New Declassified Details of the Yalta Conference

These days mark the 75th anniversary of one of the key events in the history of World War II – the Yalta Conference. The Defence Ministry has now declassified documents related to the preparation of the meeting of the leaders of the three powers of the anti-Hitler coalition – the USSR, the United States, and the United Kingdom. It was in Yalta that the Allies outlined the contours of the post-war world and made the most important decisions about the principles of its arrangement, including the decision to establish the United Nations.

Among the just declassified documents there is this photograph: Churchill in an English cemetery in Crimea. A few days before the picture, it was full of German mines. In order to get the British Prime Minister here, the sappers of the Black Sea Fleet searched every meter. Minesweepers removed tons of mines from the water area.

The conference was being prepared for a long time. The Allies proposed many meeting places, only not on the territory of the USSR. Churchill mentioned Scotland, Stalin not very politely joked: “I do not like the damp and men in skirts”. Roosevelt wanted Greece or Malta.

“Russia had all the cards in its hands. The Red Army at that time occupied almost all of Eastern Europe. They defeated the Nazis, forced them to retreat, and were ready to move to Berlin. The position of the United States was weaker at that time as they were held hostage to their own promises,” said Peter Kuznick, a history professor at the American University in Washington.

Stalin, feeling his strength, insisted. Churchill and Roosevelt flew to Crimea with a difference of five minutes.

During the conference, there was certainly no free space at this table. The chief negotiators appeared later. Churchill recalled that when Stalin entered, everyone immediately rose and somehow held their hands at their sides. But unexpectedly for the guests, he was magnanimous.

“There was no boasting about it, the successes did not go to his head, but gave him additional confidence, allowing to look at things more widely and not be afraid to make concessions,” recalls Alexander Cadogan, British diplomat and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain.

The most serious, although mutual, concessions concerned Poland.

“Poland laid claim to very serious territorial gains at the expense of Germany, as was insisted by the Soviet Union and strongly opposed by both the United States and Great Britain. But still, Polish citizens should remember that the Western borders that Poland now has were never Poland’s borders. This is what the Soviet Union acquired for them and gave them at the cost of a huge number of lives in 1945,” explains Vyacheslav Nikonov, Doctor of Historical Sciences and deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

In return, the USSR agreed that Stanisław Mikołajczyk, an emigre politician who supported Armia Krajowa that was hostile to the Soviets, and according to Kim Philby, a British private agent, would become a part of the Polish government.

And in this room Stalin promised Roosevelt to go to war against Japan, and the USSR received the territories of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. This is an entry in the final documents.

It was thanks to Yalta that France joined the club of the winning countries, received its zones of occupation of Germany, and then participated in the Nuremberg trial. Of course, world leaders were sympathetic to De Gaulle. Churchill is bigger, Roosevelt is smaller, but everyone agreed that there should be a counterbalance in Germany’s future Europe – it should be France.

Now it would be called a sensation: by the decision of the “Big Three”, China entered the world stage.

“Back then it was somehow unexpected for many, China did not figure as the epicenter of world politics. But it was an understanding of its great role,” says Aleksandr Chubaryan, scientific head of the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russia, China, France, Great Britain, the United States – this is how the UN Security Council developed, where all decisions are taken unanimously, and everyone has the right of veto. The contours of the United Nations were emerging. At the insistence of the USSR, Ukraine and Belarus were independent members. Stalin wanted to add Lithuania, but Roosevelt strongly opposed it.

The UN has been far more successful than the failed League of Nations. And the main result – Yalta really provided peace in Europe, and not for just 20 years, as in Versailles, where all decisions were made without Russia.


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