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Yalta Conference: Definition, Significance & Results

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  • 0:04 Post-War Europe
  • 1:11 The Yalta Conference…
  • 2:47 The Yalta Conference Results
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson we will learn about the Yalta Conference, which took place toward the end of World War II. We will learn what took place at this conference, and we will identify its significance and the results that came from it. We will also explore other key themes and developments surrounding it.

Post-War Europe

By the beginning of 1945, the end of the most horrific war in history was in sight. Hitler's Third Reich, the Nazi regime that was supposed to last a thousand years, was crumbling. In the West, Allied forces landed at the beaches of Normandy, France, paving the way for a thrust into the heart of Germany. In the East, Soviet forces had rebounded after the Battle of Stalingrad, and were moving toward Berlin. For the Allies, success was virtually ensured, it was only a matter of time. But one question was on everyone's mind: What would post-war Europe look like? How would it be reconfigured?

Although allies, the ''Big Three'' (as in, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union) had many differences. This was especially true in regard to the Soviet Union. While the United States and Great Britain tended to agree on many things, the Soviets had very different plans for post-war Europe. In order to discuss these issues and come up with a plan for the restructuring of the post-war world, the Big Three powers needed to sit down with one another.

The Yalta Conference Negotiations

The Yalta Conference was the important conference in which the leaders of the Big Three met in February 1945 to discuss plans for the end of World War II and the future of the world. The conference was attended by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the United States; Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain; and Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. The conference was held in the city of Yalta, which is in Crimea, then a part of the Soviet Union.

The conference dealt with many issues, but one of the most important was the geopolitical make-up of Europe after the war. How would the territory be divided up? What countries should exist and what should their borders be? Should Germany continue to be a nation-state, or should it be divided into new states? What should be done with the land that had been Poland? What about the diverse ethnic groups in Central Europe? As you can imagine, there were complex issues at stake here.

Each leader came to the conference with specific interests and specific goals. For example, FDR really wanted the Soviet Union to wage war against Japan, whereas Stalin wanted a guarantee that Central Europe would fall under his ''sphere of influence.'' The meeting was an opportunity for all three leaders to negotiate with one another and work out deals. This meant compromising and the giving and receiving of concessions. At the negotiating table, so to speak, Churchill and FDR were more or less allied with one another, and were trying to put pressure on Stalin to meet their conditions.

The Yalta Conference Results

So what policies or deals were worked out at the Yalta Conference? Let's look at some of the most important ones.

It was decided that Germany would be ''denazified'' and occupied by the Allies. Germany would be split up into four zones of occupation, with Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union being the four occupying powers. The capital city of Berlin would also be split into occupying zones. This partition would form the basis for the future states of East Germany and West Germany.

The Soviet Union agreed to enter the war against the Empire of Japan within two or three months of Germany's surrender.

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