. The North Korean land reform was achieved in a less violent way than in China or in Vietnam. Official American sources stated: "From all accounts, the former village leaders were eliminated as a political force without resort to bloodshed, but extreme care was taken to preclude their return to power." [23] The farmers responded positively many collaborators, former landowners and Christians fled to the south, where some of them obtained positions in the new South Korean government. According to the U.S. military government, 400,000 northern Koreans went south as refugees. [24]

Key industries were nationalized. The economic situation was nearly as difficult in the north as it was in the south, as the Japanese had concentrated agriculture and service industries in the south and heavy industry in the north.

Soviet forces departed in 1948. [25]

US occupation of southern Korea Edit

With the American government fearing Soviet expansion, and the Japanese authorities in Korea warning of a power vacuum, the embarkation date of the US occupation force was brought forward three times. [6] On 7 September 1945, General Douglas MacArthur announced that Lieutenant General John R. Hodge was to administer Korean affairs, and Hodge landed in Incheon with his troops the next day. MacArthur as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers ended up being in charge of southern Korea from 1945-48 due to the lack of clear orders or initiative from Washington, D.C. There was no plan or guideline given to MacArthur from the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the State Department on how to rule Korea. Hodge directly reported to MacArthur and GHQ (General Headquarters) in Tokyo, not to Washington, D.C., during the military occupation. The three year period of the U.S. Army occupation was chaotic and tumultuous compared to the very peaceful and stable U.S. occupation of Japan from 1945-52. Hodge and his XXIV Corps were trained for combat, not for diplomacy and negotiating with the many diverse political groups (former Japanese collaborators, pro-Soviet communists, anti-Soviet communists, right wing groups, Korean nationalists) that emerged in post-colonial southern Korea. None of the Americans in the military or the State Department in the Far East in late 1945 even spoke Korean, leading to local Koreans joking about how Korean translators were really running southern Korea. [26] [27] The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, which had operated from China, sent a delegation with three interpreters to Hodge, but he refused to meet with them. [28] Likewise, Hodge refused to recognize the newly formed People's Republic of Korea and its People's Committees, and outlawed it on 12 December. [29]

In September 1946, thousands of labourers and peasants rose up against the military government. This uprising was quickly defeated, and failed to prevent scheduled October elections for the South Korean Interim Legislative Assembly.

Ardent anti-communist Syngman Rhee, who had been the first president of the Provisional Government and later worked as a pro-Korean lobbyist in the US, became the most prominent politician in the South. Rhee pressured the American government to abandon negotiations for a trusteeship and create an independent Republic of Korea in the south. [30] On 19 July 1947, Lyuh Woon-hyung, the last senior politician committed to left-right dialogue, was assassinated by a 19-year-old man named Han Chigeun, a recent refugee from North Korea and an active member of a nationalist right-wing group. [31]

The occupation government and then the newly formed South Korean government conducted a number of military campaigns against left-wing insurgents. Over the course of the next few years, between 30,000 [32] and 100,000 people were killed. Most casualties resulted from the Jeju Uprising. [33]

US–Soviet Joint Commission Edit

In December 1945, at the Moscow Conference, the Allies agreed that the Soviet Union, the US, the Republic of China, and Britain would take part in a trusteeship over Korea for up to five years in the lead-up to independence. Many Koreans demanded independence immediately however, the Korean Communist Party, which was closely aligned with the Soviet Communist party, supported the trusteeship. [34] [35] According to journalist Fyodor Tertitskiy, documentation from 1945 suggests the Soviet government had no plans for a permanent division. [20]

A Soviet-US Joint Commission [ko] met in 1946 and 1947 to work towards a unified administration, but failed to make progress due to increasing Cold War antagonism and to Korean opposition to the trusteeship. [36] In 1946, the Soviet Union proposed Lyuh Woon-hyung as the leader of a unified Korea, but this was rejected by the US. [20] Meanwhile, the division between the two zones deepened. The difference in policy between the occupying powers led to a polarization of politics, and a transfer of population between North and South. [37] In May 1946 it was made illegal to cross the 38th parallel without a permit. [38] At the final meeting of the Joint Commission in September 1947, Soviet delegate Terentii Shtykov proposed that both Soviet and US troops withdraw and give the Korean people the opportunity to form their own government. This was rejected by the US. [39]

UN intervention and the formation of separate governments Edit

With the failure of the Joint Commission to make progress, the US brought the problem before the United Nations in September 1947. The Soviet Union opposed UN involvement. [40] The UN passed a resolution on 14 November 1947, declaring that free elections should be held, foreign troops should be withdrawn, and a UN commission for Korea, the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK), should be created. The Soviet Union boycotted the voting and did not consider the resolution to be binding, arguing that the UN could not guarantee fair elections. In the absence of Soviet co-operation, it was decided to hold UN-supervised elections in the south only. [41] [42] This was in defiance of the report of the chairman of the Commission, K. P. S. Menon, who had argued against a separate election. [43] Some UNTCOK delegates felt that the conditions in the south gave unfair advantage to right-wing candidates, but they were overruled. [6] : 211–212

The decision to proceed with separate elections was unpopular among many Koreans, who rightly saw it as a prelude to a permanent division of the country. General strikes in protest against the decision began in February 1948. [38] In April, Jeju islanders rose up against the looming division of the country. South Korean troops were sent to repress the rebellion. Tens of thousands of islanders were killed and by one estimate, 70% of the villages were burned by the South Korean troops. [44] The uprising flared up again with the outbreak of the Korean War. [45]

In April 1948, a conference of organizations from the north and the south met in Pyongyang. The southern politicians Kim Koo and Kim Kyu-sik attended the conference and boycotted the elections in the south, as did other politicians and parties. [6] : 211,507 [46] The conference called for a united government and the withdrawal of foreign troops. [47] Syngman Rhee and General Hodge denounced the conference. [47] Kim Koo was assassinated the following year. [48]

On 10 May 1948 the south held a general election. It took place amid widespread violence and intimidation, as well as a boycott by opponents of Syngman Rhee. [49] On 15 August, the "Republic of Korea" (Daehan Minguk) formally took over power from the U.S. military, with Syngman Rhee as the first president. In the North, the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk) was declared on 9 September, with Kim Il-sung as prime minister.

On 12 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly accepted the report of UNTCOK and declared the Republic of Korea to be the "only lawful government in Korea". [50] However, none of the members of UNTCOK considered that the election had established a legitimate national parliament. The Australian government, which had a representative on the commission declared that it was "far from satisfied" with the election. [49]

Unrest continued in the South. In October 1948, the Yeosu–Suncheon Rebellion took place, in which some regiments rejected the suppression of the Jeju uprising and rebelled against the government. [51] In 1949, the Syngman Rhee government established the Bodo League in order to keep an eye on its political opponents. The majority of the Bodo League's members were innocent farmers and civilians who were forced into membership. [52] The registered members or their families were executed at the beginning of the Korean War. On 24 December 1949, South Korean Army massacred Mungyeong citizens who were suspected communist sympathizers or their family and affixed blame to communists. [53]

This division of Korea, after more than a millennium of being unified, was seen as controversial and temporary by both regimes. From 1948 until the start of the civil war on 25 June 1950, the armed forces of each side engaged in a series of bloody conflicts along the border. In 1950, these conflicts escalated dramatically when North Korean forces invaded South Korea, triggering the Korean War. The United Nations intervened to protect the South, sending a US-led force. As it occupied the south, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea attempted to unify Korea under its regime, initiating the nationalisation of industry, land reform, and the restoration of the People's Committees. [54]

While UN intervention was conceived as restoring the border at the 38th parallel, Syngman Rhee argued that the attack of the North had obliterated the boundary. Similarly UN Commander in Chief, General Douglas MacArthur stated that he intended to unify Korea, not just drive the North Korean forces back behind the border. [55] However, the North overran 90% of the south until a counter-attack by US-led forces. As the North Korean forces were driven from the south, South Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel on 1 October, and American and other UN forces followed a week later. This was despite warnings from the People's Republic of China that it would intervene if American troops crossed the parallel. [56] As it occupied the north, the Republic of Korea, in turn, attempted to unify the country under its regime, with the Korean National Police enforcing political indoctrination. [6] : 281–282 As US-led forces pushed into the north, China unleashed a counter-attack which drove them back into the south.

In 1951, the front line stabilized near the 38th parallel, and both sides began to consider an armistice. Rhee, however, demanded the war continue until Korea was unified under his leadership. [57] The Communist side supported an armistice line being based on the 38th parallel, but the United Nations supported a line based on the territory held by each side, which was militarily defensible. [58] The UN position, formulated by the Americans, went against the consensus leading up to the negotiations. [59] Initially, the Americans proposed a line that passed through Pyongyang, far to the north of the front line. [60] The Chinese and North Koreans eventually agreed to a border on the military line of contact rather than the 38th parallel, but this disagreement led to a tortuous and drawn-out negotiating process. [61]

The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed after three years of war. The two sides agreed to create a 4-kilometre-wide (2.5-mile) buffer zone between the states, known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This new border, reflecting the territory held by each side at the end of the war, crossed the 38th parallel diagonally. Rhee refused to accept the armistice and continued to urge the reunification of the country by force. [62] Despite attempts by both sides to reunify the country, the war perpetuated the division of Korea and led to a permanent alliance between South Korea and the U.S., and a permanent U.S. garrison in the South. [63]

As dictated by the terms of the Korean Armistice, a Geneva Conference was held in 1954 on the Korean question. Despite efforts by many of the nations involved, the conference ended without a declaration for a unified Korea.

The Armistice established a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) which was tasked to monitor the Armistice. Since 1953, members of the Swiss [64] and Swedish [65] armed forces have been members of the NNSC stationed near the DMZ. Poland and Czechoslovakia were the neutral nations chosen by North Korea, but North Korea expelled their observers after those countries embraced capitalism. [66]

Since the war, Korea has remained divided along the DMZ. North and South have remained in a state of conflict, with the opposing regimes both claiming to be the legitimate government of the whole country. Sporadic negotiations have failed to produce lasting progress towards reunification. [67]

On 27 April 2018 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The Panmunjom Declaration signed by both leaders called for the end of longstanding military activities near the border and the reunification of Korea. [68]

On 1 November 2018, buffer zones were established across the DMZ to help ensure the end of hostility on land, sea and air. [69] [70] The buffer zones stretch from the north of Deokjeok Island to the south of Cho Island in the West Sea and the north of Sokcho city and south of Tongchon County in the East (Yellow) Sea. [70] [69] In addition, no fly zones were established. [69] [70]

The Yalta War Conference

The Yalta War Conference was held between February 4th and February 11th 1945. Yalta is on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea and a war meeting here in February 1945, was safe for those participating. The ‘Big Three’ were at this meeting: Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and F D Roosevelt.

What was achieved at Yalta?

Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan.

Stalin agreed to collaborate with the establishment of the United Nations Organisation which had already been discussed at the Dumbarton Oaks meeting in 1944.

Churchill got Stalin to agree that France should have a zone of occupation in the defeated Germany

Stalin got an agreement that the Soviet/Polish border would be the Curzon Line and that the Polish/German border would be the Oder-Neisse Line.

Stalin agreed to free elections in Poland, to be held as quickly as was possible after the war had ended. Stalin agreed that members of the Polish government in exile could have a place in the new Polish government.

A “Declaration on Liberated Europe” was released which stated that all nations previously under German control would have a democratic government

Roosevelt received a far bit of criticism from political pundits in America once the points of Yalta were released. He was criticised for ‘giving’ Eastern Europe to Stalin. However, there was little else he could do. The simple military fact in February 1945 was that the Soviet Union dominated Eastern Europe and that the power of the atomic bomb (that had yet to be tested) was not known by the Americans who could not use it as a counter-measure to curb Stalin’s ambitions.

Roosevelt was also criticised for allowing the Russians to get involved in the war against Japan. However, in February 1945, the Japanese still seemed a formidable opponent and American intelligence had estimated America could suffer 1 million casualties if she attempted to occupy Japan. There was the obvious ‘card’ to play – the Soviet Union had a vast army and it could easily make a huge impact in the war in the Far East, especially on the Asian mainland.


Pressing on the issue of Japan, Roosevelt secured a promise from Stalin to enter the conflict ninety days after the defeat of Germany. In return for Soviet military support, Stalin demanded and received American diplomatic recognition of Mongolian independence from Nationalist China. Caving on this point, Roosevelt hoped to deal with the Soviets through the United Nations, which Stalin did agree to join after voting procedures in the Security Council were defined. Returning to European affairs, it was jointly agreed that the original, prewar governments would be returned to liberated countries.

Exceptions were made in the cases of France, whose government had become collaborationist, and Romania and Bulgaria where the Soviets had effectively dismantled the governmental systems. Further supporting this was a statement that all displaced civilians would be returned to their countries of origin. Ending on February 11, the three leaders departed Yalta in a celebratory mood. This initial view of the conference was shared by the people in each nation, but ultimately proved short-lived. With Roosevelt's death in April 1945, relations between the Soviets and the West became increasingly tense.

The German collapse, spring 1945

Before their ground forces were ready for the final assault on Germany, the western Allies intensified their aerial bombardment. This offensive culminated in a series of five attacks on Dresden, launched by the RAF with 800 aircraft in the night of February 13–14, 1945, and continued by the U.S. 8th Air Force with 400 aircraft in daylight on February 14, with 200 on February 15, with 400 again on March 2, and, finally, with 572 on April 17. The motive of these raids was allegedly to promote the Soviet advance by destroying a centre of communications important to the German defense of the Eastern Front but, in fact, the raids achieved nothing to help the Red Army militarily and succeeded in obliterating the greater part of one of the most beautiful cities of Europe and in killing up to 25,000 people.

The main strength of the ground forces being built up meanwhile for the crossing of the Rhine was allotted to Montgomery’s armies on the northern sector of the front. Meanwhile, some of the U.S. generals sought to demonstrate the abilities of their own less generously supplied forces. Thus, Patton’s 3rd Army reached the Rhine at Coblenz (Koblenz) early in March, and, farther downstream, General Courtney H. Hodges’ 1st Army seized the bridge over the Rhine at Remagen south of Bonn and actually crossed the river, while, still farther downstream, Lieutenant General William H. Simpson’s 9th Army reached the Rhine near Düsseldorf. All three armies were ordered to mark time until Montgomery’s grand assault was ready but, meanwhile, they cleared the west bank of the river, and eventually, in the night of March 22–23, the 3rd Army crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim, between Mainz and Mannheim, almost unopposed.

At last, in the night of March 23–24, Montgomery’s attack by 25 divisions was launched across a stretch—30 miles long—of the Rhine near Wesel after a stupendous bombardment by more than 3,000 guns and waves of attacks by bombers. Resistance was generally slight but Montgomery would not sanction a further advance until his bridgeheads were consolidated into a salient 20 miles deep. Then the Canadian 1st Army, on the left, drove ahead through the Netherlands, the British 2nd went northeastward to Lübeck and to Wismar on the Baltic, and the U.S. armies swept forward across Germany, fanning out to reach an arc that stretched from Magdeburg (9th Army) through Leipzig (1st) to the borders of Czechoslovakia (3rd) and of Austria (7th and French 1st).

Guderian had tried to shift Germany’s forces eastward to hold the Red Army off but Hitler, despite his anxiety for Berlin, still wished to commit the 11th and 12th armies—formed from his last reserves—to driving the western Allies back over the Rhine and, on March 28, replaced Guderian with General Hans Krebs as chief of the general staff.

The dominant desire of the Germans now, both troops and civilians, was to see the British and American armies sweep eastward as rapidly as possible to reach Berlin and occupy as much of the country as possible before the Soviets overcame the Oder line. Few of them were inclined to assist Hitler’s purpose of obstruction by self-destruction. On March 19 (the eve of the Rhine crossing), Hitler had issued an order declaring that “the battle should be conducted without consideration for our own population.” His regional commissioners were instructed to destroy “all industrial plants, all the main electricity works, waterworks, gas works” together with “all food and clothing stores” in order to create “a desert” in the Allies’ path. When his minister of war production, Albert Speer, protested against this drastic order, Hitler retorted: “If the war is lost, the German nation will also perish. So there is no need to consider what the people require for continued existence.” Appalled at such callousness, Speer was shaken out of his loyalty to Hitler: he went behind Hitler’s back to the army and industrial chiefs and persuaded them, without much difficulty, to evade executing Hitler’s decree. The Americans and the British, driving eastward from the Rhine, met little opposition and reached the Elbe River 60 miles from Berlin, on April 11. There they halted.

On the Eastern Front, Zhukov enlarged his bridgehead across the Oder early in March. On their far left the Soviets reached Vienna on April 6 and on the right they took Königsberg on April 9. Then, on April 16, Zhukov resumed the offensive in conjunction with Konev, who forced the crossings of the Neisse this time the Soviets burst out of their bridgeheads, and within a week they were driving into the suburbs of Berlin. Hitler chose to stay in his threatened capital, counting on some miracle to bring salvation and clutching at such straws as the news of the death of Roosevelt on April 12. By April 25 the armies of Zhukov and Konev had completely encircled Berlin, and on the same day they linked up with the Americans on the Elbe River.

Isolated and reduced to despair, Hitler married his mistress, Eva Braun, during the night of April 28–29, and on April 30 he committed suicide with her in the ruins of the Chancellery, as the advancing Soviet troops were less than a half mile from his bunker complex their bodies were hurriedly cremated in the garden. The “strategy” of Hitler’s successor, Dönitz, was one of capitulation and of saving as many as possible of the westward-fleeing civilians and of his German troops from Soviet hands. During the interval of surrender, 1,800,000 German troops (55 percent of the Army of the East) were transferred into the British–U.S. area of control.

On the Italian front, the Allied armies had long been frustrated by the depletion of their forces for the sake of other enterprises but early in 1945 four German divisions were transferred from Kesselring’s command to the Western Front, and in April the thin German defenses in Italy were broken by an Allied attack. A surrender document that had been signed on April 29 (while Hitler was still alive) finally brought the fighting to a conclusion on May 2.

FEBRUARY 1945 Yalta Conference - History

The Yalta Conference (1945)

The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, was the wartime meeting from February 4 to 11, 1945 between the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The delegations were headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, respectively.

The key Allied leaders, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill, were known as the "Big Three" because of the might of the nations they represented and their peaceful collaboration during World War II. These three leaders met together only twice during World War II, but when they did conference, their decisions changed the course of history.

After the Tehran Conference, the three leaders promised to meet again, and this agreement came to pass at the Yalta Conference of February 1945. Although Stalin had expressed concern about Roosevelt's health during the Teheran conference, this concern did not translate into action. The Soviet dictator refused to travel further than the Black Sea Resort, Yalta, in the Crimean Riveria (then part of the Soviet Union, now part of Ukraine) for the next summit and, once again, Churchill and Roosevelt were both the ones taking long and tiring trips to attend the Yalta summit.

Each of the three powers brought their own agenda to the Yalta Conference. The British wanted to maintain their empire, the Soviets wished to obtain more land and to strengthen conquests, and the Americans wanted to insure the Soviet's entry into the Pacific war and discuss postwar settlement. Moreover, Roosevelt hoped to obtain a commitment from Stalin to participate in the United Nations. As the first topic on the Soviet's agenda for expansion, the subject of Poland immediately arose, and Stalin was quick to succintly state his case with the following words:

"For the Russian people, the question of Poland is not only a question of honor but also a question of security. Throughout history, Poland has been the corridor through which the enemy has passed into Russia. Poland is a question of life and death for Russia."

Accordingly, Stalin made it clear that some of his demands regarding Poland were not negotiable: the Russians were to gain territory from the eastern portion of Poland and Poland was to compensate for that by extending its Western borders, thereby forcing out millions of Germans. Reluctantly, Stalin promised free elections in Poland, notwithstanding the recently installed Communist puppet government. However, it soon became apparent that Stalin had no intentions of holding true to his promise of free elections. In fact, it was fifty years after the Yalta Conference that the Poles first had the opportunity to hold free elections. As mentioned earlier, at Yalta a principal aim of Roosevelt was to make sure that the Soviets would enter the Asian war, i.e., the war against the Japanese. Unfortunately, however, Roosevelt should never have spent any time agonizing over Soviet involvement in the Pacific war because Stalin did not need convincing. The Soviets themselves were keen to assuage the intense feelings of humiliation that resulted from a long ago defeat by Japan and loss of privileges in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War. The Soviets were keen on regaining lost territories and optimistic that they could obtain more lands.

However, Roosevelt was oblivious to Stalin's objectives because of Stalin's excellent 'poker face,' and he readily met Stalin's price, leaving the Yalta Conference exuberant because Stalin had agreed to enter the Pacific war against Japan. Moreover, the Soviets had agreed to join the United Nations given the secret understanding of a voting formula with a veto power for permanent members in the Security Council, there by providing the Soviets with more control in world affairs and greatly weakening the United Nations. Overall, Roosevelt felt confident that Yalta had been successful. The Big Three had ratified previous agreements about the postwar division of Germany: there were to be four zones of occupation, one zone for each of the three dominant nations plus one zone for France. Berlin itself, although within the Soviet zone, would also be divided into four sectors, and would eventually become a major symbol of the Cold War because of the division of the city due to the infamous Berlin Wall, which was constructed and manned by the Soviets.

The Big Three had further decided that all original governments would be restored to the invaded countries and that all civilians would repatriated. Democracies would be established, all territories would hold free elections, and order restored to Europe, as declared in the following official statement:

"The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice."

In the postwar setting, Russia would gain the southern half of the Sakhalin Islands and Kuriles, half of East Prussia, Konigsberg, Germany, and control of Finland. In addition, Roosevelt let it slip that the United States would not protest if the Soviet Union attempted to annex the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) or establish puppet governments, therefore leaving Stalin as pleased with the overall results as Roosevelt, and more rightly so. The Yalta Conference is often regarded by numerous Central European nations as the "Western betrayal." This belief, held by countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and the Czech Republic, is rooted in the belief that the Allied powers, despite venerating democratic policies and signing numerous pacts and military agreements, allowed smaller countries to be controlled by and/or made Communist states of the Soviet Union. At the Yalta conference, the Big Three "attempted to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability," and many believe the decisions and concessions of Roosevelt and Churchill during the summit lead to the power struggle of the ensuing Cold War.

The conference was held in Yalta, a resort town on the Crimean peninsula in the Soviet Union (now in Ukraine). The American delegation was housed in the Tsar's former palace, while President Roosevelt stayed at the Livadia Palace where the meetings took place. The British delegation was installed in Prince Vorontsov's castle of Alupka. Key members of the delegations were Edward Stettinius, Averell Harriman, Anthony Eden, Alexander Cadogan, and Vyacheslav Molotov. According to Anthony Beevor, all the rooms were bugged by the NKVD. Stalin arrived by train on February 4. The meeting started with an official dinner on the evening of that day.

* There was agreement that the priority was the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war, the country would be split into four occupied zones, with a quadripartite occupation of Berlin as well.

* Stalin agreed to let France get the fourth occupation zone in Germany and Austria, carved out from the British and American zones. France would also be granted a seat in the Allied Control Council.

* Germany would undergo demilitarization and denazification.

* Creation of an allied reparation council with its seat in Moscow.

* The status of Poland was discussed but was complicated by the fact that Poland by this time was under the control of the red army. It was agreed to reorganize the Provisionary Polish Government that had been set up by the Red Army through the inclusion of other groups as the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity to be followed by democratic elections. (This effectively excluded the exile Polish government that had formed in London).

* The Polish eastern border should basically follow the Curzon Line, and Poland should receive substantial territorial compensation in the west from Germany.

* 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 United Nations once it was agreed that each of the five permanent members of the Security Council would have veto power.

* Stalin agreed to enter the fight against the Empire of Japan within 90 days after the defeat of Germany. The Soviet Union would receive the southern part of Sakhalin and the Kurile islands after the defeat of Japan.

Yalta was the last great conference before the end of the war and the last trip of Roosevelt abroad. To observers he appeared already ill and exhausted. Arguably, his most important goal was to ensure the Soviet Union's participation in the United Nations, which he achieved at the price of granting veto power to each permanent member of the Security Council, a condition that significantly weakened the UN. Another of his objectives was to bring the Soviet Union into the fight against Japan, as the effectiveness of the atomic bomb had yet to be proven. The Red Army had already removed Nazi forces from most of Eastern Europe, so Stalin essentially got everything he wanted: a significant sphere of influence as a buffer zone. In this process, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable and sacrificed for the sake of stability, which would mean that the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would continue to be members of the USSR.

Your guide to the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, 1945

What was the Yalta conference and why was it held? What did each of the 'big three' – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin – want from the meeting? And what was finally decided at the Potsdam conference? Here's your guide to these key meetings of World War Two, which took place in 1945.

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Published: July 16, 2020 at 11:25 am

What was the Yalta conference and why was it held?

Between 4 and 11 February 1945, US President Franklin D Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met at Yalta – a resort city on the south coast of the Crimean Peninsula, on the Black Sea – for a major conference. Their aim was to thrash out how to bring World War Two to an end and plan the post-war reorganisation of Europe – in particular Germany.

The so-called ‘big three’ convened at Livadia Palace, the former summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II, for eight days. Roosevelt, who was in poor health, had suggested a meeting place somewhere in the Mediterranean, but Stalin, who was famously afraid of flying, had refused to go farther than the Black Sea and suggested the Soviet resort of Yalta.

What was happening elsewhere in February 1945?

The Yalta Conference took place at a critical time in World War Two. By the start of 1945 it was clear that, despite continuing resistance, Germany had lost the war. The Battle of the Bulge – the last German offensive on the Western Front, fought in the Ardennes region of Belgium – had shattered what remained of the German army, as well as destroying essential weapons, tanks and supplies. Elsewhere, Stalin’s Red Army had captured East Prussia and was less than 50 miles from Berlin. The once mighty Luftwaffe was drastically depleted, while Allied bombs continued to fall on German towns and cities on a daily basis. Adolf Hitler was fighting a losing battle.

Did you know?

At the Tehran Conference of 1943, Soviet agents alleged that the Germans were planning Operation Long Jump – a plot to assassinate the Big Three at the same time, only for it to be called off at the last minute. Aspersions have since been cast on whether the plot ever existed.

What did each of the ‘big three’ want from the meeting?

The three leaders had met 15 months earlier in the Iranian capital Tehran, where they had discussed ways to defeat Nazi Germany, agreed on an invasion of Normandy and had conversations around the Soviets’ entry into the Pacific War. The tentative beginnings of what a future peace settlement might look like had been made in Tehran, but it was at Yalta where the real discussions began.

Each leader sat down at Yalta with specific goals in mind. For Roosevelt, ending the ongoing war with Japan was of paramount importance, but to achieve this, he needed Stalin’s military help. The US president also wanted the Soviets to join the UN – a new global peacekeeping body – which it did, remaining a member until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Stalin’s priority at Yalta was to get his country back on its feet and increase its standing on the European political stage. The Soviet Union, whilst crushing German forces on the eastern front, had been devastated by the war, with an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens (around one in seven) killed during the conflict, and vast swathes of industry, farming, cities and homes obliterated. Stalin needed money to rebuild his battered country, and pressed for huge reparations from Germany, as well as spheres of influence in Eastern Europe to prevent further invasions, and ensure that Germany could never threaten world peace again.

Churchill, too, was keen to see an end to any future German threat, but he was also concerned about extending the power of the USSR and wanted to see fair and free government across Eastern Europe, especially in Poland,
in whose defence Britain had declared war with Germany in 1939. Both he and Truman were worried that inflicting huge reparations on Germany, as had been done after World War I, could, in the future, create a similar economic situation in the country that had led to the rise and acceptance of the Nazi Party. With differing priorities and world views, it was clearly going to be difficult for the Big Three to reach an agreement.

Why wasn’t French leader Charles de Gaulle present at the conference?

De Gaulle, by unanimous consent from all three leaders, was not invited to Yalta, nor to the Potsdam Conference a few months later it was a diplomatic slight that created deep and lasting resentment. Stalin in particular felt that decisions about the future of Europe should be made by those powers who had sacrificed the most in the war. If France was allowed to participate at Yalta, other nations, too, would arguably have had an equal right to attend.

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What was eventually agreed at Yalta?

The decisions made at Yalta demonstrate the extent to which power had shifted between the Allies over the course of the war. Once Germany’s unconditional surrender had been received, it was proposed that the country, and its capital, be split into four occupied zones – the fourth occupation zone was granted to France but, at Stalin’s insistence, would
be formed out of the American and British zones.

The fate of Poland was a key sticking point in negotiations. For centuries, the country had been used as a historical corridor for armies intent on invading Russia, and Stalin was determined to retain the regions of Poland that he had annexed in 1939 after the Soviet invasion. But he conceded to Churchill’s demand that free elections be held in all Nazi- liberated territories in Eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland.

Other key decisions included the demilitarisation of Germany the payment of reparations by Germany, partly in the form of forced labour the representation of two of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics (Ukraine and Byelorussia) at the UN, and Soviet participation in the war against Japan, following Germany’s surrender. Another concession made by the US and Britain was to allow all former Soviet prisoners of war, including those who had changed sides and fought for Germany, to be forcibly repatriated back to the USSR.

What happened next?

None of the Big Three left Yalta with everything they had set out to achieve, but a public show of unity and cooperation was widely reported as they went their separate ways. At the conclusion of the conference, an agreement was made that they would meet once more after Germany had surrendered, so that they could make firm decisions on any outstanding matters, including the borders of post-war Europe. This final meeting took place at Potsdam, near Berlin, between 17 July and 2 August 1945.

What had happened between the ending of the Yalta conference and the meeting at Potsdam?

Aside from Germany’s surrender in May 1945, the political landscape had changed considerably in the five months that had passed since Yalta. Roosevelt, who had been seriously ill at Yalta, had died of a massive brain haemorrhage in April 1945, so it was the new US President Harry Truman who travelled to Berlin, accompanied by his newly appointed Secretary of State James Byrnes.

Promises made at Yalta had also been rescinded. Despite pledging free Polish elections, Stalin was already making moves to install a communist government in that country and many Poles, both in Britain and elsewhere, felt they had been sold out by Truman and Churchill. And despite the Pacific War that was still raging in the East, Stalin had not yet declared war on Japan or provided military support to the US.

What was different about the Potsdam conference?

The political atmosphere at Potsdam was decidedly more strained than at Tehran and Yalta. President Truman was far more suspicious of Stalin and his motives than Roosevelt, who had been widely criticised in the US for giving into Stalin’s demands over Poland and Eastern Europe. Truman was also open in his dislike of communism and Stalin personally, stating that he was “tired of babying the Soviets”.

Further upheaval was to come, though, with the results of the British general election, which had taken place on 5 July. The announcement, made three weeks later on 26 July (to allow the votes of those serving overseas to be counted) saw a decisive victory for the Labour Party and meant that Churchill and his Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden were replaced at the conference – from 28 July – by Britain’s new Prime Minister Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. And although war against Japan was still ongoing, the lack of a common European enemy saw the Big Three find it harder to reach a mutually acceptable compromise on what the post-war political reconstruction of Europe would look like.

Another important development had also occurred since Yalta – one that would have a profound global impact. A week into the conference, after gaining Stalin’s agreement that the Soviets would join the Pacific War, Truman casually informed Stalin that the US was in possession of “a new weapon of unusual destructive force”: the atomic bomb, which had been tested for the first time on 16 July.

What was finally decided at Potsdam?

Once again, the fate of post-war Poland proved to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the conference, and it was finally agreed that Stalin would retain the land he had annexed in 1939. By way of compensation for land lost to the USSR, Poland was to be granted large areas of Germany, up to the Oder-Neisse Line – the border along the Rivers Oder and Neisse. But there was still no firm agreement that Stalin would adhere to his Yalta promise and ensure free elections in Eastern Europe.

As had been discussed at Yalta, Germany and Berlin were to be divided into four zones, with each Allied power receiving reparation from its own occupation zone – the Soviet Union was also permitted to 10- 15 per cent of the industrial equipment in the western zones of Germany in exchange for agricultural and other natural products from its own zone.

With regards to Germany itself, it was confirmed that administration of that country was to be dictated by the ‘five Ds’: demilitarisation, denazification, democratisation, decentralisation and deindustrialisation, and Germans living in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia at the end of the World War II were to be forcibly expelled to Germany. Thousands of Germans died as a result of the expulsion order official West German accounts state that at least 610,000 Germans were killed in the course of the expulsions. By 1950, the total number of Germans who had left eastern Europe (either voluntarily or by force) had reached 11.5 million.

Did Potsdam succeed in its aims with regard to Europe?

Although some agreements and compromises emerged at Potsdam, there were still important issues that had not been resolved. Before long, the Soviet Union had reconstituted the German Communist Party in the Eastern Sector of Germany and had begun to lay the groundwork for a separate, East German nation state, modelled on that of the USSR.

What was the Potsdam declaration?

Though Germany was the focus at Potsdam, on 26 July the US, Britain and China issued the Potsdam Declaration: an ultimatum calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan. Stalin, not being at war with Japan, was not party to it. The Japanese did not surrender, and just days after the conference ended, the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which ultimately did what the Potsdam Declaration could not. Within weeks, Stalin had accelerated his own nuclear weapons programme, detonating its first atomic bomb – First Lightning – at a remote test site in Kazakhstan on 29 August 1949. The stage for the Cold War had been set.

Charlotte Hodgman is the editor of BBC History Revealed magazine

Watch the video: 4th February 1945: Yalta Conference begins