The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

East and West

     In the sudden aftermath of the Second World War the leaders of the victorious allied forces met at Yalta to discuss the post war situation in Europe. It produced one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. For the entire war the US and UK had been allied with the Soviet Union. World War 2 was closing and the Nazi regime was almost collapsed. It was a pivotal moment in the 20th century for the entire world. The leaders of the free world were rejoicing as almost a decade of conflict and tribulation were finally completed. When the powers were finally ready to discuss the after effects of the conflict and the split up of post war Germany, they met up in Yalta. They all came in with different expectation of each other and of what they wanted out of this new post war Europe.
     The US and the Soviet Union governed very different powers. On the one hand the US had our democracy. On the other hand the USSR had a very different government, a totalitarian power under the guise of a communist state. The main proponent of this conference was to make sure the post war Germany was kept in the hand of the west. Many people were afraid of the "flow of the Red amoeba into Europe” as stated by the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Christian Bullitt, Jr. However, President Roosevelt thought the opposite way stating that Stalin “is not that kind of a man. ... I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.” Though these thoughts proved to be false, at the time they were common allies fighting the Nazi enemies. However, as seen in the photograph, the leaders were unsure of the future of this now failing country.
     In the actual photograph at Yalta, there are very subtle sues that can be taken from the leaders sitting together, surrounded by their generals and officials. You see two unsettling smiles from the two men on the right. On the left, Churchill offers a skeptical look at the two men to the right, a sign of the mistrust between him and Stalin. Roosevelt had a different approach to this. He was trusting of Stalin, believing that a mutual agreement could be made between the east and the west. Stalin looks jolly and carefree; he has the look of a man who can get what he wants. This picture has grown to be the representation of the worried time of the cold war. These now friends quickly turn to bitter enemies as the ashes of the Nazi empire settle and the second half of the 20th century comes into the light. An interesting coincidence in the picture is the placement of the leaders. Stalin, on the right would come to preside over that side of Germany. The two leaders, although not in power by the end of the war, their countries would inherit the side of Germany in which they are sitting. The picture shows the nervous looming of a conquest, both sides not trusting of each other, unsure of what the other side will do next.
     The conference of Yalta represents the unease of the Cold War. It was a time of East vs. West. A time of uncertainty for everyone involved. These leaders were there, together in the biggest uncertainty of our time. This picture is the ultimate representation of the uneasy friendship between the east and the west. -Travis Ormsby

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