The "Yalta Spring" turned out cold

16:44 11.02.2010 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

Looking through the documents of the Yalta Conference of the "Big Three" in 1945, one could not help but wonder, what great material it would be for a play in the theater! Against the backdrop of still grand and terrible pictures of the war, with the participation of such vibrant and diverse characters, hidden, but constantly forcing their way out of conflicts of interest. Here even curiosities and humor are electrified by special drama. Just Stalin's introduction of Beria to his Anglo-American counterparts saying: "This is our Himmler!" Or, for example, Stalin's reaction to the fact that in their correspondence, Churchill and Roosevelt called him "Uncle Joe", as Roosevelt had said loudly, after Churchill had encouraged him the day before. Stalin immediately said: "When can I get up from the table and walk away?" And then some member of the U.S. delegation, defusing the situation, said," You call America Uncle Sam." So Stalin calmed down.


The thunder of guns could be heard coming out of Europe in the not too distant Yalta. Churchill and Roosevelt, each in his own way, was conscious of the vulnerability of their position. Roosevelt desperately needed the Soviet Union to join the war against Japan as soon as possible after the German surrender. Churchill wanted his hands free for action in Greece and throughout the whole Mediterranean.


Previously the British prime minister had stunned Moscow when, during his visit, on October 9th, 1943, he offered Stalin the partition of a number of Central and South-Eastern European countries: "Russia is to get 90% of Romania, 75% of Bulgaria, 50% of  Yugoslavia and Hungary, and 10% of Greece. " None of Churchill’s companions could understand under what criteria such proposals could be implemented. Finally, the two high-ranking guests at Yalta could not help but be grateful to Stalin for the salvation of the Anglo-American expeditionary force in the Ardennes. The Germans had struck with such force that both Western leaders begged Uncle Joe to take the offensive on the Eastern Front as soon as possible. Even though the preparations for the operation had not yet been completed, Soviet troops began to force their way across the Vistula and the Oder. This not only saved the Anglo-Americans, but also allowed them to go on the offensive. Yet the compliance of Roosevelt and Churchill had its limits and on some questions they adopted a very tough line.  It was over the political future of Poland and its western borders, and, surprisingly, the issue of reparations. It is difficult to describe as anything but pathetic the 10 billion dollars of compensation for damage claimed by the Soviet Union from Germany, given that, according to independent estimates, the damage amounted to 2.6 trillion dollars. If a compromise on the Polish question was still found, on the issue of reparations, as justified from a moral point of view in the eyes of all the participants, the solution was found neither in Yalta, nor later in Potsdam.


However, the main achievement of the Yalta Conference was the decision to create the United Nations (UN). The bridge was built, to bear the weight of the "cold war" and not to allow the world to slide into a "hot war." The right of any Security Council member of veto equates to the rights of the great powers to address the critical issues of world politics. It's hard to say how many of the ills of mankind were preserved by this simple principle of unanimity.


And yet, as with any major historical event, the Yalta conference is not without its mysteries, its secrets.


The days were clear, the sun began to bake the ground creating a spring like atmosphere, and even the haggard and sick Roosevelt allowed himself a drive around the park at the Livadia Palace. He could be satisfied. His relationship with Stalin was better than ever and in any case, a lot more trusting and warmer than that of Stalin and Churchill. Still, what was more important for Roosevelt and his entourage was the arrival of a "spring" in Soviet-American relations, with faith in their future. Roosevelt's adviser Harry Hopkins said: "The Russians proved that they can be reasonable and forward-thinking, and neither the president nor anyone of us has the slightest doubt that we can live in peace with them and work together for as long as you can imagine." Sumner Welles, the U.S. Undersecretary of State, witnessed that Roosevelt considered it necessary that both governments [the U.S. and the USSR] realized that in the field of international relations they have undertaken courses that can always be parallel, and not antagonistic. Roosevelt demanded that his colleagues accept that it would not be possible to keep the peace without Soviet-American cooperation.


Proposing a toast at a dinner at the Yusupov Palace, Churchill seems to have kept his hopes up with those of Roosevelt: "In the past, people had been comrades-in-arms, but around 5-10 years after war they went in different directions. Millions of workers were on the move, in a vicious circle ... Now we have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of previous generations and ensure lasting peace. People are hungry for peace and happiness. I put my hopes on it and declare on behalf of England that we will not fall behind in our efforts ... I propose a toast to the bright light of the sun on the winning of the world." Acknowledging Churchill’s frankness, Stalin replied: "I propose a toast to the strength of our union of three powers. May it be strong and steady, and let us be more honest. "


There was, however, a similarity between Yalta and Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” ... which still was felled. The same fate awaited those unfulfilled hopes.


That's why I say it is strange that for such a rich drama with an almost tragic tone, no single play about it has been made. However, if you think about it, anyone who undertook this task would themselves be subject to considerable risk. No matter how he tried to be objective and impartial, in the West a similar play would have been considered as exalting the role of the Soviet Union, Stalin, and communism, and belittling of the role of allies. Bush Jnr. even said that America liberated Europe. We could have a similar picture, with the only difference being that fans of the principle of "you cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs" would not have truly appreciated the "merits" of the decision of the Yalta Conference for the unconditional deportation of Soviet citizens back to the Soviet Union, followed by the tragedy in Lienz, the mass suicides, the concentration camps ... Well, the liberal wing would consider such a play almost a hymn to Stalin.


Yes, as long as we remain in the thrall of a "black and white" view of history, the play is perhaps not to be. On the other hand, there are better things to do. For instance, the answer to the question: "Why were the hopes of Yalta dashed so quickly?" Or in fact, the answer to the question, how did the cold war start and was it inevitable. All of these are blank spots in history, even with the huge number of facts, documents and evidence that exist. Today in the West, a new question arises as to who won the Cold War and the conclusion is that there were no winners. You can even hear voices saying that the changes that occurred in our country at the turn of the 1980-1990's were to a much greater extent the fruits of our internal development rather than to external pressure. A step-by-step understanding of the mechanism of the slide into the Cold War is a pressing task relevant to this day. As a prominent Russian diplomat correctly observed: "Without true and honest answers to the questions of how and why the Cold War began ... it is impossible ... to clear the way for new international relations." "Without the understanding by all sides of all the causes and circumstances of the beginning and course of this war we cannot eliminate the causes themselves, and, therefore, there is no guarantee that it will not resume." It looks like the ruthlessly dispelled "spirit of Yalta" demands historical truth as revenge...<!--EndFragment-->


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