Percentages agreement

The Percentages agreement was a secret informal agreement between British prime minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during the Fourth Moscow Conference in October 1944. It gave the percentage division of control over Eastern European countries, dividing them into spheres of influence. Franklin Roosevelt was consulted tentatively and conceded to the agreement.[2] The content of the agreement was first made public by Churchill in 1953 in the final volume of his memoir. The US ambassador Averell Harriman, who was supposed to represent Roosevelt in these meetings, was excluded from this discussion.[3][4]

Percentages agreement2
Churchill's copy of his secret agreement with Stalin[1]

The agreement

Countries Soviet Percentages UK Percentages
 Bulgaria 75% → 80% 25% → 20%
 Greece 10% 90%
 Hungary 50% → 80% 50% → 20%
 Romania 90% → 100% 10% → 0%
 Yugoslavia 50% 50%

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 having "predominance" in another sphere.[4] 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.[3][5][6][7][8] The result of these discussions was that the percentages of Soviet influence in Bulgaria and, more significantly, Hungary were amended to 80 percent and Romania to 100 percent.

Churchill called it a "naughty document".[6]

Some historians, including Gabriel Kolko and Geoffrey Roberts believe that the importance of the agreement is overrated.[9] 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. [British Foreign Minister] Anthony 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 [Soviet Foreign Minister] Vyacheslav Molotov modified the percentages in a manner which Eden assumed was general rather than precise.[10]

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."[3]

Most historians consider the agreement to be deeply significant, however. In The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Norman Naimark writes that together with the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, "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." [11]

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.'" [12] Historian 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." Anthony Eden wrote that months before the meeting, he and Churchill had discussed the issue and "we felt entitled to ask for Soviet support for our policy [with regard to Greece] 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.[13]


At the Yalta Conference (February 1945), Roosevelt suggested that the issues raised in the percentages agreement should be decided by the new United Nations. Stalin was dismayed because he wanted a Soviet sphere of influence in East Europe.[14]

According to Melvyn Leffler, Churchill "sought to renege" on the percentages agreement as the world war ended and Greece was secured.[15] This was especially the case as Churchill and Roosevelt kept such severe discretion around the agreement that their successors in office were not aware of it.[16] Stalin, meanwhile, initially believed the secret agreement was more important than the public deal at Yalta, leading to his perception of betrayal and a growing urgency to secure friendly governments on the USSR's border.[17]

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.[18]

All the countries became People's Republics under Communist control with the exception of Greece, where the Communists lost the Greek Civil War, but Greece became a Republic in 1973.[19]

See also


  1. ^ The document is contained in Britain's Public Record Office, PREM 3/66/7 (169).
  2. ^ Borhi, László (2004). Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: Between the United States and the Soviet Union. Central European University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9789639241800.
  3. ^ a b c Ryan 1987, p. 137.
  4. ^ a b Holmes, Leslie (2009). Communism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press Inc. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-955154-5.
  5. ^ Resis 1978.
  6. ^ a b Rasor, Eugene L. Winston S. Churchill, 1874–1965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. p. 269.
  7. ^ Rose, Norman. Churchill: The Unruly Giant. p. 383.
  8. ^ Cassimatis, Louis P. American Influence in Greece, 1917–1929. p. 240.
  9. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 218.
  10. ^ Kolko 1990, p. 145.
    See also Tsakaloyannis 1986.
  11. ^ Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, eds., The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. 1: Origins (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 175
  12. ^ Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography (Macmillan, 2001), p. 759
  13. ^ David Carlton, Churchill and the Soviet Union (Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 114-116
  14. ^ Allan Todd, History for the IB Diploma Paper 3: The Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2016), p.105
  15. ^ Melvyn Leffler "Adherence to Agreements:Yalta and the Early Cold War" International Security, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Summer, 1986), pp. 88-123
  16. ^ B.A. Coates, "Strategists and Rhetoricians" in A Companion to Harry S. Truman, edited by Daniel S. Margolies (Wiley, 2012)
  17. ^ Allan Todd, History for the IB Diploma Paper 3: The Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2016), p.105-111
  18. ^ David Carlton. Churchill and the Soviet Union (Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 120.
  19. ^ Nachmani, Amikam; Nachmani, Professor in the Department of Political Studies Amikam (1990). International Intervention in the Greek Civil War: The United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans, 1947-1952. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 3–5. ISBN 9780275933678.

Further reading

  • Kolko, Gabriel (1990) [1968]. The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943–1945. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-679-72757-6.
  • Resis, Albert (1978). "The Churchill-Stalin Secret 'Percentages' Agreement on the Balkans, Moscow, October 1944". American Historical Review. 83 (2): 368–387. JSTOR 1862322.
  • Roberts, Geoffrey (2006). Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-15040-7.
  • Ryan, Henry Butterfield (1987). The Vision of Anglo-America: The US–UK Alliance and the Emerging Cold War, 1943–1946. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-32928-6.
  • Siracusa, Joseph M. "The Meaning of TOLSTOY: Churchill, Stalin, And The Balkans Moscow, October 1944." Diplomatic History 3#4 (1979): 443-444. includes British minutes; online
  • Siracusa, Joseph M. "The Night Stalin and Churchill Divided Europe: The View from Washington." Review of Politics 43#3 (1981): 381-409. online
  • Tsakaloyannis, Panos (1986). "The Moscow Puzzle". Journal of Contemporary History. 21 (1): 37–55. doi:10.1177/002200948602100103. JSTOR 260471.

External links

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Greek Civil War

Τhe Greek Civil War (Greek: ο Eμφύλιος [Πόλεμος], o Emfýlios [Pólemos], "the Civil War") was fought in Greece from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army — backed by the United Kingdom and the United States — and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) — the military branch of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) — backed by Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria. It is often considered the first proxy war of the Cold War, although the Soviet Union avoided sending aid. The fighting resulted in the defeat of the DSE by the Hellenic Army. Founded by the Communist Party of Greece and supported by neighboring and newly founded Socialist States such as Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria, the Democratic Army of Greece included many personnel who had fought as partisans against German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation forces during the Second World War of 1939–1945.

The civil war resulted from a highly polarized struggle between left and right ideologies that started in 1943. From 1944 each side targeted the power vacuum resulting from the end of German-Italian occupation (1941–1945) during World War II. The struggle became one of the first conflicts of the Cold War (c. 1947 to 1989) and represents the first example of Cold War power postwar involvement in the internal politics of a foreign country. Greece in the end was funded by the US (through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan) and joined NATO (1952), while the insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin, who wanted the war ended, and Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito, who wanted it to continue.

Tito was committed to helping the Greek Communists in their efforts, a stance that caused political complications with Stalin, as he had recently agreed with Winston Churchill not to support the Communists in Greece, as documented in their Percentages Agreement of October 1944.

The first signs of the civil war occurred in 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation. With the Greek government in exile unable to influence the situation at home, various resistance groups of differing political affiliations emerged, the dominant ones being the leftist National Liberation Front (EAM), and its military branch the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS) which was effectively controlled by the KKE. Starting in autumn 1943, friction between the EAM and the other resistance groups resulted in scattered clashes, which continued until spring 1944, when an agreement was reached forming a national unity government that included six EAM-affiliated ministers.

The immediate prelude of the civil war took place in Athens, on December 3, 1944, less than two months after the Germans had retreated from the area. After an order to disarm, leftists resigned from the government and called for resistance. A riot (the Dekemvriana) erupted and Greek government gendarmes, with British forces standing in the background, opened fire on a pro-EAM rally, killing 28 demonstrators and injuring dozens. The rally had been organised under the pretext of a demonstration against the perceived impunity of the collaborators and the general disarmament ultimatum, signed by Ronald Scobie (the British commander in Greece). The battle lasted 33 days and resulted in the defeat of the EAM. The subsequent signing of the Treaty of Varkiza (12 February 1945) spelled the end of the left-wing organization's ascendancy: the ELAS was partly disarmed while the EAM soon after lost its multi-party character, to become dominated by KKE. All the while, White Terror was unleashed against the supporters of the left, further escalating the tensions between the dominant factions of the nation.

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Despite setbacks suffered by government forces from 1946 to 1948, they eventually won due to increased American aid, the failure of the DSE to attract sufficient recruits, and the side-effects of the Tito–Stalin split of 1948. The final victory of the western-allied government forces led to Greece's membership in NATO (1952) and helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean Sea for the entire Cold War. The civil war also left Greece with a vehemently anti-communist security establishment, which would lead to the establishment of the Greek military junta of 1967–74 and a legacy of political polarisation that lasts until today.

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Moscow Conference (1944)

The Fourth Moscow Conference, also Tolstoy Conference for its code name Tolstoy, was a meeting in Moscow between Churchill and Stalin from October 9 to October 19, 1944.

Churchill made a secret proposal on a scrap of paper dividing post-war Europe into Western and Soviet spheres of influence, as follows:

recognition of Soviet interests in Poland;

the Soviet Union would control 90% of Romania and 75% of Hungary and Bulgaria;

the West would control 90% of Greece;

Yugoslavia would be split 50-50.

Stalin examined the scrap of paper and pondered it for a moment, then wrote a large check in blue pencil and handed it back to Churchill. Churchill commented: "Might it not be thought rather cynical if it seemed we had disposed of such issues, so fateful to millions of people, in such an offhand manner? Let us burn the paper." Stalin counseled, however, to save the historic scrap of paper. Churchill called the scrap of paper a "naughty document," which came to be known as the "Percentages agreement." There were no Americans present and Churchill did not tell any Americans about the percentages proposal. Harriman was not present but later heard about it from the Soviets. The U.S. never indicated agreement with it. The proposed percentage division was never mentioned at Yalta or other meetings. Leffler states that it "confirmed that Eastern Europe, initially at least, would lie within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union." However British historian Andrew Roberts states:

the Second Moscow Conference was not able to resolve major issues and Eastern Europe, and when Churchill did complete his percentages deal with Stalin, it was not ratified by the Americans.Stalin agreed that the Soviet Union will enter war against Japan, and the British agreed to return to the Soviet Union all former Soviet citizens who had been liberated from the Germans.

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Razing of Vorizia

The Razing of Vorizia (Greek: Καταστροφή των Βοριζίων) refers to the destruction of the village of Vorizia (Βορίζια) in Crete (Greece) by aerial bombardment and the murder of five of its inhabitants on 27 August 1943 by German occupying forces during World War II.

Sebastiano Visconti Prasca

Sebastiano Visconti Prasca (23 January 1883, Rome – 25 February 1961) was an Italian general. He led the initial offensive of the Greco-Italian War, but was relieved of his command after two weeks for incompetence and substituted with General Ubaldo Soddu.

Southeast Europe

Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe (SEE) is a geographical region of Europe, consisting primarily of the coterminous Balkan Peninsula. There are overlapping and conflicting definitions as to where exactly Southeastern Europe begins or ends or how it relates to other regions of the continent. Sovereign states that are most frequently included in the region are, in alphabetical order: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.

These boundaries can vary greatly and are widely disputed, due to political, economic, historical, cultural, and geographical considerations and point of view of the observer.

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Critics of the policy have observed that the governments of Greece and Turkey were themselves far from democratic at this time, and neither were facing Soviet subversion in the spring of 1949. Historian Eric Foner writes that the Doctrine "set a precedent for American assistance to anticommunist regimes throughout the world, no matter how undemocratic, and for the creation of a set of global military alliances directed against the Soviet Union."For years, the United Kingdom had supported Greece, but was now near bankruptcy and was forced to radically reduce its involvement. In February 1947, Britain formally requested for the United States to take over its role in supporting the royalist Greek government. The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money but no military forces to the region. The effect was to end the Greek revolt, and in 1952, both Greece and Turkey joined NATO, a military alliance, to guarantee their stability.

The Truman Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from anti-fascism ally to a policy of containment of Soviet expansion as advocated by diplomat George Kennan. It was distinguished from rollback by implicitly tolerating the previous Soviet takeovers in Eastern Europe.

Ubaldo Soddu

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