Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Declaration on Liberated Europe (February 1945)

Declaration issued by leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union—the "Big Three"—during the February 1945 Yalta Conference. At Yalta, the bargaining position of the western Allies was weak. They had recently suffered a major embarrassment in the German Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge), and the Soviet armies were poised to drive on Berlin. Soviet leader Josef Stalin seemed to hold all the cards, at least as far as eastern and central Europe were concerned. Soviet troops occupied most of that territory, including Poland. Stalin sought to secure control of a belt of East European satellite states, both to provide security against another German invasion and to protect a severely wounded Soviet Union against the West and its influences.

British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill pointed out at Yalta that the United Kingdom had gone to war to defend Poland, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was influenced by the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Declaration but also by a large Polish constituency at home. Roosevelt pressed Stalin to agree to applying the Atlantic Charter to the limited area of "liberated Europe." This, of course, excluded both the British Empire and the Soviet Union.

Stalin agreed to the resulting Declaration on Liberated Europe. It affirmed the right of all peoples "to choose the government under which they will live" and called for the "restoration of sovereign rights and self-government" to peoples who had been occupied by the "aggressor nations." The Big Three pledged that in the liberated nations, they would work to restore internal peace, relieve distress, form governments that were "broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population," and ensure that there would be "free elections" that were "broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population" as soon as possible. But such lofty phrases were subject to different interpretations.

No institutional arrangement was established to enforce the ideas embodied in the declaration. As it transpired, the Soviets chose to regard "democratic elements" as meaning all Communist and pro-Communist factions and "free elections" as excluding all those they regarded to be fascists. The result was Soviet control over much of eastern and central Europe—at first indirect and, with the development of the Cold War, direct. The Soviet Union did pay a price for the declaration in the court of world opinion, as Stalin's promises to respect human rights were proven utterly false

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Buhite, Russell D. Decisions at Yalta: An Appraisal of Summit Diplomacy. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1986.; Clemens, Diane Shaver. Yalta. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.; Gardner, Lloyd C. Spheres of Influence: The Great Powers Partition Europe, from Munich to Yalta. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993.; Snell, John L. The Meaning of Yalta: Big Three Diplomacy and the New Balance of Power. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1956.; Stettinius, Edward R., Jr. Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference. Walter Johnson, ed. New York: Harold Ober Associates, 1949.
 

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