Trading Space for Time

Treaty of Brest Litovsk. March 3, 1918

Following the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks sought to make good on their promise of peace, land, and bread for all. The new Communist Regime opened up peace negotiations with Germany, Austria-hungry, and the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk, named after a small Ukrainian town, was the ensuing peace document that developed out of the negotiations. Bellow are the fourteen articles listed in the original document.

 (Original Treaty of Brest Litovsk)


ARTICLE 1. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey on the one hand and Russia on the other declare that the condition of war between them bas ceased. They have decided to live in peace and accord in the future.

ARTICLE 2. The contracting parties will refrain from all agitation or propaganda against the governments or all state and military institutions of the other side …

ARTICLE 3. The territories lying to the west of the line determined by the contracting powers and which formerly belonged to Russia will no longer be under her sovereignty. Russia gives up all interference in the internal affairs of the said countries. Germany and Austria-Hungary intend to determine the future fate of the said territories with the consent of their inhabitants.

ARTICLE 4. Germany is ready, as soon as general peace is established and Russian demobilization will have completely taken place, to vacate the territories lying east of the line mentioned in article 3. Russia will do all in her power to have the provinces of eastern Anatolia promptly evacuated and returned to Turkey. The territories of Ardakhan, Kars and Batum will also be cleared without delay of Russian forces .

ARTICLE 5. Russia will, without delay, proceed to demobilize her army, including those army units newly formed by her present government. Moreover, Russia will either bring her warships into Russian ports and keep them there until general peace is concluded, or will disarm them at once.

ARTICLE 6. Russia undertakes to conclude peace at once with the Ukrainian people’s republic and to recognize the treaty of peace between the state and the powers of the Quadruple Alliance. The territory of the Ukraine must be, at once, cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard. Russia ceases all agitation or propaganda against the government or the public institutions of the Ukrainian people’s republic. Estonia and Lithuania must also be immediately cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard Finland and the Aland Islands will also be, without delay, cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard and Finnish ports of the Russian fleet and of Russian naval forces. Russia ceases all agitation or propaganda against the government or public institutions of Finland.

ARTICLE 7. The contracting parties bind themselves to respect the political and economic independence and the territorial inviolability of Persia and Afghanistan.

ARTICLE 8. The prisoners of war of both parties will be allowed to return home .

ARTICLE 9. The contracting parties mutually renounce all indemnifications for their war expenses, that is, for government expenses for conducting the war, including all requisitions made in the enemy’s country.

ARTICLE 10. Diplomatic and consular relations between the contracting parties are resumed at once after ratification of the treaty of peace. The question of allowing consuls of both parties free entrance will be decided by a separate agreement.

ARTICLE 11. The economic relations between the powers of the Quadruple Alliance and Russia are regulated by decisions contained in Appendices II to V, which determines the relations between Germany and Russia, between Austria-Hungary and Russia, between Bulgaria and Russia and between Turkey and Russia.

ARTICLE 12. The reestablishment of public and private legal relations, the exchange of war and civil prisoners, the question of amnesty as well as the question regarding merchant ships which have been seized by one or the other side, will be provided for in separate treaties with Russia, which form an important part of the present peace treaty, and as far as it is possible come into force simultaneously with the latter.

ARTICLE 13. In interpreting this treaty the authentic texts for relations between Germany and Russia shall be the German and Russian texts, between Austria-Hungary and Russia the German, Hungarian and Russian texts, between Bulgaria and Russia the Bulgarian and Russian texts, between Turkey and Russia the Turkish and Russian texts.

ARTICLE 14. The present peace treaty must be ratified. Exchange of ratification documents must take place in Berlin as soon as possible. The Russian Government binds itself to execute the exchange of ratification documents in the course of two weeks.

Ultimately the treaty represented unfavorable and extremely harsh reparations and concessions for the new Russian Government. In short, Russia was forced to give up nearly all lands that once made up the empire, immediately halt all military mobilization, and pay an astronomical amount of war reparations. The treaty was widely opposed by many in the educated class to include some Bolsheviks. This sentiment is apparent in the following statement from the Russian Delegation at the Brest-Litovsk peace conference on February 10, 1918.

“In the name of the Soviet of People’s Commissars, the Government of the Russian Federated Republic hereby informs the governments and peoples warring against it, as well as the Allies and neutrals, that in refusing to sign the annexation peace Russia at the same time declares the war with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey at an end. Orders for general demobilization have already been issued.”






The above quote highlights the Soviet’s discontent towards the required peace reparations. They even went so far as to say they will not sign the treaty, but still planned to drop out of the war. Ultimately, the Russian regime was forced to sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk for fear of further German and Austro-Hungarian aggression. The treaty was later terminated when Central Powers signed their own peace agreement with the Allied Powers.

Authors Thoughts

At the begging of the semester we talked about the pride and sense of nationalism shared amongst Russian people. I believe the Treaty of Brest Litovsk represents a clear example of that national pride effecting political decisions. After the Bolsheviks took power, it was all but clear that they needed to get out of the World War I if they hoped to maintain power. Civil War and food shortages threated to push the country into further Anarchy. Knowing they needed to make peace, the Bolsheviks still refused to sign the treaty until forced by threat of further aggression. I believe the same sense of national pride and yearning for relevance effects Russian politics still to this day.


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4 thoughts on “Trading Space for Time

  1. This is a great overview about a topic that I was very unfamiliar with! I agree with you that Russian nationality in the end did cripple the country due to the Bolshevik’s stubborn inability to act against their “program” to true provide bread, peace, and land. In the end, they made a sticky situation for themselves to overcome in the international community.


  2. Your point about national pride is well-taken, Ben. The decision to accept the Brest-Litovsk Treaty was incredibly painful for the Bolsheviks and their followers. Yes, a sense of national pride was on the line, but even more significant, perhaps, was a fear that signing the Treaty was a betrayal of the international revolution. And most of the Bolsheviks were convinced that the revolution would never survive if it was isolated in Soviet Russia. They needed the support of successful proletarian uprisings in the industrialized west. So yes, tough decisions — trading off the pragmatic against the ideological.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For a group as determined and strong as the Bolsheviks, the Treaty was in fact devastating for their envisioned system. I agree that nationalism was a defining variable, but like Dr. Nelson points out, perhaps another threat stemmed from losing international appeal.


  4. This is a great post! You did an awesome job of summarizing the issue and why it matters in terms of the political climate at the time. The demands of the agreement were definitely absurd in regards to what was expected of Russia. Good job!


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