Sixty years on, grandsons of Allied leaders meet to commemorate Yalta
Sunday 02 October 2005
Mr Jugashvili yesterday joined descendants of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Yalta conference in 1945, an event largely seen by historians as the least successful of the wartime summits.
All three participants in yesterday's meeting defended the role of their grandfathers, and argued that Yalta itself had been misrepresented. But the most striking intervention came from Mr Jugashvili, who told The Independent on Sunday before the meeting that people had been "brainwashed" about Stalin's role in 20th-century history.
Mr Jugashvili, a Soviet-era military historian who retired with the rank of colonel and lives in Georgia, said that after Stalin's death, the media "fell into the hands of the enemies of the people, or people who are confused or corrupt journalists and writers - including TV, which is a powerful force". He went on: "For 50 years they brainwashed people, particularly young people, and their propaganda concerning Stalin was such that he was compared to Hitler. The press has taken the same line: the Soviet Union won the war, not because Stalin was the leader, but in spite of him."
Although the anniversary of the war was being commemorated by numerous monuments, Mr Jugashvili added: "Not a single word is spoken of the commander-in-chief. I believe this is a crime, a crime against the Russian people. And the time has come to punish corrupt journalists. That's it."
The comments may not surprise historians of the Yalta conference, at which Stalin made his views on pluralism clear. In the context of discussions on the future of Poland, Winston Churchill mentioned the general election he faced in Britain, explaining that there were two parties. "One party is much better," replied Stalin.
Critics see the gathering in Crimea as the moment that formalised the division of Europe and consolidated Soviet domination of the East. But at yesterday's event, organised to launch the Graduate School of Governance at Maastricht University, both Curtis Roosevelt and Winston S Churchill argued that by February 1945, when Yalta took place, Europe's division was effectively sealed. Mr Roosevelt argued that Yalta "has been misrepresented, primarily because of isolationist feelings in the US". He continued: "Yalta had two objectives which were of primary importance in 1945. One was to get the Soviet Union to join the United Nations. And the second was to get a commitment from Stalin to go to war against Japan."
Mr Churchill, the author and former Conservative MP, added: "Poland had fallen to the Soviet orbit six months before Yalta. Of course 200 to 300 million Eastern Europeans have bitter feelings about Yalta, because they see that as the blueprint for the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. But it was no such thing. That had been decided by the reality of the Red Army at the heart of Europe and at the throat of Europe." In an unusual show of unanimity, Mr Jugashvili concurred, arguing: "To say that the conference was a disaster is incomprehensible. The Yalta conference was an enormous event."
The Soviet leader's grandson remained studiously neutral over his impressions of the West on his first visit, describing it as a "new place" for him. That could be forgiven, given the comments of Britain's wartime leader 60 years ago. Churchill is said to have described Yalta as "the Riviera of Hades".
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