From 28 November to 1 December 1943, the three leaders of the major states fighting against Germany and Japan met together for the first time in the Iranian capital of Teheran in order to coordinate strategy for the defeat of their enemies and to discuss major issues of wartime and postwar politics. The British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965), the U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945), and the Soviet premier, Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) met during four days of negotiations that resulted in agreement on a joint assault on Hitler's Europe from west and east in 1944.
The three leaders brought with them a large entourage of diplomats, soldiers, officials, and security guards. Roosevelt hoped to use the conference as a platform for cementing closer ties with the Soviet Union and securing a Soviet promise to help win the war against Japan when Germany was defeated; Churchill, who met with his senior staff in Cairo shortly before the conference, wanted to persuade his partners that a Mediterranean assault on Germany made greater sense than a frontal assault on France, which American military leaders favored; Stalin had the single ambition to get the western states to mount a second front to relieve the exceptional pressure on Soviet resources and manpower generated by more than two years of continuous ground warfare against Axis armies. On the third day of the conference agreement was finally reached that the western Allies would attack northern France in May 1944. Stalin promised to coordinate this assault with a large operation on the eastern front, and to join in the war against Japan when the opportunity presented itself.
The fourth day of the conference was devoted to political questions. During the earlier part of the conference Roosevelt had secured a loose commitment from his partners over a four-power directorate, including China under Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975), to operate a postwar peacekeeping system, and had won Soviet acquiescence for the rebuilding of eastern Asia after Japanese defeat. Inconclusive discussions were held over the involvement of Turkey in the war effort. On the future of Finland, Stalin elicited an informal acceptance that the territory transferred after the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939–1940 would be retained by the Soviet Union, together with agreement that economic reparations should be exacted from the Finns for the physical damage to Soviet territory; in return he promised to respect Finland's independence. The final subject was the future of Germany and Poland. Roosevelt informed Stalin privately that he favored shifting the Soviet frontier farther into Poland, and compensating the Poles with territory in eastern Germany, which became the basis for the later postwar settlement. The Baltic states were discussed on the assumption that they would almost certainly revert to Soviet control. In subsequent conferences between the three leaders it was agreed that Poland would be geographically reconfigured at Germany's expense. The future of Germany was discussed, but no agreements were made. Roosevelt favored a general partition into small states; Churchill and Stalin preferred larger units, but some form of dismemberment. The conference broke up with no clear agreement on the German question, which was finalized only at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences held in February and in July 1945.
The conference exposed small but significant differences of opinion, but in general formed the basis of a postwar settlement that secured Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and sanctioned the territorial gains made by the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940 under the terms of the German-Soviet pact. The most important impact was on the course of the war. Stalin remained skeptical of western goodwill, but planned Soviet strategy in 1944 as if a second front would become a reality. Churchill continued to argue for some kind of Mediterranean initiative as a possible alternative, but planning for the attack on occupied France became the central feature of western strategy. On 6 June 1944 U.S., British Empire, and French forces attacked the northern coast of France; two weeks later a vast Soviet offensive opened in Byelorussia that destroyed the heart of the German army in the east. The commitment to Soviet assistance in the war with Japan was honored in August 1945, when the Red Army swept the Japanese from Manchuria. It is arguable whether the Teheran Conference really cemented closer ties between the Allied Powers. Churchill resented his increasing marginalization by the two military superpowers, and Stalin distrusted the ambitions of his two cobelligerents. The conference thus exposed political fissures that widened in the postwar world into the contours of the Cold War and the relative decline of Britain as a world power.
Berezhkov, Valentin. History in the Making: Memoirs of World War II Diplomacy. Translated from the Russian by Dudley Hagen and Barry Jones. Moscow, 1983. Stalin as seen by his interpreter at Teheran.
Danchev, Alex, and Daniel Todman, eds. War Diaries, 1939–1945: The Diaries of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. London, 2001. Key witness of the events at Tehran.
Eubank, Keith. Summit at Teheran. New York, 1985.
Jones, Matthew. Britain, the United States, and the Mediterranean War, 1942–44. London, 1996.
Kimball, Warren F. Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. New York, 1997. Background on the alliance.
Sainsbury, Keith. The Turning Point: Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, and Chiang-Kai-Shek, 1943: The Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran Conferences. Oxford, U.K., 1985. Standard account of the Teheran Conference.
The Teheran Conference was the first summit meeting between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin. It met from November 28 through December l, 1943, in Teheran, Iran. The general purpose of the conference was to strengthen the cooperation between the Big Three allies in the conduct of the Second World War and to determine the outlines of a postwar global order. Though the Western allies—particularly Roosevelt—sought to conciliate the Soviet dictator, the conference was marked by underlying tension over differences among the allied leaders. The major agreement reached was the decision to launch the long-awaited invasion of Europe (Operation Overlord) as a cross-channel invasion of France in May 1944 (later changed to June). For Stalin, this promise of relief for the Red Army was a major victory. Considerable discussion of the question of Poland's postwar boundaries produced no definitive solution, though there was a consensus that Poland's eastern boundary would be the Curzon line and that Poland would be compensated in the West with territories to be taken from Germany. Stalin successfully pressed for confirmation of Soviet gains as a result of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939. In turn Stalin agreed to engage Japanese forces in the Pacific theater after the defeat of Germany. There was also agreement to cooperate in a postwar United Nations organization to maintain peace. In a separate protocol the Big Three agreed to maintain the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran.
See also: nazi-soviet pact of 1939; potsdam conference; world war ii; yalta conference
Mayle, Paul D. (1987). Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle and the Big Three at Teheran, 1943. Newark: University of Delaware Press.
Joseph L. Nogee
TEHERAN CONFERENCE. From 28 November to 1 December 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Marshal Joseph Stalin met at Teheran, the capital of Iran, to coordinate Western military plans with those of the Soviet Union. Most important of all, the "big three" drew up the essential victory strategy in Europe, one based on a cross-channel invasion called Operation Overlord and scheduled for May 1944. The plan included a partition of Germany, but left all details to a three-power European Advisory Commission. It granted Stalin's request that Poland's new western border should be at the Oder River and that the eastern one follow the lines drafted by British diplomat Lord Curzon in 1919. The conference tacitly concurred in Stalin's conquests of 1939 and 1940, these being Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and a slice of Finland. Stalin reiterated his promise, made in October 1943 at Moscow, to enter the war against Japan upon the defeat of Germany, but he expected compensation in the form of tsarist territories taken by Japan in 1905. On 1 December 1943, the three powers issued a declaration that welcomed potential allies into "a world family of democratic nations" and signed a separate protocol recognizing the "independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" of Iran.
Eubank, Keith. Summit at Teheran. New York: Morrow, 1985.
Mayle, Paul D. Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle and the Big Three at Teheran, 1943. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1987.
Sainsbury, Keith. The Turning Point: Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, and Chiang-Kai-Shek, 1943: The Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran Conferences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.
C. J. Bartlett