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Yalta: The Price of Peace

Yalta: The Price of Peace

by S. M. Plokhy

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A major new history of the eight days in February 1945 when FDR, Churchill, and Stalin decided the fate of the world

Imagine you could eavesdrop on a dinner party with three of the most fascinating historical figures of all time. In this landmark book, a gifted Harvard historian puts you in the room with Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt as they meet


A major new history of the eight days in February 1945 when FDR, Churchill, and Stalin decided the fate of the world

Imagine you could eavesdrop on a dinner party with three of the most fascinating historical figures of all time. In this landmark book, a gifted Harvard historian puts you in the room with Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt as they meet at a climactic turning point in the war to hash out the terms of the peace.

The ink wasn't dry when the recriminations began. The conservatives who hated Roosevelt's New Deal accused him of selling out. Was he too sick? Did he give too much in exchange for Stalin's promise to join the war against Japan? Could he have done better in Eastern Europe? Both Left and Right would blame Yalta for beginning the Cold War.

Plokhy's conclusions, based on unprecedented archival research, are surprising. He goes against conventional wisdom-cemented during the Cold War- and argues that an ailing Roosevelt did better than we think. Much has been made of FDR's handling of the Depression; here we see him as wartime chief. Yalta is authoritative, original, vividly- written narrative history, and is sure to appeal to fans of Margaret MacMillan's bestseller Paris 1919.

Editorial Reviews

Andrew Nagorski
Harvard historian S.M. Plokhy has provided a rich new narrative of the eight days of meetings in the Crimean resort between Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in February 1945. Drawing upon formerly secret Soviet documents and reports and memoirs from all three sides, he brings the conference and its key players to life, making a familiar story feel lively and fresh…Plokhy's book makes for compelling reading—for its details and drama…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Harvard historian Plokhy (Unmaking Imperial Russia) enhances his stature as a scholar of modern Russia in this convincing revisionist analysis of the February 1945 Yalta conference. Plokhy makes sophisticated use of Soviet sources to make a case that Yalta was anything but the diplomatic defeat for the West so often depicted in cold war literature. He describes Yalta in the context of a clash between different approaches to international relations. FDR was a liberal internationalist. Churchill and Stalin saw the world in terms of power and interests. And with the Red Army only 50 miles from Berlin, “Stalin held the trump cards.” Plokhy's detailed and highly engrossing narrative of the negotiations shows that the West did reasonably well. Roosevelt's agenda was global. He secured Stalin's commitment to join the war against Japan and participate in the U.N. Churchill, focused on Europe, preserved British interests in the Mediterranean. Stalin achieved recognition of the U.S.S.R.'s great-power status and a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. The Yalta agreement was not the first conflict of the cold war but just a step toward a cold war that emerged only after three more years of failed negotiations. Maps. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt met at Yalta in January 1945 to plot out the finale of World War II and to begin dividing up the great powers' responsibilities. President Roosevelt had not yet returned to America when the arguments began. Had he given up too much? Was he too weakened by overwork and illness? Did Alger Hiss or Guy Burgess betray crucial secrets? Did Yalta cause the Cold War? Newly declassified Soviet archives and the diaries of many secondary players contribute to this major reconsideration of Yalta. Plokhy (history, Harvard; Unmaking Imperial Russia) deals with an enormous cast of characters and an equally enormous mass of detail, marshaling it into an interesting and readable narrative and concluding that Roosevelt didn't do too badly. VERDICT Readers interested in World War II and diplomatic history, who may also want to look at Fraser J. Harbutt's Yalta 1945, are likely to find this detailed and revisionist account worth reading. They will also enjoy Andrew Roberts's Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941–1945.—Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS
Kirkus Reviews
An astute reappraisal of the Yalta Conference. The Big Three-Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin-met under heavily guarded, secret conditions over eight days in February 1945 to establish a blueprint of geopolitical interests for the anticipated peace after World War II. Churchill was eager to preserve British "spheres of influences" in Europe from Soviet Communism; Franklin Roosevelt, in faltering health, was insistent on securing Soviet cooperation in a world peace organization and a democratic government in Poland; Joseph Stalin wanted to preserve the new territorial borders granted under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. The war in Europe had turned, due largely to the Russian thrust against the Germans, and the Soviets had already taken Bucharest, Sofia, Budapest and Belgrade and were headed for Berlin. The Western allies were alarmed about the Communist takeover of Eastern Europe. Subjects to be wrangled among the diplomats included the winter military offensive; Germany's "dismemberment"; a "bombline" defining aerial operations; the cost of Soviet participation in the war in the Pacific; the division of the Balkans; and the ultimate sellout of Poland. Above all, FDR desired to remain "on friendly footing" with Stalin, even if Churchill was frequently slighted. With the onset of the Cold War, the Americans paid the price for their amiable legitimizing of Soviet concerns. Enlisting documents from all sides-there was no official record kept of the conference, and the Soviets had the Livadia Palace effectively bugged-Plokhy (Harvard Univ.; The Origins of the Slavic Nations, 2006, etc.) gets at the secret dealmaking and shades of deceit present at the conference.High expectations for the "spirit of Yalta" in both the West and East collapsed into mutual suspicion soon after Roosevelt's death, and the author effectively addresses the fateful aftermath. Fresh research drives this scholarly study of the complex blend of Yalta's personalities and ideas. Local author events near Arlington, Mass. Agent: Steve Wasserman/Kneerim & Williams
Brian John Murphy
Plokhy tells [his] stories in great detail and with consummate skill, making Yalta a book that belongs not only in WWII libraries, but also in the collections of all who are interested in the mid-20th century. Yalta, Plokhy tells us, was not a peace conference deciding issues between the Allies and Germany. It was a conference about keeping the peace between the Big Three powers themselves. Roosevelt said he was bargaining for 50 years free of war in Europe. He got his wish, but the price was 44 years of what President John F. Kennedy called "a hard and bitter peace," brought about by the bad faith and ideological and political aggression of the Soviet Union.
America In WWII Magazine
From the Publisher
"The end of the Cold War has given scholars a chance to step back and take a more dispassionate look at those eight consequential days in February 1945. It is hard to imagine anyone doing so better than S.M. Plokhy in 'Yalta: The Price of Peace' ... colorful and gripping ..."
-The Wall Street Journal

"Harvard historian S.M. Plokhy has produced a gripping narrative of the eight days in February 1945 when the Big Three - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin - convened the Yalta summit as World War II raged on."
-The Boston Globe

"This balanced and detailed study is an excellent source for understanding the last 65 years of U.S. and European history."

"An astute reappraisal of the Yalta Conference...Fresh research drives this scholarly study of the complex blend of Yalta's personalities and ideas."

"In this insightful new book, S.M. Plokhy takes on perhaps the most controversial and least understood summit of modern times, clarifying, with new documents from the Soviet side, what is myth and what is reality. The Big Three come to life in Plokhy's telling, and the analysis is sober and strong."
-Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston

"S.M. Plokhy's Yalta provides an important and timely corrective to the myths that have lasted far too long. His detailed and balanced account should do much to correct the misunderstandings and distortions."
-Antony Beevor, prize-winning author of Stalingrad and The Fall of Berlin

"A genuinely enlightening book, not only about the history of Yalta and the roles played there by Stalin, FDR, and Churchill, but also about the geopolitics of tomorrow: while reading the book, simply replace Stalin with someone whose name rhymes with his, and Poland with Ukraine."
-Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and author of America and the World and Second Chances

"Richly detailed and meticulously researched, Yalta brilliantly describes the personalities and the politics behind one of the most important, and least understood, political gatherings of the twentieth century."
-Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and between East and West

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Serhii Plokhii (Plokhy) is Mykhailo Hrushevsky professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University and the author of several award-winning books on Ukrainian and Russian history, including The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine (Oxford, 2001), The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (Cambridge, 2006), and Ukraine and Russia: Representations of the Past (Toronto, 2008). His revisionist account of the 1945 Yalta conference, Yalta: The Price of Peace was released by Viking Press on 4 February 2010, to mark the 65-th anniversary of the start of the Yalta Conference.

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