54) Percentages agreement or how Stalin and Churchill shared out the world

On 9 October 1944, Churchill and Eden met Stalin in the Kremlin, without the Americans, and bargained over how to divide Europe into spheres of influence between Britain and the Soviet Union. The bargaining went on all night. Churchill wrote on a scrap of paper that Stalin had a 90 percent “interest” in Romania, Britain a 90 percent “interest” in Greece, both Russia and Britain a 50 percent interest in Yugoslavia. When they got to Italy, Stalin ceded that country to Churchill. In the end, they settled on an 80/20 division of interest between Russia and Britain in Bulgaria and Hungary, and a 50/50 division in Yugoslavia.

Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill. Pastel painting by Edward Sorel for series “First Encounters,” written by his wife Nancy Caldwell Sorel. Originally appeared in Atlantic Monthly (1991).
Cartoon Drawings Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The percentages agreement, was described in 1954 in Churchill's memoirs:

The moment was apt for business, so I said [to Stalin], "Let us settle about our affairs in the Balkans. Your armies are in Roumania and Bulgaria. We have interests, missions, and agents there. Don't let us get at cross-purposes in small ways. So far as Britain and Russia are concerned, how would it do for you to have ninety percent predominance in Roumania, for us to have ninety per cent of the say in Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?" While this was being translated I wrote out on a half-sheet of paper:

Russia = 90%
The others = 10%

Great Britain = 90%
(in accord with U.S.A.)
Russia = 10%

Yugoslavia = 50-50%

Hungary = 50-50%

Russia = 75%
The others = 25%

I pushed this across to Stalin, who had by then heard the translation. There was a slight pause. Then he took his blue pencil and made a large tick upon it, and passed it back to us. It was all settled in no more time than it takes to set down… After this there was a long silence. The pencilled paper lay in the centre of the table. At length I said, "Might it not be thought rather cynical if it seemed we had disposed of these issues so fateful to millions of people, in such an offhand manner? Let us burn the paper". "No, you keep it", said Stalin.

Photo: Churchill's original note, complete with amendments and Stalin's tick, is in the British National Archives

Is It Time for the Napkin?
Churchill's percentages agreement
When the Mighty Play God
Why the fate of Greece matters outside Greece
"Stalin: The First In-depth Biography", by Edvard Radzinsky

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