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Tehran Conference

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Tehran Conference
Eureka (codename)
The "Big Three" at Tehran Conference, Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
Host country Iran
Date28 November – 1 December 1943
Venue(s)Soviet embassy
CitiesTehran, Iran
ParticipantsSoviet Union Joseph Stalin
United Kingdom Winston Churchill
United States Franklin D. Roosevelt
PrecedesYalta Conference
Key points
Consensus to open a second front against Nazi Germany by 1 June 1944

The Tehran Conference (codenamed Eureka[1]) was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28 November to 1 December 1943. It was held at the Soviet Union's embassy at Tehran in Iran. It was the first of the World War II conferences of the "Big Three" Allied leaders (the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom) and closely followed the Cairo Conference, which had taken place on 22–26 November 1943, and preceded the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies' commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the 'Big Three' Allies' relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged postwar settlement. A separate contract signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iranian independence.


Once the German-Soviet War broke out in June 1941, Churchill offered assistance to the Soviets, and an agreement to that effect was signed on 12 July 1941.[2] However, Churchill, in a spoken radio transmission announcing the alliance with the Soviets, reminded listeners that the alliance would not change his stance against communism.[3]

Delegations had traveled between London and Moscow to arrange the implementation of that support, and when the United States joined the war in December 1941, the delegations met in Washington as well. A Combined Chiefs of Staff committee was created to co-ordinate British and American operations and their support to the Soviets. The consequences of a global war, the absence of a unified Allied strategy, and the complexity of allocating resources between Europe and Asia had not yet been sorted out, which soon gave rise to mutual suspicions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.[2] There was the question of opening a second front to alleviate the German pressure on the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front, the question of mutual assistance (since both the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union were looking towards the United States for credit and material support, there was tension between the United States and Britain since the Americans had no desire to prop up the British Empire in the event of an Allied victory).[2] Also, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom was prepared to give Stalin a free hand in Eastern Europe, and there was no common policy on how to deal with Germany after the war. Communications regarding those matters between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin took place by telegrams and via emissaries, but it was evident that direct negotiations were urgently needed.[2]

Stalin was reluctant to leave Moscow and unwilling to risk journeys by air,[4] and Roosevelt was physically disabled and found travel difficult. Churchill was an avid traveller and, as part of an ongoing series of wartime conferences, had already met with Roosevelt five times in North America and twice in Africa and had also held two prior meetings with Stalin in Moscow.[2] To arrange the urgently-needed meeting, Roosevelt tried to persuade Stalin to travel to Cairo. Stalin turned down the offer and also offers to meet in Baghdad or Basra. He finally agreed to meet in Tehran in November 1943.[2] Iran was a neutral country but was nevertheless invaded jointly by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in August 1941.


Tehran, Iran, Dec. 1943—Front row: Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill on the portico of the Soviet Embassy—Back row: General H.H. Arnold, Chief of the U.S. Army Air Force; General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Admiral Cunningham, First Sea Lord; Admiral William Leahy, Chief of staff to President Roosevelt, during the Tehran Conference
Tehran, Iran, Dec. 1943—Front row: Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill on the portico of the Soviet Embassy—Back row: General H.H. Arnold, Chief of the U.S. Army Air Force; General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Admiral Cunningham, First Sea Lord; Admiral William Leahy, Chief of staff to President Roosevelt, during the Tehran Conference

The conference was to convene at 16:00 on 28 November 1943. Stalin had arrived well before, followed by Roosevelt, who was brought in his wheelchair from his accommodation adjacent to the venue. Roosevelt, who had traveled 11,000 kilometres (7,000 miles) to attend and whose health was already deteriorating, was met by Stalin. This was the first time that they had met. Churchill, walking with his general staff from their accommodations nearby, arrived half an hour later.[5] According to Roosevelt's interpreter, Charles Bohlen, Roosevelt was accompanied by Harry Hopkins, who had served as Roosevelt's personal emissary to Churchill, and W. Averell Harriman, the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Stalin was accompanied by Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov and military leader Kliment Voroshilov. Churchill brought Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden his CGS Alanbrooke, chief military assistant Hastings Ismay plus Dill, Cunningham, Portal, Boyle, and his interpreter Arthur Birse. Three Western women attended: Churchill's daughter Sarah, Averell Harriman's daughter Kathleen and Roosevelt's daughter Anna Boettiger.

The Shah of Iran, shortly after his father's forced abdication during the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, meeting with American president Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Conference
The Shah of Iran (center), pictured to the right of Joseph Stalin at the Tehran Conference (1943)
Footage from the Cairo and Tehran conferences

As Stalin had been advocating for a second front since 1941, he was very pleased and felt that he had accomplished his principal goal for the meeting. Moving on, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated:

Stalin pressed for a revision of Poland's eastern border with the Soviet Union to match the line set by British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in 1920. In order to compensate Poland for the resulting loss of territory, the three leaders agreed to move the German-Polish border to the Oder and Neisse rivers. This decision was not formally ratified, however, until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.[6]

The leaders then turned to the conditions under which the Western Allies would open a new front by invading northern France (Operation Overlord), as Stalin had pressed them to do since 1941. Until then, Churchill had advocated the expansion of joint operations of British, American, and Commonwealth forces in the Mediterranean, as opening a new western front had been physically impossible because of a lack of existing shipping routes. That left the Mediterranean and Italy as viable goals for 1943. It was agreed Operation Overlord would be launched by American and British forces by May 1944 and that Stalin would support the Allies with a concurrent major offensive on Germany's eastern front (Operation Bagration) to divert German forces from northern France.[7]

Additional offensives were also discussed to complement the undertaking of Operation Overlord, including the possible allied invasion of southern France prior to the landings at Normandy with the goal of drawing German forces away from the northern beaches and even a possible strike at the northern tip of the Adriatic to circumvent the Alps and drive towards Vienna. Either plan would have relied on Allied divisions engaged against the German Army in Italy around the time of the conference.[8]

Iran and Turkey were discussed in detail. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin all agreed to support the Iranian government, as addressed in the following declaration:

The Three Governments realize that the war has caused special economic difficulties for Iran, and they all agreed that they will continue to make available to the Government of Iran such economic assistance as may be possible, having regard to the heavy demands made upon them by their world-wide military operations, and to the world-wide shortage of transport, raw materials, and supplies for civilian consumption.[9]

In addition, the Soviets pledged support to Turkey if it entered the war. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin agreed that it would also be most desirable if Turkey entered on the Allies' side before the year was out. In order to encourage Turkey to act as soon as possible, they agreed to make "the offer to take Crete and the Dodecanese islands because they are rather close to Turkey."[10]

Churchill argued for the invasion of Italy in 1943, then Overlord in 1944, on the basis that Overlord was physically impossible in 1943 for lack of shipping and that it would be unthinkable to do anything important until it could be launched.[11] Churchill successfully proposed to Stalin a westward movement of Poland, which Stalin accepted. It gave the Poles industrialized German land to the west but took marshlands to the east. It also provided a territorial buffer to the Soviet Union against invasion. Churchill's plan involved a border along the Oder and the Neisse, which he views to give Poland a fair compensation for the Eastern Borderlands.[12]

Dinner meeting[edit]

Before the Tripartite Dinner Meeting of 29 November 1943 at the Conference, Churchill presented Stalin with a specially commissioned ceremonial sword (the "Sword of Stalingrad," made in Sheffield), as a gift from King George VI to the citizens of Stalingrad and the Soviet people, commemorating the Soviet victory at Stalingrad. When Stalin received the sheathed sword, he took it with both hands and kissed the scabbard. Stalin held the sword by the sheathe and angled the pommel downwards, causing the sword to slide out of its scabbard and fall to the ground. He then handed it to Marshal Kliment Voroshilov[13]

"Without American machines the United Nations never could have won the war."

— Joseph Stalin, during the dinner at the Tehran Conference.[14][15]

Stalin proposed executing 50,000 to 100,000 German officers so that Germany could not plan another war. Roosevelt, believing that Stalin was not serious, joked that "maybe 49,000 would be enough." Churchill, however, was outraged and denounced "the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country." He said that only war criminals should be put on trial in accordance with the Moscow Document, which he had written. He stormed out of the room but was brought back in by Stalin, who said he was joking. Churchill was glad Stalin had relented but thought that Stalin had been testing the waters.[16]

Three powers come together[edit]

On 1 December 1943, the three leaders re-assembled and issued a set of declarations. They also negotiated the following military conclusions at the conference.

Iran would go to war with Germany, a common enemy to the three powers. Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt addressed the issue of Iran's special financial needs during the war and the possibility of needing aid after the war. The three powers declared to continue to render aid to Iran. The Iranian government and the three powers reached an accord within all the disagreements to maintain the independence, sovereignty, and integrity of Iran. The United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom expected Iran to follow along with the other Allies to establish peace once the war was over, which was agreed upon when the declaration was made.

Military decisions[edit]

  1. The Yugoslav Partisans would be supported by supplies, equipment, and commando operations.
  2. The leaders stated that it would be desirable for Turkey to join the war on the side of the Allies before the end of the year.
  3. The leaders took note of Stalin's statement that if Turkey found herself at war with Germany and, as a result, Bulgaria declared war on or attacked Turkey, the Soviet Union would immediately be at war with Bulgaria. The Conference noted that this could be mentioned in the forthcoming negotiations to bring Turkey into the war.
  4. The cross-channel invasion of France (Operation Overlord) would be launched during May 1944, in conjunction with an operation against southern France (Operation Dragoon). The latter operation would be undertaken in as great a strength as the availability of landing-craft permitted. The Conference further took note of Stalin's statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive (Operation Bagration) about the same time with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern Front to the Western Front. Operation Overlord was to be on 1 June, but the moon and tides required to be delayed to 5 June.[17]
  5. The leaders agreed for the military staff of the three powers to keep in close contact with one another in regard to the impending operations in Europe. In particular, a cover plan to mislead the enemy about the operations was to be concocted by the staff concerned.

Political decisions[edit]

Stalin and Churchill discussed the future borders of Poland and settled on the Curzon Line in the east and the Oder-Neisse Line in the west. Roosevelt had asked to be excused from any discussion of Poland out of consideration for the effects of any decision on Polish voters in the US and the upcoming 1944 election. The decision was therefore not ratified until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.

During the negotiations, Roosevelt secured the reincorporation of the Republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the Soviet Union only after the citizens voted on those actions. Stalin would not consent to any international control over the elections and stated that all issues would have to be resolved in accordance with the Soviet Constitution.


The Yugoslav Partisans were given full Allied support, and Allied support to the Yugoslav Chetniks was halted. (They were believed to be cooperating with the occupying Italians and Germans rather than fighting them; see Yugoslavia and the Allies) .

The communist Partisans under Josip Broz Tito took power in Yugoslavia as the Germans gradually retreated from the Balkans in 1944 and 1945.[18]

Turkish President İsmet İnönü conferred with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Cairo Conference in November 1943 and promised to enter the war when his country had become fully armed. By August 1944, Turkey broke off relations with Germany. In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan, which may have been a symbolic move that allowed Turkey to join the future United Nations.[19][20]

Operation Overlord[edit]

Roosevelt and Stalin spent much of the conference to try to convince Churchill to commit to an invasion of France and finally succeeded on 30 November, when Roosevelt announced at lunch that they would be launching the invasion in May 1944.[21] That pleased Stalin, who had been pressing his allies to open a new front in the west to alleviate some pressure on his troops. That decision may be the most critical to come out of this conference, as the desired effect of the relief of Soviet troops was achieved and led to a Soviet rally and advance toward Germany, a tide that Hitler could not stem.

United Nations[edit]

The Tehran Conference also served as one of the first conversations surrounding the formation of the United Nations. Roosevelt first introduced Stalin to the idea of an international organization comprising all nation states, a venue for the resolution of common issues, and a check against international aggressors. With Germany having thrust the world into chaos for the second time in as many generations, the three world leaders all agreed that something must be done to prevent a similar occurrence.[21]

Division of Germany[edit]

There was a shared view among the participants that a postwar division of Germany was necessary with the sides differing on the number of divisions needed to neutralize her ability to wage war.[21] The numbers that were proposed varied widely and never came to fruition, but the powers would effectively divide modern Germany into two parts until the end of the Cold War. During one dinner, Churchill questioned Stalin on his postwar territorial ambitions. Stalin replied, "There is no need to speak at this present time about any Soviet Desires, but when the time comes we will speak."[22]

Soviet entry to the Pacific War[edit]

Russian postal stamp dedicated to the Tehran Conference

On 29 November, Roosevelt asked Stalin five questions about data and intelligence relating to Japanese and Siberian ports and about air bases in the Maritime Provinces for up to 1,000 heavy bombers. On 2 February, Stalin told the American ambassador that America could operate 1,000 bombers from Siberia after the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan (Vladivostok is in the Russian Far East, not Siberia).[23]

Alleged assassination plot[edit]

According to Soviet reports, German agents planned to kill the Big Three leaders at the Tehran Conference, but called off the assassination while it was still in the planning stage. The NKVD, the USSR's counterintelligence unit, first notified Mike Reilly, Roosevelt's chief of security, of the suspected assassination plot several days before Roosevelt's arrival in Tehran. Reilly had gone to Tehran several days early to evaluate security concerns and explore potential routes from Cairo to Tehran. Just before Reilly returned to Cairo, the NKVD informed him that dozens of Germans had been dropped into Tehran by parachute the day before. The NKVD suspected German agents were planning to kill the Big Three leaders at the Tehran Conference.[24]

When housing accommodations for the meeting were originally discussed, both Stalin and Churchill had extended invitations to Roosevelt, asking him to stay with them during the meeting. However, Roosevelt wanted to avoid the appearance of choosing one ally over another and decided it was important to stay at the American legation to remain independent.[25] Roosevelt arrived in Tehran on 27 November 1943 and settled into the American legation. Close to midnight, Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's top aide, summoned Archibald Clark-Kerr (the British ambassador in the Soviet Union) and Averell Harriman (the American ambassador in the Soviet Union) to the Soviet embassy, warning them of an assassination plot against Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Molotov informed them several assassins had been apprehended, but reported additional assassins were at large and expressed concerns for President Roosevelt's safety. Molotov advised Roosevelt should be moved to the safety of the British or Soviet embassy.[24]

Americans suspected Stalin had fabricated the assassination plot as an excuse to have Roosevelt moved to the Soviet embassy. Mike Reilly, Roosevelt's chief of Secret Service, advised him to move to either the Soviet or British embassies for his safety. One of the underlying factors influencing their decision was the distance Churchill and Stalin would need to travel for meetings at the American legation. Harriman reminded the President that the Americans would be held responsible if Stalin or Churchill were assassinated while traveling to visit Roosevelt all the way across the city.[24] Earlier that day, Molotov had agreed to hold all meetings at the American legation because traveling was difficult for Roosevelt. The timing of Molotov announcing an assassination plot later that night aroused suspicion that his motives were to keep Stalin safely within the guarded walls of the Soviet embassy.[24] Harriman doubted the existence of an assassination plot, but urged the President to relocate to avoid the perception of putting Churchill and Stalin in danger. Roosevelt did not believe there was a credible threat of assassination, but agreed to the move so he could be closer to Stalin and Churchill.[24] Living in the Soviet embassy also allowed Roosevelt to gain more direct access to Stalin and build his trust. Stalin liked having Roosevelt in the embassy because it eliminated the need to travel outside the compound and it allowed him to spy on Roosevelt more easily. The Soviet embassy was guarded by thousands of secret police and located adjacent to the British embassy, which allowed the Big Three to meet securely.[25]

After the Tehran Conference ended, Harriman asked Molotov whether there was really ever an assassination threat in Tehran. Molotov said that they knew about German agents in Tehran, but did not know of a specific assassination plot. Molotov's response minimized their assertions of an assassination plot, instead emphasizing that Stalin thought President Roosevelt would be safer at the Soviet embassy.[24] American and British intelligence reports generally dismissed the existence of this plot and Otto Skorzeny, the alleged leader of the operation, later claimed that Hitler had dismissed the idea as unworkable before planning had even begun. The topic continues to be a theme of certain Russian historians.[26]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Churchill, Winston Spencer (1951). The Second World War: Closing the Ring. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. p. 642.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Service, Robert (2005). Stalin: A Biography. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 459–60. ISBN 978-0-674-01697-2.
  3. ^ Bushkovitch, Paul. A Concise History of Russia. (Cambridge University Press: 2012)
  4. ^ Tolstoy, Nikolai (1981). Stalin's Secret War. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 57. ISBN 0224016652.
  5. ^ Overy, Richard (1996). Why the Allies Won. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 245–246. ISBN 978-0-393-03925-2.
  6. ^ Office of the Historian (2016). "The Tehran Conference, 1943". Milestones 1937–1945. U.S. Department of State.
  7. ^ "Milestones: 1937–1945". Office of the Historian. US Department of State. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  8. ^ Churchill, Winston S. (2010). Closing the Ring : the Second World War, Volume 5. RosettaBooks. ISBN 978-0-7953-1142-0. OCLC 988869581.
  9. ^ Declaration of the Three Powers Regarding Iran – 1 December 1943
  10. ^ The Tehran, Yalta & Potsdam Conferences – Documents (PDF). Moscow: Progress Publishers. 1969. p. 43.
  11. ^ McNeill, W. H. (1953) American, Britain and Russia. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 353.
  12. ^ Hartenstein, Michael A. "Westverschiebung" und "Umsiedlung" – Kriegsziele der Alliierten oder Postulat polnischer Politik? (in German).
  13. ^ Beevor, Antony (1999). Stalingrad. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-024985-9.
  14. ^ "One War Won". Time. 13 December 1943.
  15. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 8, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  16. ^ Robert Gellately (2013). Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War. Oxford U.P. pp. 177–178. ISBN 9780191644887.
  17. ^ *Caddick-Adams, Peter (2019). Sand & Steel: A New History of D-Day. London: Hutchinson. p. 339. ISBN 978-1-84794-8-281.
  18. ^ McNeill, W. H. (1953) America, Britain, and Russia: their co-operation and conflict, 1941–1946. Oxford University Press. pp. 388–90
  19. ^ Zurcher, Erik J. (2004) Turkey: A Modern History. 3rd ed. I B Tauris. ISBN 1860649580. pp 203–5
  20. ^ Edwards, A. C. (1946). "The Impact of the War on Turkey". International Affairs. 22 (3): 389–400. doi:10.2307/3017044. JSTOR 3017044.
  21. ^ a b c Roberts, Geoffrey (2007). "Stalin at the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam Conferences". Journal of Cold War Studies. 9 (4): 6–40. doi:10.1162/jcws.2007.9.4.6. JSTOR 26926079. S2CID 57564917.
  22. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur (1967). "Origins of the Cold War". Foreign Affairs. 46 (1): 22–52. doi:10.2307/20039280. ISSN 0015-7120. JSTOR 20039280.
  23. ^ Ehrman, John (1956). Grand Strategy Volume V, August 1943 – September 1944. London: HMSO (British official history). pp. 429, 430.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Eubank, Keith (1985). Summit at Tehran. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. pp. 170–173.
  25. ^ a b Mayle, Paul (1987). Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle and the Big Three at Tehran, 1943. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses. pp. 57–59. ISBN 0874132959.
  26. ^ Kuznets, Yu. L. (2003) Тегеран-43 : Крах операции "Длин. прыжок". ЭКСМО, Moscow, ISBN 5-8153-0146-9


  • Best, Geoffrey. Churchill: A Study in Greatness. London: Hambledon and London, 2001.
  • "Cold War: Teheran Declaration." CNN. 1998. 26 March 2006.
  • Feis, Herbert. Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin (Princeton U.P. 1967), pp. 191–279
  • Foster, Rhea Dulles. "The Road to Tehran: The Story of Russia and America, 1781 – 1943." — Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1944. — 279 p.
  • Hamzavi, A. H. "Iran and the Tehran Conference," International Affairs (1944) 20#2 pp. 192–203 in JSTOR
  • McNeill, Robert. America, Britain, & Russia: their cooperation and conflict, 1941–1946 (1953) 348–68
  • Mastny, Vojtech. "Soviet War Aims at the Moscow and Tehran Conferences of 1943," Journal of Modern History (1975) 47#3 pp. 481–504 in JSTOR
  • Mayle, Paul D. Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle & the Big Three at Tehran, 1943 (1987, U of Delaware Press) 210p.

Primary sources[edit]

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Iran (Hrsg.): The Tehran Conference – The Three-Power Declaration Concerning Iran. Tehran December 1943. Reprint epubli, Berlin 2021, ISBN 978-3-7531-6779-4.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]