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Yalta Conference

February 4, 1945 - February 11, 1945

The Yalta, or Crimea as it was sometimes nicknamed, was the meeting of WW2 heads of states, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt. The aim was to discuss the reorganisation of post-war Europe and shape a post-war peace that represented not just a collective security order but a plan to give self-determination to the liberated people of post-Nazi Europe. Yalta was the second of three post-war conferences, nicknamed the Big Three, and followed the Tehran conference. Later the Potsdam conference was to follow it, however instead of Roosevelt, Truman attended as the new POTUS. In addition Atlee replaced Churchill halfway through, as a result of his election. While a number of important agreements were reached at the conference, tensions over European issues—particularly the fate of Poland—foreshadowed the crumbling of the Grand Alliance that had developed between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union during World War II and hinted at the Cold War to come. Soviet troops were already in control of Poland, a procommunist provisional government had already been established, and Stalin was adamant that Russia’s interests in that nation be recognized. The United States and Great Britain believed that the London-based noncommunist Polish government-in-exile was most representative of the Polish people. The final agreement merely declared that a “more broadly based” government should be established in Poland. Free elections to determine Poland’s future were called for sometime in the future. Many U.S. officials were disgusted with the agreement, which they believed condemned Poland to a communist future. Roosevelt, however, felt that he could do no more at the moment, since the Soviet army was occupying Poland.

FDR Dies

March 29, 1945

Roosevelt left a controversial legacy in terms of U.S.-Soviet relations. Critics charged that the president had been “soft” on the communists and naive in dealing with Stalin. The meetings at Yalta, they claimed, resulted in a “sellout” that left the Soviets in control of Eastern Europe and half of Germany. Roosevelt’s defenders responded that he made the best of difficult circumstances. He kept the Grand Alliance between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain intact long enough to defeat Germany. As for Eastern Europe and Germany, there was little Roosevelt could have done, since the Red Army occupied those areas. Roosevelt’s successor, Harry S. Truman, decided that a “tougher” policy toward the Soviets was in order, and he began to press the Russians on a number of issues. By 1947, relations between the two former allies had nearly reached the breaking point and the Cold War was in full swing.

Potsdam Conference

July 17, 1945 - August 2, 1945

This conference followed on from the Yalta Conference in February and was participated in by the US, UK, and USSR, represented by Truman, Churchill/Atlee, and Stalin, respectively. They gathered to decide how to administer the defeated Nazi Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier, on 8 May (V-E Day). The goals of the conference also included the establishment of post-war order, peace treaty issues, and countering the effects of the war. The conference failed to settle most of the important issues at hand and thus helped set the stage for the Cold War that would begin shortly after World War II came to an end. At the Potsdam meeting, the most pressing issue was the postwar fate of Germany. The Soviets wanted a unified Germany, but they also insisted that Germany be completely disarmed. Truman, along with a growing number of U.S. officials, had deep suspicions about Soviet intentions in Europe. The massive Soviet army already occupied much of Eastern Europe. A strong Germany might be the only obstacle in the way of Soviet domination of all of Europe. In the end, the Big Three agreed to divide Germany into three zones of occupation (one for each nation), and to defer discussions of German reunification until a later date. The other notable issue at Potsdam was one that was virtually unspoken. Just as he arrived for the conference, Truman was informed that the United States had successfully tested the first atomic bomb. Hoping to use the weapon as leverage with the Soviets in the postwar world, Truman casually mentioned to Stalin that America was now in possession of a weapon of monstrously destructive force. The president was disappointed when the Soviet leader merely responded that he hoped the United States would use it to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end.
The Potsdam Conference ended on a somber note. By the time it was over, Truman had become even more convinced that he had to adopt a tough policy toward the Soviets. Stalin had come to believe more strongly that the United States and Great Britain were conspiring against the Soviet Union.

Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6, 1945 - August 9, 1945

The United States had dropped the bombs with the consent of the United Kingdom as outlined in the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history. The war in Europe had concluded when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945, just after Hitler committed suicide. The Japanese, facing the same fate, refused to accept the Allies’ demands for unconditional surrender and the Pacific War continued. Orders for atomic bombs to be used on four Japanese cities were issued on July 25. On August 6, the U.S. dropped a uranium gun-type (Little Boy) bomb on Hiroshima. American President Harry S. Truman called for Japan’s surrender, warning it to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” Three days later, on August 9, a plutonium implosion-type (Fat Man) bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison. Japan announced its surrender to the Allies on August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki. The social difference in the view of the atomic bomb is still significant to this day in Japan and America, with the US seeing radioactivity as creating heroes (Spider-Man) and Japan seeing it a negative, creating monsters (Godzilla). There are two arguments as to how these events affected the Cold War, the first one being that it changed Stalin's attitude. A number of ways that the atomic bomb could have alienated Stalin have been suggested. The traditional one is that Truman did not tell Stalin about the bomb, except in passing, and then only very vaguely. When he mentioned the Bomb to Stalin on 24 July, he just quickly mentioned in passing that the USA had ‘a new weapon of unusual destructive force.’ In addition, Stalin may have seen the dropping of the atomic bomb as directed at Russia more than Japan. He told Molotov, "They are killing the Japanese and intimidating us." The second argument about how these events affected the cold war is that it changed Truman's attitude. Some historians believe that it encouraged Truman to seek confrontation, as after he knew he had the bomb, at the Potsdam Conference he became more aggressive, he switched from pro-Soviet advisors to anti-communist advisors, he dropped the bomb on Japan, preventing Stalin from having a chance to enter the at in the pacific, and developed a confrontational attitude, reportedly telling his advisors, "I'm tired of babying the Soviets."

Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech

March 5, 1946

The Iron Curtain speech served to warn the western public about the USSR, and describe the distrust that the UK and US have for them. Stalin accused Churchill of "warmongering" and said the speech was an act of war. The phrase "Iron Curtain" meant the restrictions dividing eastern and western Europe, preventing the movement of people and information.

Soviet Expansion in Eastern Europe



Twenty million Russians died during the Second World War, so Stalin said he wanted a buffer zone to make sure that Russia could never be invaded again.
Stalin was planning a takeover of Eastern Europe. During the war, Communists from the occupied countries of Eastern Europe escaped to Moscow and set up Communist governments. As the Red Army drove the Nazis back, it occupied large areas of Eastern Europe. After World War II, communists took control of eight Eastern European nations. Communism in these countries ended democracy, made limited economic and social progress, and finally collapsed.


1945 - 1948

The non-communists win the election with Zoltan Tildy as president, however the Communist's leader, Rakosi, took control of the secret police and used them to execute and arrest his opponents. Tildy was forced to resign and Cardinal Mindzenty, head of the Catholic Church, was imprisoned. By 1948, Rakosi had complete control of Hungary.



The communists take power



In the elections, a Communist-led coalition is elected, but they execute the anti-communists



The Communists abolish the monarchy following the 1945 election coalition win.



Stalin had promised to set up a joint Communist/non-Communist government at Yalta, but then he invited 16 non-Communist leaders to Moscow and arrested them. Thousands of non-Communists were arrested, and the Communists won the election.



A coalition government is set up and led by the non-communist Benes, however the radio, army and police are led by the Communists, led by Gottwald. Gottwald became prime minister and set p a secret police force. Non communists were executed. In 1948, communist workers went on strike, the non-communist minister Masaryk committed suicide and Gottwald took over government.

East Germany


A Communist-controlled state, called the German Democratic Republic.