Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

Summary

The Brest Treaty – a separate peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918 in the city of Brest-Litovsk by representatives of Soviet Russia and the Central Powers, which provided the withdrawal of the RSFSR from the First World War. The Brest Treaty was preceded by an armistice agreement on the Eastern Front and the peace conference, held in three stages from December 22, 1917.

At the first stage the newly seized power Bolsheviks, entering international negotiations for the first time, tried to induce the Entente governments to conclude a universal peace based on the principle of “no annexations and no contributions” and obtained the formal consent of the Central Powers to this approach. In the second phase, which followed the failure of the plans for a “democratic world peace” and the beginning of an inner-party discussion about the possibility of signing a separate treaty, the Soviets strove to protract the negotiations by using them to agitate for a world revolution, while the authorities of the German Empire demanded recognition of their right to occupy the territory of Poland, parts of the Baltics and Belorussia; on February 10, after the Central powers concluded a separate treaty with representatives of the Ukrainian Central Rada, the Soviets After resumption of the German attack on Petrograd, Lenin, who had initially advocated immediate signing of an agreement, managed to convince his fellow party of the need to accept the German conditions (despite the fact that Germany made additional demands, the Central Committee of the RSDLP(b), which Lenin had threatened with his own resignation, voted for consent to the “obscene peace”. The third three-day phase of the negotiations was characterized by the refusal of the Soviet delegation to enter into discussion and ended with the signing of a treaty, which was ratified by delegates to the IV All-Russian Congress of Soviets on March 15; an additional bilateral agreement to the treaty was concluded between the German Empire and the RSFSR on August 27.

The fact of the separatist peace and the terms of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty provoked harsh reactions both among the internal Russian opposition to the Bolsheviks and in the international arena and led to the escalation of the Civil War. In the end, the agreement did not lead to a complete cessation of hostilities in Eastern Europe and Transcaucasia, but it marked a turning point in the history of the region, separating the “clash of the empires” of 1914-1917 and the ensuing “continuum of violence”; the negotiations themselves were the debut of the concept of “self-determination of peoples,” which was further developed at the Paris Peace Conference. The treaty was revoked by decision of the Soviet VTsIK of November 13, 1918, against the background of revolutionary events in Germany. Despite its short-lived nature, the second peace agreement of the Great War, which was used as evidence of the annexation plans of the German Empire and its allies, has received extensive coverage in historiography.

Despite the numerous rumors circulating throughout the first three years of World War I and often repeated later, according to data from the beginning of the 21st century, there is no reason to assert that the government of the Russian Empire was preparing for a separatist peace with the Central Powers or was holding secret talks with them. At the same time, the separation of the Entente bloc and termination of the war on two fronts had been foreign policy goals of the German Empire since 1914-the hope for such an outcome was reinforced by the events of the February Revolution, and already on May 7, 1917, Reich Chancellor Theobald Bethmann-Holweg drafted a possible separate treaty with Russia, while the German High Command (OHL) proposed a draft armistice on the Eastern Front. However, instead of negotiations, the Provisional Government conducted an unsuccessful June offensive and lost Riga in September.

On October 25 (November 7), 1917, the situation changed completely, as the Bolshevik armed uprising in Petrograd overthrew the Provisional Government, and a party, which for many months had been advocating an end to the “imperialist” war, came to power. The next day, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets adopted a “Decree on Peace,” which proposed that all belligerent states immediately conclude an armistice and begin negotiations to conclude a peace treaty “without annexations or contributions,” which also provided for the right of peoples to self-determination.

During the night of November 8 (21), the newly established Soviet government – the Council of People”s Commissars (SNK) – sent a radio telegram to Acting Supreme Commander of the Russian Army, General Nikolai Dukhonin, ordering him to appeal to the commanders of the enemy armies with a proposal to end hostilities and begin peace talks. The direction stated that the Council of People”s Commissars felt the need to “immediately make a formal proposal for an armistice to all belligerent countries, both allied and hostile to us. On the same day – for refusal to carry out this order – Dukhonin was fired from his post, and in his place was appointed the former warrant officer of the tsarist army, Nikolai Krylenko, who planned to personally initiate negotiations; at the same time, Commissar Lev Trotsky addressed a note to all the ambassadors of the Allied powers, offering them to declare an armistice and start negotiations.

On November 9 (22), the chairman of the Sovnarkom Vladimir Lenin sent a telegram to all front-line units, which contained a direct appeal to the soldiers: “Let the regiments, standing in positions, choose immediately the commissioners to formally enter into negotiations on an armistice with the enemy. As a result, fraternization began at once in several sections of the Eastern Front. On the same day the diplomatic representatives of the Allied countries at a meeting at the residence of the U.S. Embassy in Petrograd decided to ignore the note of the Soviet government. The next day the chiefs of the military missions of the Allied countries at the Supreme Command headquarters handed Dukhonin a collective note signed by the representatives of Great Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Romania and Serbia, in which they protested against the violation of the September 5, 1914 treaty, which prohibited the Allies from making a separate peace or armistice; Dukhonin informed all front commanders of the contents of the note. At the same time, the People”s Commissariat turned to the ambassadors of neutral states with a proposal to mediate in the organization of peace negotiations. The representatives of Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland confined themselves to notification of receipt of the note, while the ambassador of Spain, who stated that the proposal had been forwarded to Madrid, was immediately recalled.

Having received the first information that the Bolsheviks had seized power in Petrograd, German General Erich Ludendorff developed a plan for a decisive offensive across the Western Front with divisions redeployed from the East, a plan approved by the Kaiser as the last hope of the German Empire to turn the tide before the mass arrival of American units in Europe (see Spring Offensive). As a result, on 14 (27) November OHL informed the parliamentarians, who had crossed the front line near Dvinsk, of its agreement to begin in the town of Brest-Litovsk to negotiate an armistice with the Soviet government.

On November 19 (December 2) a peace delegation of the Soviet government, headed by Adolf Joffe, arrived in the neutral zone and proceeded to Brest-Litovsk, which was the seat of the German Staff Command on the Eastern Front. The delegation was originally supposed to consist of 15 men, but was eventually expanded to 28. As commissioners – members of the Central Executive Committee – the delegation included 9 people: Ioffe himself, Lev Kamenev, Grigory Sokolnikov, Anastasia Bitsenko, Sergei Maslovsky, sailor Fyodor Olich, soldier Nikolai Belyakov, peasant Roman Stashkov and Moscow worker Pavel Obukhov. Another nine were “members of the military consultation” from among the officers of the former Tsarist army, headed by Vasily Altfather, and another ten people were part of the service staff, designated as “members of the delegation,” headed by the secretary, Lev Karakhan.

In Brest, Soviet representatives met with a delegation from the Central Powers consisting of General Max Hoffmann, Austro-Hungarian Lieutenant Colonel Hermann Pokorny (who knew Russian), General Zeki Pasha, and Colonel Peter Ganchev. Káetan Merey”s diplomats were also present as unofficial political “advisers” at the armistice talks, which involved discussion of exclusively military matters. The inclusion of a woman in the Soviet delegation provoked a sharp reaction from the Central Bloc military: “And this too is a delegate?” (German: Ist das auch ein Delegat?).

The negotiations, which marked the Soviet authorities” debut on the international scene, began on November 20 (December 3) and lasted three days: while the German-Austrian delegation had ready drafts of an armistice in hand, the Soviet representatives did not prepare any documents. At the same time it was the Soviet delegation that insisted on publicity of the meetings: as a result the exchanges at the negotiating table were minuted in detail and after verification of the Russian and German texts were immediately made public, which contributed to attracting the attention of the world press to the negotiations. Ioffe also proposed to discuss the suspension of hostilities on all fronts, but since he had no authority from the Entente countries and Hoffmann from his general staff, it was agreed to discuss only the armistice in the East.

November 21 (German troops are withdrawn from Riga and the Moonsund Islands; the transfer of German troops to the Western Front is prohibited. As a result of the negotiations an agreement was reached whereby: armistice was concluded for the period from November 24 (no more troop movements except those already begun. The negotiations were interrupted by the need for the Soviet delegation, which at that time had no direct communication with Petrograd, to return to the capital of the RSFSR and receive instructions for its future activities.

On November 23 (December 6) Trotsky brought to the attention of the ambassadors of Britain, France, the United States, Italy, China, Japan, Romania, Belgium and Serbia that the negotiations at Brest-Litovsk were interrupted for a week, and invited the governments of “allied countries to determine their attitude” to them. November 27 (December 10) at a meeting of the Council of People”s Commissars was discussed the question of the Soviet delegation instruction at peace talks – in the decision of SNK was written: “Instruction on the negotiations – on the basis of the “Decree on Peace”. At that time Lenin drew up a “Program Outline of the Peace Negotiations,” in which he laid out his vision of the concept of “annexation,” and in the evening the VTsIK adopted a resolution ordering the delegation, expressing also approval of its previous actions. Changes were made in the composition of the delegation itself: “representatives of the revolutionary classes” (sailor, soldier, worker and peasant) were excluded from its old composition and a number of officers – Generals Vladimir Skalon (committed suicide), Yuri Danilov, Alexander Andogsky and Alexander Samoilo, Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Ceplit and Captain Vladimir Lipsky were added to those remaining.

On December 2 (15) a new phase of negotiations culminated in the conclusion of an armistice similar to the one already in force: for 28 days from December 4 (17), with an automatic extension and with the condition to give the enemy seven days” notice of the rupture. The Soviet delegation withdrew the condition of withdrawal from the Moonsund archipelago, and the Central Powers did not demand the clearing of Anatolia. One of the articles of the truce formally allowed for fraternization – meetings of the military ranks during daylight hours – in two or three specially organized places (“communication points”) in each division”s section: groups of no more than 25 men on either side, and participants were allowed to exchange newspapers, magazines and letters, and to trade or exchange basic necessities freely.

The ninth point of the armistice agreement allowed Soviet Russia and the countries of the Central Bloc to begin peace negotiations, which took place against the background of a difficult internal political situation in all of the countries involved: While in the RSFSR the struggle over the convening of the Constituent Assembly and the strained relations with the Ukrainian Central Rada continued at this time, in Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire the food supply situation in the cities (including Vienna and Istanbul) was worsening, and in the German Empire the conflict between the military and the civil administration continued. In addition, the governments of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires saw the future of the Polish-speaking territories differently”).

Preparing

On December 5 (18), 1917, a meeting was held in Bad Kreuznach, chaired by Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire, to work out the terms of peace “to be set for Russia. At this meeting the fears of the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, count Ottokar Černin, about the “boundless ambitions” of OHL came true: earlier Hoffmann had been instructed to insist that the soldiers of the former Russian Empire should leave Livonia and Estonia, the regions that had not yet been occupied by German troops. This desire of the military had much to do with lobbying the interests of the numerous German-speaking Baltic nobles, whose land holdings and class privileges were under immediate threat due to the revolutionary events in Russia, as well as the growth of “national movements” in the region. During the meeting itself, the State Secretary of the Foreign Office Richard Kühlmann, who believed that an all-out military victory on all fronts would be impossible, and the Chancellor Georg Gertling advised the Emperor against extending his influence to the Baltic on the grounds of the threat to the long-term relations with Russia; general Paul Hindenburg objected, stressing the “military necessity” and the value of this region for “German security”. As a result, “His Majesty decided to propose that Russia clear these areas, but not to insist on this demand in order to allow Estonians and Latvians to exercise the right of self-determination of nations.

The Bolsheviks were also preparing for negotiations: agitation and revolutionary literature (including a special German-language periodical, Die Fackel) were actively being circulated among the soldiers of the German Imperial Army, and on December 6 Izvestia TsIK published as an address by the Soviet government “To the Workers, oppressed and exsanguinated peoples of Europe,” in which the Sovnarkom urged the workers and soldiers of the warring countries to take the cause of peace “into their own hands,” and an editorial written by Trotsky, in which the Commissar urged the workers and soldiers of all warring countries to fight “for an immediate cessation of the war on all fronts.”

First stage: December 22-28

Peace negotiations were opened by the commander in chief of the German Eastern Front, Prince Leopold of Bavaria on December 9 (22). The delegations of the states of the Fourth Union were headed by: from Germany – Secretary of State Kuhlmann; from Austria-Hungary – Count Chernin; from Bulgaria – Minister of Justice Hristo Popov; from the Ottoman Empire – Grand Vizier Talaat-bey. The Soviet delegation included Ioffe, Kamenev, Bitsenko, Mikhail Pokrovsky, Secretary Karakhan, consultant Mikhail Veltman-Pavlovich, military consultants Altfater, Samoilo, Lipsky, and Tseplit.

Proceeding from the general principles of the “Peace Decree”, the Soviet delegation proposed already at the first meeting to adopt as a basis of negotiations a program of six basic and one additional points: (2) the troops occupying these territories are withdrawn as soon as possible; (2) the full political independence of the peoples who were deprived of this independence during the war is restored; (3) national groups, which had not had political independence before the war, are guaranteed the opportunity to freely decide on their membership of any state In addition, Joffe proposed that the freedom of the weaker nations should not be indirectly constrained by the stronger nations.

After three days of acute discussion of the Soviet proposals by the countries of the German bloc, in which representatives of Germany and Austria-Hungary succeeded in persuading the delegates from the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria to accept both the absence of an exact deadline for withdrawal and the rejection of annexations, at the second plenary session, held in the evening of December 12 (25), Kühlmann made a statement to the effect that the German Empire and its allies in general (with a number of remarks) accepted these provisions of universal peace and that they “subscribe to the view of the Russian delegation, which condemns the continuation of the war for purely conquest purposes.” Having noted the adherence of the German bloc to the Soviet formula of peace “without annexations and contributions”, similar to that set forth in the July 1917 Reichstag peace resolution, the Soviet delegation proposed to announce a ten-day break, during which it could try to bring the Entente countries to the negotiating table; during the break it was supposed to continue the work of special commissions which discussed individual details of the future agreement.

On learning that the diplomats had adopted the concept of a peace without annexation, the OHL intervened in the negotiations: Ludendorff, “with the diplomatic skills of a Bolshevik,” telegraphed to Kühlmann his categorical disagreement with the direction the discussion had taken; Kühlmann had to explain to the general the nature of the “bluff” – he considered it incredible that the Entente would join the separate negotiations so that a general peace could actually be discussed at them. And yet, at the General”s request, Ioffe was informally informed that three territories of the former Russian Empire – Poland, Lithuania, and Courland – did not fall under the definition of annexation, since they had already declared their independence. “Dazed” Joffe responded by threatening to break off negotiations, which in turn provoked a conflict between Chernin and Hoffmann: the Austrian diplomat threatened to conclude a separate peace with the RSFSR if the German bet did not give up its annexation demands, as a famine was looming in Austria because of food problems. In addition to the generals, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary, Sándor Vekerle, did not agree with Czernin”s actions, believing that acceptance of the principle of self-determination of nations could destroy Hungarian dominance in the multilingual kingdom.

On December 14 (27), at the second session of the political commission, the difference in the parties” understanding of “annexation” became public: the Soviet delegation made a proposal, according to which the troops were to be withdrawn simultaneously from the regions of Austro-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Persia, on the one hand, and from Poland, Lithuania, Courland “and other regions of Russia”, on the other. The German and Austro-Hungarian delegations made a counter-proposal – the Soviet state was offered “to take into consideration the declarations expressing the will of the peoples inhabiting Poland, Lithuania, Courland and parts of Estonia and Livonia, about their aspiration for full state independence and for secession from the Russian federation”. In addition, Kühlmann asked if the Soviet government would agree to withdraw its troops from the whole of Livonia and Estland in order to enable the local population to unite with their “tribesmen” living in the regions occupied by the German army (also the Soviet delegation was informed that the Ukrainian Central Rada was sending its own delegation to Brest-Litovsk, as it was not ready to recognize any peace treaty in which its delegation would not take part.

On December 15 (28) the Soviet delegation, having taken part in three plenary sessions and three meetings of the political commission, left for Petrograd:

Already during the pause in the work of the conference, on December 17 (30), an appeal to the peoples and governments of the Allied countries, signed by Trotsky, was published by the NCID: in it the Commissar outlined the reason for the break in the negotiations and also characterized the programs presented by the delegations, stressing that “the Allied governments have not yet adhered to the peace negotiations for reasons from whose precise formulation they have stubbornly evaded. Despite the absence of official replies from the Entente powers, the French Foreign Minister took an “uncompromising” stand – addressing the House of Deputies on December 31, he said: “Russia may or may not seek a separate peace with our enemies. In any case the war continues for us.” This meant that negotiations could henceforth only be about a separate peace on the Eastern Front.

December 18 (31) meeting of the Sovnarkom discussed both the state of the army and the situation in Brest-Litovsk: having received information from the front about the impossibility of a new “revolutionary” war, the Soviet government decided to delay negotiations as long as possible – “to continue peace negotiations and to oppose their forcing the Germans. The resolution, drafted with the expectation of an early world revolution, also provided for the organization of a new army and “defense against a breakthrough to Petrograd. In addition, Lenin invited Trotsky himself to go to Brest-Litovsk and personally lead the Soviet delegation – later the People”s Commissar called his participation in the Brest talks “visits to a torture chamber.

Second stage: January 9 – February 10

At the second stage of the negotiations the Soviet delegation, headed by Trotsky, included Ioffe, Kamenev, Pokrovsky, Bitsenko, Vladimir Karelin, and Secretary Karakhan; the consultants were Karl Radek, Stanislav Bobinsky, Vincas Mitskevich-Kapsukas, and Vaan Teryan (the Ukrainian VTSIK delegation included Yefim Medvedev and Vasily Shakhray. The delegation of the Ukrainian Rada included State Secretary Vsevolod Golubovich, Nikolai (consultants were Rottomier Yuri Gassenko (von Gassenko) and Professor Sergey Ostapenko.

The German delegation was represented by Kühlmann, Director of the Legal Department Kriege, secret legal advisor Stockhammer, legal advisor Baligand, legal secretary Gesch, General Hoffmann, Captain 1st Rank W. Horn and Major Brinkmann. The Austro-Hungarian delegation consisted of Chernin, Department Director Dr. Graz, Envoy Baron Mittag, Envoy Wiesner, Legation Counselor Baron Andrian, Legation Counselor Count Colloredo, Legation Secretary Count Chucky, Field Marshal Lieutenant von Cicherich, Ober-Lieutenant Pokorny, Major Glaize.

The Bulgarian delegation consisted of Minister Popov, Envoy Kossov, Envoy Stoyanovich, Colonel Ganchev, Legal Secretaries Anastasov and Kermekchiev, Captain 1st Rank Nodev, and Captain Markov. The Ottoman delegation consisted of Talaat-pasha, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Nessimi-bey, Ambassador Ibrahim Hakki-pasha, cavalry general Ahmed Izzet-pasha, Captain Hussen Rauf-bey, embassy secretary Vehbi-bey, Major Sadik-bey, Captain of the 2nd rank Komal-bey.

As early as December 20, 1917 (January 2, 1918), the Soviet government sent telegrams to the presidents of the Fourth Union delegations with a proposal to move the peace talks to neutral Stockholm; the proposal was rejected by the German Chancellor. In opening the conference on December 27 (January 9), Kühlmann stated that since no application to join the peace talks had been received from any of the major parties to the war during the interruption, the delegations of the Fourth Union were abandoning their previously expressed intention to join the Soviet formula for peace “without annexations and contributions,” and that further negotiations themselves should be considered separatist. Külmann and Czernin also opposed moving the negotiations to Stockholm, but expressed their willingness “to sign a peace treaty in a neutral city yet to be determined.

At the next meeting, which took place the next day, the UCR delegation was also invited: its chairman Golubovich read the Rada”s declaration that the Sovnarkom authority did not extend to Ukraine and that the Rada intended to negotiate peace independently. Kuhlmann asked Trotsky whether the Rada delegation should be considered part of the Russian delegation or whether it represented an independent state. Trotsky replied that he recognized the independence of the “Ukrainian delegation,” specifying that Ukraine itself “is now precisely in the process of its self-determination” (an erroneous claim is sometimes found in the literature that Trotsky agreed to consider the Central Rada delegation itself independent). Kühlmann, however, replied that the statement of the Soviet delegation on the question of the participation of Ukrainian representatives in the negotiations had to be studied.

Further negotiations were often regarded by contemporaries and historians alike as a “verbal duel” between Trotsky and Kühlmann, in which General Hoffmann sometimes intervened with protests: their field of discussion extended from China to Peru; they touched such topics as the degree of dependence of the Nizam of Indian Hyderabad on Britain and the activities of the US Supreme Court. At the same time, OHL expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the prolongation of negotiations, fearing exhaustion of resources to continue the war (the Austro-Hungarian government was in an even more difficult situation (see January Strike in Austria-Hungary.

January 5 (18), 1918 at a meeting of the political commission, General Hoffmann presented specific conditions of the Central Powers – they were a map of the former Russian Empire, on which under the military control of Germany and Austria-Hungary remained Poland, Lithuania, part of Belorussia and Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, the Moonsund Islands and the Gulf of Riga. Trotsky requested a break “to familiarize the Russian delegation with this line so clearly marked on the map. On the evening of the same day, the Soviet delegation asked for a new ten-day break in the conference to familiarize the government in Petrograd with the German-Austrian demands: Trotsky left for the capital, and the next meeting was scheduled for January 16 (29).

Recess. The beginning of the inner-party struggle

News of the suspension of negotiations at Brest-Litovsk led both to mass strikes in Austro-Hungarian industry and hunger riots in the cities of the empire, and to the spontaneous emergence of workers” councils on the Russian model. Delegates to the freshly formed councils advocated sending their representatives to negotiations with Trotsky.

A difference of position with respect to the Brest-Litovsk negotiations had emerged within the RSDLP(b) even before the Central Powers presented their territorial demands: Thus, on December 28, 1917, there was a plenary meeting of the Moscow Regional Bureau, whose Central Committee included Nikolai Bukharin and which at that time headed the party organizations of the Moscow, Voronezh, Kostroma, Kaluga, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Tver, Tula, Ryazan, Tambov, Orel, Smolensk, and Yaroslavl provinces. At the meeting a resolution was adopted, which indicated that “the peace of socialist Russia with imperialist Germany could only be a predatory and violent peace”, and demanded from SNK both “to stop peace talks with imperialist Germany” and to begin a “merciless war with the bourgeoisie around the world. The resolution was not published until January 12 (25), 1918, when groups with different opinions on the signing of peace had already clearly formed within the party.

January 8 (21), Lenin, speaking at a meeting of the Central Committee with party workers, gave a detailed substantiation of the need for immediate signing of peace, announcing his “Theses on the Immediate conclusion of a separate and annexationist peace” (32 people supported the position of the “Left Communists”, proposing a “revolutionary war” to international imperialism and declaring readiness “for the possibility of the loss of Soviet power” in the name of “the interests of the international revolution”; The 16 participants in the meeting agreed with Trotsky”s intermediate position of “neither peace nor war,” which suggested stopping the war and demobilizing the army without formally signing a peace treaty.

Researchers have made various assumptions about the reasons for Lenin”s insistence on making peace: Irina Mihutina believed that Lenin was only hiding behind “revolutionary rhetoric,” having begun to think as a statesman after coming to power; Yuri Felshtinsky believed that Lenin was driven by a desire to remain in the role of head of the revolutionary movement, which he would most likely have lost had the proletarian revolution begun in industrially developed Germany; Borislav Chernev saw in the position of head of the Sovnarkom as the basis for the future concept of “socialism in a single country,” noting that Lenin continued to hope for a world revolution in terms of months rather than decades. Trotsky, who had full access to the German-language press at Brest-Litovsk, justified his position by the mass disturbances in Austria-Hungary and Germany, which he considered a prologue to civil war, which excluded the possibility of an attack by the Central Powers on Soviet Russia even in the absence of a formal peace treaty, the failure to sign which would also allow the rumors of Bolsheviks as agents of Germany to be denied. For their part, Bukharin and the “Left Communists,” referring to the experience of the French Revolution, whose armed forces were able to defeat the vastly superior armies of a coalition of conservative powers, believed that the Bolsheviks would be able to inspire Russian workers and peasants to march against the Central Powers, able to help the revolution in Europe.

A key meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP(b) on January 11 (24), at which representatives of different views entered into a sharp polemic. As a result, when voting on the question “Are we going to call for a revolutionary war?” two voted “for” and eleven “against” (with one abstention). When, on Lenin”s suggestion, the thesis that “we are dragging out the signing of peace” was put to a vote, it was supported by 12 people (only Grigory Zinoviev was against). In conclusion, Trotsky proposed to vote for the formula “we stop the war, do not make peace, and demobilize the army,” which gained a majority of 9 votes (including Trotsky, Uritsky, Lomov, Bukharin and Kollontai), with 7 against (Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov, Sergeev, Muranov and others). The secret Central Committee decision was a binding party document. Two days later, at a joint meeting of the leadership of the Bolshevik and Left SR parties, the formula “no war, no peace to sign” was approved by the vast majority of those present. On January 14 (27), the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets approved a resolution written by Trotsky on foreign policy, drafted in “vague” terms, which gave the delegation itself broad powers in making the final decision on signing the peace: “Proclaiming again before the whole world the desire of the Russian people to immediately end the war, the All-Russian Congress instructs its delegation to defend the principles of peace on the basis of the Russian revolutionary program.”

Continued negotiations

On January 21 (February 3), Kühlmann and Czernin went to Berlin for a meeting with Ludendorff to discuss the possibility of signing a peace with the Central Rada, which had no control over the situation in Ukraine: the dire food situation in Austria-Hungary, which threatened famine, played a decisive role in a positive decision. Returning to Brest-Litovsk, German and Austro-Hungarian delegations January 27 (February 9) signed a peace treaty with a delegation of the Rada, under which – in exchange for military aid against Soviet troops – the UNR undertook by July 31, to deliver to Germany and Austria-Hungary a million tons of grain, 400 million eggs, 50 thousand tons of livestock, as well as – bacon, sugar, hemp, manganese ore and other raw materials. In addition, the UPR delegation managed to secure a secret promise to create an autonomous Austro-Hungarian region, which would include all the Ukrainian-speaking territories of Austria (Ukraine was also recognized as the disputed region of the Holm.

The signing of the Peace of Brest between Ukraine and the Central Powers was a serious blow to the position of Soviet Russia, for as early as January 31 (February 13) the delegation of the UNR appealed to Germany and Austria-Hungary for assistance against Soviet troops. Although the military convention between the NRA, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, which became the legal basis for the entry of Austro-German troops into Ukraine, was formalized later, the German command gave its preliminary consent to enter the war against the Bolsheviks the same day and began active preparations for the march into Ukraine.

As soon as Berlin learned about the signing of the peace treaty with the Central Rada, Wilhelm II, who had also received information about the radio broadcast with the Bolshevik appeal to the German soldiers, which contained an appeal to “kill the emperor and the generals and fraternize with the Soviet troops”, categorically demanded that the Soviet delegation immediately issue an ultimatum to accept the German peace conditions and renounce the Baltic provinces to the line Narva-Pskov-Dvinsk.

On the evening of the same day Kühlmann presented the Soviet delegation with a categorical demand for the immediate signing of a peace on German terms, formulated as follows: “Russia takes note of the following territorial changes which come into force with the ratification of this peace treaty: the regions between the borders of Germany and Austria-Hungary and the line which runs … will henceforth not be subject to the territorial supremacy of Russia. From the fact of their belonging to the former Russian Empire no obligations regarding Russia will follow for them. The future fate of these regions will be decided in accordance with these nations, namely on the basis of agreements to be concluded with them by Germany and Austria-Hungary. At the same time, even at the end of January, the Central Powers” governments had “surprisingly” detailed information about the (secret) inner-party discussion in Petrograd and were aware of the Bolsheviks” plans to delay the signing of peace as long as possible – this information “leaked” to the German press as well.

On January 28 (February 10) Trotsky delivered to the Central Powers delegates a written statement signed by all members of the Soviet delegation; he also orally rejected the German conditions of peace and made the statement that

The German side responded by saying that Russia”s failure to sign the peace treaty automatically entailed the termination of the armistice. After this the Soviet delegation demonstratively left the meeting, explaining it by the need to return to Petrograd for additional instructions. On the same day, Trotsky sent a telegram to Commander-in-Chief Krylenko, demanding that he immediately issue an order to the army on the cessation of the state of war with the powers of the German bloc and on the demobilization of the army; Krylenko issued this order the next morning. Upon learning of this order, Lenin tried to cancel it immediately, but his message did not go beyond Krylenko”s headquarters.

On January 29 (February 11), at a meeting of the Petrosoviet, a resolution prepared by Zinoviev approving the actions of the Soviet delegation at Brest-Litovsk was adopted by the majority of the participants (with one vote “against” and 23 abstentions). The next day, articles supporting this decision were also published in Izvestia CEC and Pravda; in the evening of February 1 (14), a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, approving “the mode of action of its representatives at Brest”.

Resumption of hostilities

January 31 (February 13) at a meeting in Bad Homburg with Wilhelm II, Chancellor Hertling, Kuhlmann, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Vice Chancellor, it was decided to break the truce and launch an attack on the Eastern Front – “to strike a short, but strong blow to the Russian troops against us, which would allow us to seize a large amount of military equipment. According to the plan, it was supposed to occupy the entire Baltic up to Narva and provide armed support to Finland. It was also decided to occupy the Ukraine, to eliminate the Soviet power in the occupied territories and to begin the export of grain and raw materials. As a formal reason for the suspension of the truce, which began on February 17 (or 18), it was decided to use “Trotsky”s failure to sign the peace treaty”. On February 16, the German command formally announced to the Soviet representative, who remained in Brest-Litovsk, that a state of war was renewed between Russia and Germany. The Soviet government protested against the violation of the terms of the armistice, but there was no immediate response.

On February 4 (17), a meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP(b) was held, which was attended by 11 people: Bukharin, Lomov, Trotsky, Uritsky, Ioffe, Krestinsky, Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov, Sokolnikov and Smilga. Lenin proposed to speak out “for an immediate offer to Germany to enter into new negotiations for the signing of peace,” which was opposed by 6 people (Bukharin, Lomov, Trotsky, Uritsky, Ioffe, Krestinsky) with five votes in favor. Then, possibly Trotsky, a proposal was made “to wait with the resumption of peace negotiations until the German offensive has sufficiently manifested itself and until its influence on the labor movement is discovered,” which six Central Committee members (Bukharin, Lomov, Trotsky, Uritsky, Ioffe, Krestinsky) voted for, while all the others were against. To the question, “If we have a German attack as a fact, and no revolutionary upsurge occurs in Germany and Austria, do we conclude peace?” six members (Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov, Sokolnikov and Smilga) spoke in the affirmative, and only Joffe voted against it.

On the morning of February 18 the Soviet government already had information about the activation of German troops. In the afternoon, having launched an offensive across the whole front from the Baltic Sea to the Carpathians with 47 infantry and 5 cavalry divisions, the German troops advanced quickly and by evening a detachment of less than 100 bayonets had taken Dvinsk, where the headquarters of the 5th Army of the Northern Front was located at that time (see Operation Faustschlag). The old army units retreated to the rear, abandoning or taking with them their military equipment, while the Red Guard units, formed by the Bolsheviks, did not offer any serious resistance.

The Soviet government, on the night of February 18 to 19, drew up and coordinated a radiogram to the German government protesting against the violation of the armistice and agreeing to sign the peace treaty worked out earlier in Brest:

On the evening of February 19, Lenin personally received a radio telegram from Hoffmann, informing him that a Soviet radio message had been sent to Berlin, but that it could not be regarded as an official document. The general therefore suggested that the Soviet government send a special courier to Dvinsk with a written document. As a result, another five days passed before a new ultimatum from the German government was received in Petrograd.

Meanwhile the offensive of the German and Austro-Hungarian troops unfolded along the entire front; the Bolshevik opponents managed to advance by 200-300 kilometers: February 19, Lutsk and Rivne were taken, February 21 – Minsk and Novograd-Volynsky, February 24 – Zhitomir. In connection with the German offensive, at a plenary meeting of the Petrograd Soviet on February 21, was formed the Committee of revolutionary defense of Petrograd, consisting of 15 men, the capital of the RSFSR was declared a state of siege.

Intra-party and public discussion of peace

On February 21, the Sovnarkom adopted (and published the next day) Lenin”s decree “The Socialist Fatherland is in Danger!”, which obliged Soviet organizations to “defend every position to the last drop of blood. At the same time Lenin – under the pseudonym “Karpov” – published an article “On the revolutionary phrase” in Pravda, expanding his theses on peace and thus beginning an open struggle in the press for the conclusion of peace: the head of government compared the current situation in the RSFSR with the situation of the Russian Empire before the conclusion of the Tilsitsky Peace. On February 22, Trotsky resigned from his post as Commissar for Foreign Affairs, transferring his authority “with some relief” to Georgy Chicherin.

On the same day at the Central Committee meeting, held without Lenin, Bukharin – in the course of a discussion on the possibility of purchasing arms and food from the Entente powers – introduced a proposal: “…not to enter into any agreements with the French, British and American missions concerning the purchase of arms or the use of officers and engineers. Trotsky”s alternative draft – “we take all means to arm and equip our revolutionary army in the best possible way through government institutions” – won a majority of 6 votes (against 5), after which Bukharin submitted his resignation from the Central Committee and resigned as editor of Pravda. Lenin sent a note with the text “Please join my vote for taking potatoes and weapons from the brigands of Anglo-French imperialism” and published his article “On Scabies”. At the same time, the Cheka informed the population that so far it had been “magnanimous in its fight against the enemies of the people,” but that now all counter-revolutionaries, spies, profiteers, thieves, hooligans and saboteurs “will be mercilessly shot by squads of the Commission at the crime scene.”

In response to the decisions made by the Central Committee of the Party, Lomov, Uritsky, Bukharin, Bubnov, Mechislov Bronsky, Varvara Yakovleva, Spunde, Pokrovsky, and Georgy Pyatakov wrote a statement to the Central Committee, in which they assessed the earlier decisions as going “against the interests of the proletariat and not corresponding to the mood of the Party” and informed of their intention to campaign inside the Party against the peace; the statement appeared in print on February 26. Ioffe, Krestinsky, and Dzerzhinsky also opposed the policy of the majority of the Central Committee, but refused to agitate for fear of splitting the Party.

The official reply of the German government, which contained more onerous conditions of peace for Soviet Russia, was received in Petrograd on the morning of February 23. On the same day there was a “historic” meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP(b), at which Lenin demanded a peace on the conditions presented, threatening to resign from the position of head of the Council of People”s Commissars and leave the Central Committee, which effectively meant a split in the party. Trotsky, expressing his negative attitude to the treaty and refusing to participate in the discussion, agreed with Lenin:

After the debate, Lenin put to the vote three questions: (i) whether to accept the German proposals immediately? (ii) Should revolutionary war be prepared immediately? (iii) Shall the Soviet electors in Petrograd and Moscow be immediately canvassed? On the first question, Trotsky, Dzerzhinsky, Ioffe, and Krestinsky abstained (4). On the second question, all 15 people voted unanimously “yes”; the third point was supported by 11 people. According to Richard Pipes, Trotsky”s four abstentions “saved Lenin from a humiliating defeat”; according to Felshtinsky, “it is absurd to consider that Trotsky was guided by gentlemanly considerations … he was primarily concerned about himself, understanding that without Lenin he would not hold the government and would be driven away by his competitors.

The next day Lomov, Uritsky, Spunde, Smirnov, Pyatakov and Bogolepov submitted their resignations from the Sovnarkom, and on March 5 Bukharin, Radek and Uritsky began publishing the newspaper Kommunist, which effectively became the Left Communists” own printed organ. Immediately after the Central Committee meeting, Lenin, under his main pseudonym, wrote an article entitled “Peace or War?” published in the evening issue of Pravda.

At 11 p.m. a joint session of the Bolshevik and Left Socialist factions of the VTsIK began; the Left Socialists decided to vote against peace. After the joint session, a separate session of the Bolshevik faction began: Lenin”s position was supported by 72 faction members (25 votes were cast “against”). On February 24, four hours before the expiration of the ultimatum, the VTsIK adopted the terms of peace: 112 in favor, 84 against, 24 abstentions; a roll call vote gave the corrected figures: 116 against, 26 abstentions. Bolsheviks Bukharin and Ryazanov, in defiance of party discipline, stayed in the conference hall and voted against the peace; the leftist social revolutionary fraction obliged its members to vote against the peace – but Spiridonova, Malkin and several other party leaders still voted for peace. At 7:32 a.m., Tsarskoye Selo radio transmitted a message to Berlin, Vienna, Sofia, and Istanbul that the Soviet government had accepted the terms of peace and was ready to send a new delegation to Brest-Litovsk.

The decision made provoked protests: in particular, the Moscow Regional Bureau of the RSDLP(b) opposed peace, which, in a resolution of February 24, expressed distrust in the Central Committee and demanded its re-election, saying that “in the interests of the international revolution we consider it expedient to go to the possibility of losing Soviet power, which is now becoming purely formal.” A similar resolution, which was joined by the citywide Moscow Party Conference, was published in the newspaper Social-Democrat. At the same time, the Petrosoviet approved the decision of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Between February 28 and March 2, the VTsIK and SNK received answers from the local councils and several other organizations about their attitude to peace: Lenin”s summary showed that there were 250 votes for peace and 224 for war.

Third stage: March 1-3

The Soviet delegation again arrived at Brest-Litovsk on March 1, while the German-Austrian offensive was continuing; its new composition was as follows: Chairman Sokolnikov, Grigory Petrovsky, Chicherin, Secretary Karakhan, political consultant Joffe, military consultants Altfater, Lipsky, Danilov, Andogsky. Foreign Ministers of the opposing side did not wait for the Soviet representatives and went to Bucharest – to conclude a treaty with Romania; as a result the German delegation consisted of: envoy Rosenberg, General Hoffmann, Active State Counsel von Kerner, Captain 1st Rank W. Horn and director of the legal department Krige. The Austro-Hungarian delegation included Dr. Graz, Ambassador Merei, and Cicherich. Three men, Envoy Andrei Toshev, Colonel Ganchev, and Legation Secretary Anastasov, were Bulgarian representatives; the Turkish delegation was represented by Hakkı Pasha and Zeki Pasha. The delegation from the Soviet Ukraine was not allowed by the German military beyond Pskov.

Upon arrival, the head of the Soviet delegation stated that his country gave its consent to the terms that “Germany dictated to the Russian government with arms in hand” and refused to enter into any discussions so as not to create the appearance of negotiations – such a position caused objections from Rosenberg, who believed that the RSFSR could both accept the proposed peace and “decide to continue the war”. In the end, on March 3, 1918, the 129th day of Soviet rule, peace was formally signed by all delegations at a meeting in the White Palace of the Brest-Litovsk fortress: the meeting was closed at 17:52.

The final Treaty of Brest-Litovsk consisted of 14 articles, included five annexes (the first of which was a map of the new border of the RSFSR with the areas occupied by the German Empire) and appendices to the second and third annexes; in addition, the Soviet side signed two final protocols and four additional agreements with each of the Central Powers.

On March 4 and 5, Trotsky met with the British and French representatives, Bruce Lockhart and Jacques Sadoul, from whom the revolutionary tried to find out what assistance the Allies could provide to Soviet Russia to fight the Central Powers in the event that the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty was not ratified at the upcoming Congress of Soviets. At the same time, the Sovnarkom note authored by Lenin was handed to the U.S. government with similar questions about the amount and timing of potential assistance.

On March 7, 1918, at the 7th Extraordinary Congress of the RSDLP(b), which had opened the day before, Lenin gave a political report on the activities of the Central Committee, which “merged with the report on war and peace,” although the Congress delegates were not familiar with the text of the treaty itself; Bukharin, who outlined the position of the “Left Communists,” acted as co-rapporteur of the head of government. On March 8–with a roll call vote for a resolution that began with the words “the congress recognizes it necessary to approve the gravest, most humiliating peace treaty with Germany signed by the Soviet government”–the delegates” votes were as follows: 30 were in favor of ratification, 12 – against, and 4 – abstained. In this case, the “critical” statements of Lenin about the actions of the Soviet delegation on February 10 caused a counter-criticism of Krestinsky: in the end, after a long discussion, the question of how to evaluate the February statement of the delegation was put to vote, and by the majority of 25 votes (against 12) was adopted the resolution of Zinoviev, which thanked the delegation “for its tremendous work in exposing the German imperialists, in involving the workers of all countries in the struggle against the imperialist governments”.

On March 12, Soviet newspapers reported that the general disorder of the railroad transport prevented many delegates from arriving for the opening of the Soviet Congress: as a result, the Fourth Extraordinary All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened on March 14, the day Izvestia VTSIK published the text of the treaty in its pages. The next day, as a sign of protest against the signing of the peace treaty, all the Left SRs, including Steinberg, Schrader, Karelin, Kolegayev and Proshyan, withdrew from the Sovnarkom. On March 16, the Soviets finally ratified the treaty, which was accepted by the delegates to the congress in a roll call vote by a majority of 704 votes (284 against, with 115 abstentions). On March 18, the treaty began to be considered in the Reichstag, where the agreement was presented by the chancellor and vice-minister of foreign affairs Bush, who stressed, that the text contained “no provision which would impair the honor of Russia, not to mention the imposition of a military contribution or the expropriation of Russian territories by force”; the consideration was completed after four days, only the independent Social-Democrats voted against it. On March 26 the peace was signed by Wilhelm II.

Under the terms of the Brest Peace Treaty of March 1918:

Assessments of conditions

Most historians, both Soviet and Western, believe the terms of the Brest-Litovsk peace were “draconian. In particular, according to Professor Richard Pipes, “the terms of the treaty were extremely onerous. They made it possible to imagine what kind of peace the Quartet countries would have to sign had they lost the war…”, and Professor Vladimir Khandorin noted that as a result of the separatist treaty, Russia could not take its place among the winners and enjoy the fruits of the Entente victory in World War I (see the Paris Peace Conference). Gerhard Ritter and Borislav Chernev were virtually the only proponents of a different point of view: for example, Chernev believed that “treaties that confirm the existing military status quo are not draconian by default.

In Russia

Even before the armistice was concluded, the opposition press began to accuse the Bolsheviks of “betraying the interests of the fatherland and the people,” as well as of treason to the Allied duty, charges which were often associated with the receipt of financial assistance from the government of the German Empire:

In January 1918, the main topic of opposition newspapers in Moscow and Petrograd remained the dispersed Constituent Assembly. Gradually the socialist newspapers began to focus on the re-election of the Soviets, while the bourgeois press began to pay attention to the economic activities of the Bolsheviks. Thus the resumption of the peace talks at Brest-Litovsk on 17 January initially attracted little press attention: the situation changed sharply on 10 February, after Trotsky announced his declaration of refusal to sign the peace treaty; the reaction of the opposition press, Associate Professor Anatoly Bozhich, described the reaction as “very violent.” Most of the opposition newspapers declared that the Constituent Assembly had to be resumed immediately because of the emergency situation that had arisen.

January 30, the organ of the Social-Democratic Internationalists, Novaya Zhizn, in an editorial entitled “Half World” commented on Trotsky”s statement: “World history has been enriched by a new, unprecedented paradox: the Russian government has declared the country in a state of ”neither war nor peace …””. The newspaper “Russian Gazette” in the editorial “The terrible hour” predicted that “Russia also will have to learn what price is paid for order when it is imposed by an alien armed hand. Esers newspaper “Delo Naroda” on February 1, published a resolution of the Central Committee of the PSR “On cessation of the state of war”, which stated that “Russia has been placed at the disposal of German imperialism. Its lands and peoples will henceforth become the prey of any international predator who can freely compensate at its expense for its misfortunes elsewhere”, and the Moscow newspaper “Novoye Slovo”, in the article “Exit from the war”, wrote: “The peace of Trotsky and Lenin … leads with logical inevitability … to the triumph of German imperialism. Now these prophets of international socialism promise to devote all their energy to the “internal reorganization” of Russia. This means that not far off is the triumph of our counter-revolution – monarchism in its worst manifestations …”.

The Menshevik Oborontsov and Plekhanov”s Unity newspaper, Nachalo, published an appeal “To the Brothers of the Proletarians of the World,” protesting against the conclusion of a separatist peace, and in the article “The Main Task” assessed the situation as “the suspension of the independent development of the country,” declaring it a “catastrophe.”

On February 4 (17), the newspaper Nachalo published the text of a statement by the inter-faction council of the Constituent Assembly, signed on January 31, concerning the peace agreements with Germany, which stated that “…only the Constituent Assembly can speak worthily and powerfully on behalf of the whole country at a future international congress, where the conditions for universal peace will be established.”

The termination of the armistice and the attack of the German Empire”s troops on Dvinsk, which began on February 18, after which the Bolsheviks raised the slogan “Socialist Fatherland in danger!”, strengthened the hopes of the socialist opposition for a peaceful change of power – for the formation of a unified socialist government: “…in these conditions the only way out is a government of the members of the main socialist parties represented in the Constituent Assembly, resting on this latter.” At the same time, the Right Mensheviks and SRs used the situation to further discredit the Bolsheviks in an attempt to remove them from power: in particular, Alexander Potresov”s group newspaper, Novyi Den (New Day) February 20, published an article by Semyon Zagorski, “Bankruptcy,” which Bozich assessed as “full of sarcasm”: “The Soviet government, the most revolutionary power in the world, the most revolutionary country in the world, which declared war on all world imperialism, capitulated to German imperialism at its first real, not verbal, threat.” The Socialist-Revolutionary newspaper Dela Narodnye spoke even more sharply, informing its readers that “the Soviet of People”s Commissars had betrayed Russia, the revolution and socialism”, and the Menshevik newspaper Novy Ray published an editorial entitled “Who to Replace?” in which it assessed the situation as “The Twilight of the Gods has set in. The political bankruptcy of Lenin”s muzhik-soldier-anarchist government is beyond question.

On February 22, the newspaper “Trud” published an article by Alexander Gelfgott entitled “The Enemy at the Gate” and an appeal by delegates to the Constituent Assembly, signed by members of the Social Revolutionary faction from twelve provinces of central Russia: “Citizens!… Demand the immediate resumption of the work of the Constituent Assembly, the only power created by all the people… Only this nationwide power can now take in its hands the cause of the national defense of our revolutionary homeland against imperialist Germany…” The next day the newspaper “Forward!” came out with the slogan “Resign the Council of People”s Commissars! Immediate Convocation of the Constituent Assembly!” and published an article by Fyodor Dan “Two Ways”, calling for an end to “Bolshevik dictatorship”, and “Labor” published an editorial “Go away!” calling on the SNC to voluntarily resign its powers.

The newspapers also informed their readers of the “exact” price of “betrayal”: Trotsky received from the Germans 400,000 in kroner, Kamkov 82,000 in francs, Lenin 662,000 in marks; Kamenev, Zinoviev, Lunacharsky, Kollontai and other Bolshevik leaders also received. Criticism of Bolshevik policies in opposition newspapers of liberal-democratic (Kadet) orientation was considerably more moderate, appealing only to “national consciousness” and touching neither the theme of “betrayal” nor the convening of the Constituent Assembly in which socialists had a majority of seats.

The signing of the Brest Treaty itself on March 3 caused “a new surge of emotions” – almost all opposition currents joined in criticizing the Soviet government and the Bolsheviks: the socialist and bourgeois press presented a united front, harshly criticizing the terms of the peace. On March 5, Nikolai Sukhanov wrote in his article “Suicide” that “Lenin believes that his Berlin counterparts, knowing his intentions, will really give him a “respite” and really allow him to voluntarily forge weapons against himself … No, such a respite is death”. On March 8, the future Shymenovite Yuri Klyuchnikov stated that “from now on until the end of the war we are entirely at the mercy of the Germans,” believing also that later “Germany … will begin to put the Romanovs back into their palaces.

Analytical essays appeared on the pages of several opposition newspapers, in which the authors tried to assess the economic consequences of the treaty, especially its Article 11: “Germany itself will supply us with finished and semi-finished products made from our own raw materials.

The ratification of the treaty by the Extraordinary Congress of the Soviets provoked an even more painful reaction from the opposition press, which hoped, among other things, that the position of the “Left Communists” would prevent ratification: “A state that accepts such a peace loses its right to exist. Opposition newspapers actively appealed to the offended national feeling of the country”s citizens, and Professor Boris Nolde and revolutionary Alexander Parvus believed that the peace could have been concluded on better terms. On March 18, Patriarch Tikhon sharply condemned the peace, drawing attention to the fact that “entire areas inhabited by the Orthodox people are alienated from us.” In July the lawyer Ekaterina Fleishits began to publish her analysis of the agreements reached in Brest, “closely related not only to the property interests of broad strata of the Russian population, but also to significant economic and financial interests of the Russian state as a whole.

International Response

On March 4, 1918, “grandiose” demonstrations took place in Austria-Hungary and Germany over the signing of the peace treaty and the end of the war in the East; on the same day the newspaper Forwards wrote that “Germany now has no friends in the East, and has little chance of winning friendship in the West. We are horrified at the thought that the twentieth century promises to be a century of violent national struggle. An editorial in the Arbeiter-Zeitung of March 5 noted that the scale of the collapse of the empire was almost unprecedented – the borders of the country were being reduced to “pre-Peterian”, while “a group of new states appeared, which would become a source of continuous anxiety and ferment in Europe” (see German Historiography).

Ottoman military intelligence assessed the Brest-Litovsk agreement as a “success” because it meant that the Bolsheviks” attention shifted to the struggle inside the country, i.e., they would probably cease to pose a threat in the Caucasus. At the same time, the Ottoman newspapers expressed their approval of the agreements reached, because they believed that the returned territories would provide security from the “nightmare of Moscow Tsarism”. At the same time, the Entente Conference held in London in March reiterated its non-recognition of the Brest-Litovsk peace, and the newspapers of the Allies used the peace conditions to strengthen the anti-German propaganda:

The Erzincan truce and its violation

Although the demands for the transfer of the Kara province to the Ottoman Empire were made by the RSFSR delegation only at the final stage of the negotiations, the question had been predetermined long before February 8 (21), 1918. Thus, on August 6, 1914 Hans Vangengeim, the German ambassador in Istanbul, wrote to Grand Vizier Said Halim-pasha that “Germany will not conclude any peace without the Ottoman territories, which may have been occupied by enemy troops, being evacuated… Germany will force the eastern borders of the Ottoman Empire to be adjusted so as to bring Turkey into direct contact with the Muslim population living in Russia…” This letter stated, however, that the German Empire would render such “good offices” to the Ottoman Empire only if they both emerged victorious from the war. On September 28, 1916 and November 27, 1917 German representatives again undertook “not to sign any agreements” against the Porte, and a week before the armistice, on December 8, at the Prussian state ministry, it was said that in future peace talks “for Turkey it might be about the return of Armenia”. The directives of Ludendorff also included the requirement “to put on the Russians the obligation to stop all support of the Armenian and Kurdish gangs, fighting against the Turks. At the same time, on December 13, just before the talks in Brest-Litovsk, the Council of Ministers discussed the policy towards the Ottoman Empire and only discussed the evacuation of the troops of the former Russian Empire from Eastern Anatolia and the regulation of navigation in the Black Sea.

Simultaneously with the armistice talks in Brest-Litovsk similar negotiations were taking place on the Caucasus front: in early December the commander-in-chief of the Caucasus Front, General of Infantry Mikhail Przhevalsky was approached by Mehmed Vehib-pasha, commander of the Turkish Third Army acting on the orders of Enver-pasha with a proposal for an armistice. The Transcaucasian Commissariat accepted the proposal and on November 25 (December 7) military actions were stopped and on December 5 (18) an agreement was signed in Erzincan with a reservation that “in case of… a general truce between the Russian Republic and the Central Powers all points of this truce become obligatory for the Caucasus Front”. On December 19, the Transcaucasian commissariat, acting independently of the authorities in the capital, decided to “demobilize the army if possible”, to “nationalize” some military units, to arm the nationalist elements and to establish a “special body for leading the struggle against Bolsheviks”. Almost simultaneously, the Bolshevik government itself adopted a special “Decree on ”Turkish Armenia,”” which contained guarantees of support for the right of the local population “to free self-determination up to full independence.”

Despite the fact that both sides pledged not to resume hostilities without two weeks” notice, already on February 12, 1918 the Treaty of Erzincan was violated: According to historians Kazanjian, Aznauryan and Grigoryan, Mehmed Vehib-pasha – after a “demagogic” statement about protection against “violence by Armenians against the Muslim population in the Turkish provinces occupied by Russian troops” and under the pretext of “the need and duty of humanity and civilization” – ordered the troops to cross the demarcation line. According to the version of historian Halil Bal, the military preparations began when the Ottoman authorities realized that the Bolsheviks were planning to leave Eastern Anatolia only after arming the Armenian detachments: on January 20 the Ottoman delegation expressed its protest against arming the Armenian quarters, to which it was replied that the Soviet authorities regarded them as representatives of the national liberation movement. In addition, Enver Pasha demanded that Vehib Pasha address the Russian army commanders with a demand to stop the violence against the Islamic population in the territory formally under the control of the Russian troops.

Russian-Turkish Supplementary Treaty

The draft of the members of the Turkish delegation to the Russian-Turkish commission at the first stage of the Brest negotiations was entitled “Agreement between the Ottoman and Russian governments, which will result in peace and eternal brotherhood” and contained demands for changes in the Russian-Ottoman border, including the return of the regions that were part of the Ottoman Empire before the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. The draft also required the RSFSR to withdraw its army from Anatolia, demobilize the Armenian detachments and agree to ban the concentration of more than one division of troops in Transcaucasia. The February ultimatum contained a clause (para. 5), according to which the Soviet power was obliged to “with all means at its disposal … promote the speedy and orderly return to Turkey of its Anatolian provinces and accept the cancellation of the Turkish capitulations” – Rosenberg later clarified: “…we did not speak in paragraph 5 about the Turkish provinces occupied during the war, but precisely about the eastern Anatolian provinces,” that is, the districts of Ardagan, Kars and Batum, which Turkey had “ceded to Russia in 1878,” “unable to pay a large contribution”. The final version of the treaty had a special article (Article IV) on the territories transferred to Russia in 1878 in payment of the Porte”s war debt:

In addition, the Russo-Turkish Supplementary Agreement also contained a clause obliging the Soviet authorities to “demobilise and disband the Armenian couples consisting of Turkish and Russian nationals, who are both in Russia and in the occupied Turkish provinces, and to permanently dismiss the said couples”. The Soviet delegation”s statement about the inadmissibility of deciding “the fate of the living peoples, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Armenians … behind their backs” remained unanswered. Nevertheless, during the signing of the treaty, Sokolnikov made a declaration in which he stated that “in the Caucasus, clearly – in violation of the conditions of the ultimatum formulated by the German government… and without taking into account the true will of the population of the regions of Ardagan, Kars and Batum, Germany expropriates in favor of Turkey these regions, which have never been conquered by Turkish troops”; in response, the Ottoman representative said that it is not about the separation of these territories, but about their return – that is, about the restoration of historical justice.

Kazanjian and his colleagues believed that the intention of the Soviet authorities to fulfill their obligations could be seen from the fact that literally on the second day after the ratification of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty a circular number 325 of the People”s Commissariat of the RSFSR was issued, which stated: “Hereby the Revolutionary Headquarters, Soviets and other Soviet institutions are informed that the Armenian Revolutionary Organizations have the right to freely form the Armenian volunteer detachments… It is incumbent upon the said Soviet institutions not to obstruct the advance of these detachments designed to protect their homeland from the Turkish-German rapists”. In addition, these formations were also provided with material assistance.

On September 20 (according to other sources – September 30), that is, less than two months before the full annulment of the Brest Treaty, the RSFSR repealed the treaty in the part relating to the Ottoman Empire.

The reluctance of the RSFSR government to fulfill the terms of the Brest Peace Treaty was clear to all negotiators at the time of its signing and was not concealed by Soviet leaders; the “cat-and-mouse game” that began in Brest-Litovsk continued after the ratification of the agreement. In one case, the German authorities have almost “caught” the Bolsheviks: June 9, 1918 Ludendorff drafted a detailed memorandum on the violent removal of the Bolsheviks from power and June 12, Kühlmann presented Joffe, who since late April ambassador in Berlin, a “veiled ultimatum”, according to which, if the Soviet troops do not stop attacks on units stationed in the Taganrog area (see “Red landing” in the Russian version). “Red Landing”), and the Black Sea Fleet did not return to its home ports by June 15, “the German command would be forced to take further measures.” Contrary to Trotsky”s opinion, Lenin accepted the terms of the ultimatum, which helped avoid the consequences. At the same time, many crews of the Black Sea Fleet, who were to return their ships from Novorossiysk to Sevastopol occupied by the German army, blew them up, preventing the transfer to the German Empire (see The sinking of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet).

The assassination of Ambassador Mirbach on July 6 created a new crisis. As a result, the authorities of the German Empire made one last attempt to put their relations with Soviet Russia on a firmer footing, concluding a supplementary (secret) bilateral treaty with the Bolsheviks on August 27. Under the financial part of this agreement, the RSFSR undertook to pay 6 billion marks (2.75 billion rubles) as compensation “for damage caused by Russian actions” and the costs of prisoners of war: 1.5 billion marks in gold (245.5 tons) and money (545 million rubles), 2.5 billion marks in credit obligations, and another 1 billion marks in raw materials and goods. Payments in gold, money and goods were to be fulfilled by March 31, 1920. In September, the Soviet government sent two “gold trains,” which contained 93.5 tons of gold; this delivery was the only one. Under the Treaty of Versailles almost all of the gold received was subsequently given to the French government as a German post-war contribution.

The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, achieved recognition of their control over Baku by ceding to Germany a quarter of their production there (primarily oil). To ensure the security of the oil fields, the German imperial authorities undertook not to support any third country and to prevent military action by third countries in the immediate vicinity of the Baku area. The German government also agreed to withdraw troops from Belorussia, from the Black Sea coast and from the Rostov region, as well as not to occupy new territories and not to support any “separatist” movements.

Despite the additional agreements reached, Minister Georg de Potter began to note traces of “Bolshevik imperialism” in the behavior of the Soviet authorities, which indicated, in his opinion, a desire to reunite parts of the former Russian Empire. Chernev believed that the ideological chasm between the conservative (monarchical) Central Powers and the “utopian” ideas of the revolutionaries hindered stable peace in East Central Europe in the post-Brest-Litovsk period; the goals of the participants – to preserve the imperial dynasties, on the one hand, and to spread the world revolution, on the other – were totally incompatible. Relations were characterized by mutual mistrust and animosity, and the situation itself resembled a “no war, no peace” situation.

One of the conditions of the Armistice of Compyonne between the Entente and Germany on November 11, 1918 was the rejection by the latter of all conditions of the Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest peace treaties. On November 13, against the background of revolutionary events in Germany, the Brest Treaty was canceled by decision of the Soviet VTsIK. Soon after began the withdrawal of German troops from the occupied territories of the former Russian Empire.

After the conclusion of the Brest Treaty on the Soviet side of the Eastern Front there remained only small units of the veil; on March 9 Krylenko was relieved of his duties as chief commander, and on March 27 followed the order of the People”s Commissariat for Military Affairs to disband and liquidate headquarters, departments and soldiers” committees – at this point the Russian (imperial) army ceased to exist. In connection with the German threat, it was decided to relocate the capital of the RSFSR (“evacuate”) to Moscow. At the same time the conclusion of the German peace on the Eastern Front had almost no effect on the course of operations on the Western Front, because the troops, relocated there, were demoralized and of little use for offensive operations.

The signing of the Brest Peace was the cause of the “growing estrangement” between the partner parties of the first Sovnark – the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries; the conflict culminated in the uprising of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries in July 1918 (see The One-Party System in Russia). At the same time, following the initial reaction to the separatist negotiations, the Brest Peace has been used in historical literature for many decades as evidence of financial ties between the Bolsheviks and the authorities of the German Empire.

The armistice declared on the fronts of the Russian army in December 1917 did not lead to a complete cessation of hostilities, but was a turning point that separated the “clash of empires” of 1914-1917 and the “continuum of violence” from 1918 to 1923. In particular, on December 11 (24), 1917 – in response to the Bolshevik peace initiatives – the governments of England and France agreed to provide military assistance to all anti-Bolshevik forces in Russia (see Foreign Military Intervention in Russia). The Brest Peace itself served as a catalyst for the “democratic counterrevolution,” manifested in the proclamation in Siberia and the Volga region of the Social Revolutionary Revolution and in the transition of the Civil War from local skirmishes to large-scale battles.

The exchange of instruments of ratification between the German Empire and the RSFSR, which took place on March 29, 1918, was followed by an exchange of ambassadors – the Soviet government established the first official diplomatic relations. The Soviet embassy (polpravstvo) in Berlin became an active agent of Bolshevik propaganda, which also reached the German military units on the Western Front. In this case, the principles of Soviet foreign policy, established in Brest-Litovsk, continued to be applied by Soviet Russia in the next seven decades: during these years, the USSR combined negotiations with the governments of Europe and the world with a simultaneous ideological struggle, with the ultimate goal of revolutionary change in these countries. In particular, as early as 1918, hundreds of thousands of Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war returning from the RSFSR to their homeland – including Bela Kun and Matthias Rakosi – contributed significantly to the radicalization of the Habsburg Empire (see The Breakup of Austria-Hungary). At the same time, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk prevented the fall of the Ukrainian Rada already in February 1918, delaying the Bolsheviks coming to power on the territory of the future USSR.

Because of the declarations made at Brest and the publication by the Bolsheviks of a number of secret “annexationist” treaties of the tsarist government, Entente statesmen found themselves “under fire” from both liberal and leftist political circles in their countries. Due to the formal recognition by Ioffe, Kühlmann and Chernin of the principle of self-determination of peoples as a central point of negotiations, Entente politicians were forced to formulate their own ideas on the issue. As a result, British Prime Minister Lloyd George and then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson formulated their positions (see Wilson”s Fourteen Points), recognizing “self-determination” as the guiding principle of the post-war world order. At the same time, as the Paris Peace Conference demonstrated, at which the Brest Peace was used as one of the proofs of the annexationist intentions of the Central Powers, the principle of “self-determination” was “open to interpretation”: the discussion between Trotsky and Kuhlmann that preceded the Paris negotiations was one of the first attempts to move away from self-determination as a slogan and attempt to apply it to the peacemaking process, if only within the borders of Eastern Europe. In other words, the Brest-Litovsk talks were the debut of the concept of “self-determination of peoples,” which had a significant influence on the entire Eastern European and Transcaucasian history of the 20th century. Brest-Litovsk was the beginning of a public ideological confrontation in Europe in which the struggle between communist, fascist, and liberal-democratic ideologies defined the state of the continent at the beginning of the 21st century, and the “right of peoples to self-determination” became part of the system of international relations.

In November 1918, the defeat of the Central Powers and the subsequent denunciation of the Brest Treaty greatly strengthened Lenin”s position in the Bolshevik Party.

The centrality of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty both for German “eastern policy” and for the history of Soviet Russia led to the fact that the second peace agreement of the Great War was considered in a significant number of memoirs and historical works: thus, by 1990, in the USSR alone about the Brest-Litovsk peace at least 44 monographs, 33 brochures and 129 articles were published, published in 1961, contained a list of 135 works – mainly in German language.

Sources

  1. Брестский мир
  2. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
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