Yalta Conference – Livadia Palace, Ukraine
Even if you’ve not been a keen follower of war histories, a visit to a place like the Livadia Palace will certainly stimulate your interest as to the wheeling and dealing that went on during the Conference. Some interesting things we learned about the Yalta Conference include:
The choice of Yalta for this important meeting:
The leaders of the three nations had their first meeting in Tehran. Stalin was subsequently not allowed to travel due to a stroke and climate-wise, Yalta had the warmest climate in the USSR.
In Yalta, Stalin had control and he even censored what the papers reported. Russians will cynically tell you that PRAVDA (meaning the Truth) reports everything but the truth. Although the Germans looted Yalta, the place was not destroyed.
Churchill didn’t see the point of a protracted meeting and wanted the Conference to be over as quickly as possible. He was noted to have said that even the Almighty took only 7 days. The meeting lasted for 8 days.
Stalin was very crafty and didn’t fit the image of the stereo-type dictator. He demanded all kinds of supplies that equipped the USSR and helped them reach Berlin first. Stalin despised the Western concern at losing lives and was prepared to send untrained recruits to fight the Germans. The Russians were able to defeat the Germans due to the sheer number of untrained conscripts sent to war. Stalin’s disregard for human life is reflected in his quote that “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
Churchill did not trust Stalin and didn’t warm up to him as Roosevelt did. As our half-Russian guide was happy to tell us that trying to maintain good relations with the Communist is like wooing a crocodile. When you tickle its chin, you can’t tell if it’s smiling at you, or preparing to eat you!
When FDR toasted Stalin at a dinner during the Conference and called him a man of peace and progress, Churchill sat stoney-faced and did not respond. When prodded by his Foreign Secretary, Churchill whispered that Stalin wasn’t interested in peace. Finally he conceded and made the following toast “To Premier Stalin, whose conduct of foreign policy manifests peace” … and then out of earshot of the translators he muttered …”A piece of Poland, a piece of Czechoslovakia, a piece of Romania …”. Yes, Stalin got everything he wanted.
It would have been nice to take one’s time to see all the pictures and paraphernalias in the war rooms, but as the crowds of visitors build up we had to keep moving on.