Percentages agreement

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Churchill's copy of his secret agreement with Stalin[1]

The Percentages agreement was a secret agreement between Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and British prime minister Winston Churchill during the Fourth Moscow Conference on October 1944, about how to divide various European countries into spheres of influence. The agreement was officially made public by Churchill twelve years later in the final volume of his memoir of the Second World War. The US ambassador Averell Harriman, who was supposed to represent Roosevelt in these meetings, was excluded from this particular discussion.[2][3]

The agreement

Winston Churchill (not Stalin) proposed the agreement, under which the UK and USSR agreed to divide Europe into spheres of influence, with one country having "predominance" in one sphere, and the other country would have "predominance" in another sphere.[3] According to Churchill's account of the incident, Churchill suggested that the Soviet Union should have 90 percent influence in Romania and 75 percent in Bulgaria; the United Kingdom should have 90 percent in Greece; and they should have 50 percent each in Hungary and Yugoslavia. Churchill wrote it on a piece of paper which he pushed across to Stalin, who ticked it off and passed it back.[2][4][5][6][7] The result of these discussions was that the percentages of Soviet influence in Bulgaria and, more significantly, Hungary were amended to 80 percent.

Churchill called it a "naughty document".[5]

Some historians, including Gabriel Kolko and Geoffrey Roberts believe that the import of the agreement is overrated.[8] Kolko writes :

There is little significance to the memorable and dramatic passage in Churchill's autobiography recalling how he and Stalin divided Eastern Europe ... Stalin's "tick," translated into real words, indicated nothing whatsoever. The very next day Churchill sent Stalin a draft of the discussion, and the Russian carefully struck out phrases implying the creation of spheres of influence, a fact Churchill excluded from his memoirs. Eden assiduously avoided the term, and considered the understanding merely as a practical agreement on how problems would be worked out in each country, and the very next day he and Molotov modified the percentages in a manner which Eden assumed was general rather than precise.[9]

Henry Butterfield Ryan writes, that "Eden and Molotov haggled over these quantities as though they were bargaining over a rug in a bazaar, with Molotov trying, eventually successfully, to trim Britain's figures."[2]

Most historians consider it to be a deeply significant agreement, however. In The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Melvyn Leffler writes that:

...Yalta in 1945, and the notorious percentages agreement between Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill…confirmed that Eastern Europe, initially at least, would lie within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.” [10]

In his acclaimed biography of Churchill, Roy Jenkins writes that the agreement "proposed Realpolitik spheres of influence in the Balkans. The [Foreign Office] record reported [Churchill] as saying that ‘the Americans would be shocked if they saw how crudely he had put it.’" [11] David Carlton similarly notes that "[With the October contract] a clear if informal deal had been done on the point that mattered most to Churchill: he had Stalin’s consent to handle Greece as he saw fit." He quotes Anthony Eden to the effect that in spring of 1944 before the meeting, he and Churchill had discussed the issue and "we felt entitled to ask for Soviet support for our policy there in return for the support we were giving to Soviet policy with regard to Romania.” Carlton recounts that

[Churchill told Franklin Roosevelt] on 31 May…that the proposed Anglo-Soviet arrangement applied only to war conditions and was not an attempt to carve up the Balkans. Roosevelt was unimpressed and on 11 June held that the result would be "the division of the Balkan region into spheres of influence despite the declared intention to limit the arrangement to military matters." Churchill then urged the President to consent to the arrangement being given a three-month trial. And on the 13th Roosevelt rather weakly gave way…This turned out to be a decision of great importance.[12]


In line with the percentages agreement, Britain supported the Greek government forces in the civil war and the Soviet Union did not assist the communist guerrillas.[13] Due to the agreement, and the diplomacy by Churchill which led up to it, the postwar division of Europe was "largely a fait accompli." [14]

Churchill was so committed to the agreement that he initially condoned harsh policies in Stalin's sphere of influence. During the post-war deportation of 30,000 German-Romanians for forced labor in the USSR, some Foreign Office staff began to denounce the policy. In a secret memo to Anthony Eden, Churchill wrote: "Why are we making a fuss about Russian deportations in Romania of Saxons and others? It is understood that the Russians were to work their will in this sphere.” In another message to British diplomats he stated that "I cannot myself consider that it is wrong of the Russians to take Roumanians of any origin they like to work in the Russian coal-fields in view of all that has passed."[15] According to Melvyn Leffler, Churchill "sought to renege" on the percentages agreement as the world war ended and Greece was secured. By 1946, Churchill took a public position denouncing Soviet deportations and "balance of power" politics in his "iron curtain" speech. The gap between private Machiavellian diplomacy and public calls for moral policy played a substantial role in the Cold War breakdown of relations among the superpowers.[16] Years later Churchill acknowledged that Soviet leaders demonstrated good faith in this agreement; In a 1956 interview with CL Sulzberger, Churchill said:

Stalin never broke his word to me. We agreed on the Balkans. I said he could have Romania and Bulgaria, and he said we could have Greece…When we went in in 1944 Stalin didn’t interfere. [17]

A draft of the agreement, which was yet to be made in 1944, appeared under strange circumstances when it was supposedly intercepted in 1943 and fell into the hands of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco's secret service. This was mentioned by General Jordana, in a famous speech he gave in April 1943 in Barcelona.[18]

Countries Soviet Union Percentages UK Percentages
 Bulgaria 75% → 80% 25% → 20%
 Greece 10% 90%
 Hungary 50% → 80% 50% → 20%
 Romania 90% 10%
 Yugoslavia 50% 50%

See also


  1. ^ The document is contained in Britain's Public Record Office, PREM 3/66/7 (169).
  2. ^ a b c Ryan 1987, p. 137.
  3. ^ a b Holmes, Leslie (2009). Communism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press Inc. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-955154-5. 
  4. ^ Resis 1978.
  5. ^ a b Rasor, Eugene L. Winston S. Churchill, 1874–1965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. p. 269. 
  6. ^ Rose, Norman. Churchill: The Unruly Giant. p. 383. 
  7. ^ Cassimatis, Louis P. American Influence in Greece, 1917–1929. p. 240. 
  8. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 218.
  9. ^ Kolko 1990, p. 145.
    See also Tsakaloyannis 1986.
  10. ^ Melvyn Leffler, Cambridge History of the Cold War: Volume 1 (Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 175
  11. ^ Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography (Macmillan, 2001), p. 759
  12. ^ David Carlton, Churchill and the Soviet Union (Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 114-116
  13. ^ Bell, P. M. H. (2001). The World Since 1945: An International History. ISBN 0-340-66235-2. 
  14. ^ Taylor Downing, "Review of Frederick Harbutt's Yalta 1945" History Today, Volume 61 Issue 5 May 2011
  15. ^ David Carlton, Churchill and the Soviet Union (Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 120-122
  16. ^ Melvyn Leffler "Adherence to Agreements:Yalta and the Early Cold War" International Security, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Summer, 1986), pp. 88-123
  17. ^ David Carlton, Churchill and the Soviet Union (Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 120-122
  18. ^ This letter—that Stalin no doubt intentionally put into circulation—fell into the hands of general Franco and was used by his Foreign Minister, general Jordana, in the famous speech he gave in April 1943 in Barcelona. It was a desperate cry against Roosevelt's concessions to Bolshevism... in, Nicolas Baciu: L'Europe de l'Est trahie et vendue: les erreurs tragiques de Churchill et Roosevelt: les documents secrets accusent, Pensée universelle, 1984, p. 49].

Further reading

External links

  • The division of Europe, according to Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin (1944) (Scan of the napkin in question)
  • Geoffrey Roberts, Beware Greek Gifts: The Churchill-Stalin «Percentages» Agreement of October 1944
  • Excerpt from the book STALIN
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