Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2007)|
|Signed||3rd March 1918|
|Location||Brest-Litovsk, Kholm Governorate
(Ukraine under German occupation)
|Languages||Bulgarian · German · Hungarian
Russian · Ottoman Turkish
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, between the new Bolshevik government of Russia (the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey), that ended Russia's participation in World War I. The treaty was signed at Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus) after two months of negotiations. The treaty was forced on the Soviet government by the threat of further advances by German and Austrian forces. By the treaty, Soviet Russia defaulted on Imperial Russia's commitments to the Triple Entente alliance.
In the treaty Russia ceded the Baltic States to Germany and its province of Kars Oblast in the south Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire, and it recognized the independence of Ukraine. Russia also agreed to pay six billion German gold mark in reparations. Historian Spencer Tucker says, "The German General Staff had formulated extraordinarily harsh terms that shocked even the German negotiator." Russian-Poland was not mentioned in the treaty, as Germans refused to recognize the existence of any Polish representatives, which in turn led to Polish protests. When Germans later complained that the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was too harsh on them, the Allies (and historians favorable to the Allies) responded that it was more benign than Brest-Litovsk. Under the treaty, the Baltic states were meant to become German vassal states under German princelings. 
The treaty was practically obsolete in November 1918, when Germany in effect surrendered to the Allies. However it did provide some relief to the Bolsheviks, already fighting the Russian Civil War, by renouncing Russia's claims on Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania.
- 1 Background
- 2 Armistice negotiations
- 3 Resumed hostilities
- 4 Terms
- 5 Lasting effects
- 6 Other information
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
By 1917, Germany and Imperial Russia were stuck in a stalemate on the Eastern Front of World War I. At the time, the Russian economy nearly collapsed under the strain of the war effort. The large war casualties and food shortages in the major urban centres brought about civil unrest, known as the February Revolution, that forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. The Russian Provisional Government that replaced the Tsar (initially presided by prince Georgy Lvov, later by Alexander Kerensky), however, decided to continue the war on the Entente side. Foreign Minister Pavel Milyukov sent the Entente Powers a telegram, known as Milyukov note, affirming them that the Provisional Government would continue the war with the same war aims the Imperial Russia did.
The pro-war Provisional Government was opposed by self-proclaimed Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, dominated by leftist parties. Its Order No. 1 called for an overriding mandate to soldier committees rather than army officers. The Soviet started to form its own paramilitary power, the Red Guards, in March 1917.
The position of Provisional Government led Germans to offer support for Russian opposition, Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in particular, that were proponents of Russia's withdrawal from war. In April 1917 Germany allowed Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin to return to Russia from his exile in Switzerland, and offered him financial help. Upon his arrival to Petrograd, Lenin proclaimed his April Theses, that included a call for giving all the power to workers' and soldiers' soviets (councils), and an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the war. Throughout 1917, Bolsheviks spread defeatist and revolutionary propaganda, called for the overthrow of the Provisional Government and an end to the war. Following the disastrous defeat of the Kerensky Offensive, discipline in the Russian army deteriorated completely. Soldiers would disobey orders, often under the influence of Bolshevik agitation, allowing soldiers' committees to take control of their units after deposing the officers. Russian and German soldiers occasionally left their positions and fraternized.
The defeat and ongoing hardships of war led in July 1917 to anti-government riots in Petrograd, headed by Bolsheviks. Several months later, on November 7 (October 25 old style) Red Guards seized the Winter Palace and arrested the Provisional Government in what is known as the October Revolution.
The newly established Soviet government decided to withdraw Russia from the World War. On 26 October 1917, Vladimir Lenin signed the Decree on Peace, which was approved by the Second Congress of the Soviet of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies. The Decree called "upon all the belligerent nations and their governments to start immediate negotiations for peace" and proposed an immediate withdrawal of Russia from World War I. Leon Trotsky was appointed Commissar of Foreign Affairs in the new Bolshevik government. In preparation for peace talks with the representatives of the German government and the representatives of the other Central Powers, Leon Trotsky appointed his good friend, Adolph Joffe, to represent the Bolsheviks at the peace conference.
On December 15, 1917, Soviet Russia and the Central Powers concluded an armistice and fighting stopped. On December 22, peace negotiations began at Brest-Litovsk.
Germany was represented officially by Foreign Secretary Richard von Kühlmann, but the most important German figure was General Max Hoffmann, Chief of Staff of the German armies on the Eastern Front (Oberkommando-Ostfront). Austria was represented by Foreign Minister Count Ottokar Czernin, and Turkey by Talat Pasha. All these men were conservatives from monarchical countries. The German representatives had effective control of the Central Power side.
The Russian representatives were all radicals and supporters of world revolution. They were led by Joffe, a veteran Red agitator, and included Anastasia Bizenko, who had assassinated a high Imperial official.
At the start of the negotiations, the two sides were far apart.
The Germans demanded the "independence" of Poland and Lithuania, which they already occupied. The Russians demanded "peace without annexations or indemnities" — in other words, a settlement under which the revolutionary government would give up neither territory nor money.
After a week of negotiations, the Central Powers delegation withdrew from the conference on December 28 to consider the Bolshevik peace proposals. Over Christmas of 1917, the Central Powers released a declaration stating that they were in favor of the separate peace with all the Allies without indemnities and without annexations, provided the peace was immediate and all belligerents took part in the negotiations. But this did not supersede the demand for the "independence" of Poland and Lithuania.
Lenin was in favor of signing this agreement immediately. He thought that only an immediate peace would allow the young Bolshevik government to consolidate power in Russia. However, he was virtually alone in this opinion among the Bolsheviks on the Central Committee.
For the second round of negotiations, Trotsky replaced Joffe as the head of the Soviet delegation.
On January 8, 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed his famous Fourteen Points which centered around the concept of national self-determination. The Bolsheviks had long espoused the right of national peoples to self-determination as a part of the anti-imperialist struggle.
While Lenin wanted to accept the German peace proposal immediately, a majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee disagreed. The "Left Communists", led by Nikolai Bukharin and Karl Radek, believed that Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria were all on the verge of revolution. They wanted to continue the war while awaiting revolutions in those countries. Thus the Soviet delegation returned to the peace conference without instructions to sign the proposed treaty.
Von Kuhlman and Hoffmann now proposed independence for the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine, as in accordance with the Soviets' own national self-determination doctrine. Indeed the Germans were already negotiating with a separatist government in Ukraine. On February 9, 1918, Germany recognized that government and signed a treaty with it.
Frustrated with continued German demands for cessions of territory, Trotsky on February 10 announced a new policy. Russia unilaterally declared an end of hostilities against the Central Powers, and Russia withdrew from peace negotiations with the Central Powers - a position summed up as "no war — no peace".
Other Bolshevik leaders denounced Trotsky for exceeding his instructions and exposing Soviet Russia to the threat of invasion. Trotsky subsequently defended his action on the grounds that the Bolshevik leaders had originally entered the peace talks in the hope of exposing their enemies' territorial ambitions and rousing the workers of central Europe to revolution in defense of Russia's new workers' state.
The consequences for the Bolsheviks were worse than what they had feared in December. The Central Powers repudiated the armistice on February 18, 1918, and in the next fortnight seized most of Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic countries. Through the ice of the Baltic Sea, a German fleet approached the Gulf of Finland and Russia's capital Petrograd. Despite strikes and demonstrations the month before in protest against economic hardship, the workers of Germany failed to rise up against their government. On February 23, the Central Powers sent new terms for peace. These terms included cession of Dünaburg, Livonia, and Estonia to Germany, cession of western Armenia to Turkey, recognition of independent Ukraine, immediate evacuation of Russian troops from Finland and Ukraine, and complete demobilization of the Russian Army. Additionally, the Central Powers required that these terms be agreed to within 48 hours. Lenin again pressed for acceptance of these terms. This time a majority of the Central Committee supported Lenin. The Soviet government sent a new delegation headed by George Chichern and Lev Karakhan, with instructions to accept this proposal. On March 3, Chichern signed the treaty. Thus the new Soviet government agreed to terms worse than those they had previously rejected.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March 1918. The signatories were Bolshevik Russia on the one side and the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey on the other.
The treaty marked Russia's final withdrawal from World War I as an enemy of her co-signatories, on unexpectedly humiliating terms. In all, the treaty took away territory that included a quarter of the population and industry of the former Russian Empire  and nine-tenths of its coal mines. Almost all of this area was territory which Russia had absorbed by conquest, with populations that did not speak Russian.
Territorial cessions in eastern Europe
Russia renounced all territorial claims in Finland (which it had already acknowledged), the future Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Belarus, and Ukraine. (The territory of Congress Poland was not mentioned in the treaty.)
The treaty stated that "Germany and Austria-Hungary intend to determine the future fate of these territories in agreement with their populations." Most of these territories were in effect ceded to Germany, which intended to have them become economic and political dependencies. The many ethnic German residents (volksdeutsch) would be the ruling elite. Two new monarchies were created: in Lithuania, and in Latvia and Estonia; German aristocrats were appointed as rulers.
This plan was detailed by German Field Marshal Erich Ludendorff, who wrote, "German prestige demands that we should hold a strong protecting hand, not only over German citizens, but over all Germans."
Continued German occupation of the ceded territories required a lot of manpower and transport, yet yielded little in the way of food or other war needs of Germany. Germany transferred hundreds of thousands of veteran troops to the Western Front for the 1918 Spring Offensive which badly shocked the Allies, but ultimately failed. Some Germans later blamed the occupation for significantly weakening the Spring Offensive.
Transfer of territory to Ottoman Empire
At the insistence of Talat Pasha, the treaty declared that the territory Russia took from Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), specifically Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi, were to be returned. At the time of the treaty, this territory was under the effective control of the Georgian irregular forces.
Paragraph 3 of Article IV of the treaty states that:
"The districts of Erdehan, Kars, and Batum will likewise and without delay be cleared of the Russian troops. Russia will not interfere in the reorganization of the national and international relations of these districts, but leave it to the population of these districts, to carry out this reorganization in agreement with the neighboring States, especially with Ottoman Empire."
Russian-German financial agreement of August 1918
In the wake of Russian repudiation of Tsarist bonds, nationalization of foreign-owned property and confiscation of foreign assets, Russia and Germany signed an additional agreement on August 27, 1918. Russia agreed to pay six billion marks in compensation to German interests for their losses.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk lasted only eight and a half months. Germany renounced the treaty and broke diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia on 5 November 1918. Turkey broke the treaty after just two months by invading the newly created First Republic of Armenia in May 1918. In the Armistice with Germany that ended World War I, one of the first conditions was the complete abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Following the German capitulation, the Bolshevik legislature (VTsIK) annulled the treaty on 13 November 1918, and the text of the VTsIK Decision was printed in Pravda the next day. In the year after the Armistice, the German Army withdrew its occupying units from the lands gained in Brest-Litovsk, leaving behind a power vacuum that various forces subsequently attempted to fill. In the Treaty of Rapallo, concluded in April 1922, Germany accepted the Treaty's nullification, and the two powers agreed to abandon all war-related territorial and financial claims against each other.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk marked a significant contraction of the territory which the Bolsheviks controlled or could lay claim to as effective successors of the Russian Empire. While the independence of Finland and Poland was already accepted by them in principle, the loss of Ukraine and the Baltics created, from the Bolshevik perspective, dangerous bases of anti-Bolshevik military activity in the subsequent Russian Civil War (1917–1922). Indeed, many Russian nationalists and some revolutionaries were furious at the Bolsheviks' acceptance of the treaty and joined forces to fight them. Non-Russians who inhabited the lands lost by Bolshevik Russia in the treaty saw the changes as an opportunity to set up independent states not under Bolshevik rule. Immediately after the signing of the treaty, Lenin moved the Soviet Russian government from Petrograd to Moscow.
The fate of the region, and the location of the eventual western border of the Soviet Union, was settled in violent and chaotic struggles over the course of the next three and a half years. The Polish–Soviet War was particularly bitter and ended by the Treaty of Riga in 1921. Although most of Ukraine fell under Bolshevik control and eventually became one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union, Poland and the Baltic states emerged as independent countries. This state of affairs lasted until 1939. As a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the Soviet Union advanced its borders westward by invading Poland and Finland in 1939, and annexing the Baltic States and Bessarabia in 1940. It thus overturned almost all the territorial losses incurred at Brest-Litovsk, except for the main part of Finland, western Congress Poland, and western Armenia.
For the Western Allies, the terms which Germany imposed on Russia were interpreted as a warning of what to expect if Germany and the other Central Powers won the war. Between Brest-Litovsk and the point when the German military situation in the west became dire, some officials in the German government and high command began to favor offering more lenient terms to the Allies in exchange for their recognition of German gains in the east.
Russia's post-1991 western border bears a marked similarity to that imposed by the Brest-Litovsk treaty.
Emil Orlik, the Viennese Secessionist artist, attended the conference, at the invitation of Richard von Kühlmann. He drew portraits of all the participants, along with a series of smaller caricatures. These were gathered together into a book, Brest-Litovsk, a copy of which was given to each of the participants.
- Commissions of the Danube River
- History of Belarus
- Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (February 9, 1918), signed by Ukraine
- Treaty of Bucharest (1918)
- (Ukrainian) To whom did Brest belong in 1918? Argument among Ukraine, Belarus, and Germany. Ukrayinska Pravda, March 25, 2011.
- Spencer C. Tucker (2005). World War One. ABC-CLIO. p. 225.
- Mapping Europe's Borderlands: Russian Cartography in the Age of Empire Steven Seegel - 2012 At Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, no Polish delegation was invited to the negotiations, and in the Polish press, journalists condemned it as yet another great-power partition of lands east of the Bug Riv
- Zara S. Steiner (2005). The Lights that Failed: European International History, 1919-1933. Oxford U.P. p. 68.
- A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918 By Robert A. Kann page 479-480
- Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism: A Study in the Origins of the State Party (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transition Books, 1982) p. 32-36.
- Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism, p. 24.
- Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism, p. 39.
- Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism, p. 38.
- John Keegan, The First World War (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), p. 342.
- Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1960, p. 57
- Ludendorff, Erich von (1920). The General Staff and its Problems. London. p. 562.
- "LENINE’S MIGRATION A QUEER SCENE", The New York Times, March 16, 1918
- Emil Orlik (1870–1932) - Portraits of Friends and Contemporaries, accessed 24 August 2009.
- Kennan, George. Soviet Foreign Policy 1917–1941, Kreiger Publishing Company, 1960.
- Kettle, Michael. Allies and the Russian Collapse (1981) 287p.
- Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John Brest-Litovsk the Forgotten Peace, March 1918, (W. W. Norton & Company, 1969)
- Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Yale University Avalon Project), including links to appendices.
- Map of Europe after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, at omniatlas.com.