The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a treaty signed between delegations of the German Empire and Bolshevik Russia, marking the withdrawal of Russia from the war and an end to hostilities on the Eastern Front. It was signed in the aforementioned city on January 15th, 1918.
The treaty was the result of Lenin's insistence that Communist Russia, in its current state, was unable to cause the global revolution it had sought. Thus, Lenin went against popular opinion in the Party, giving Trotsky strict orders in order to save what territory he could. Peace talks started on December 22nd, 1917, a week after the ceasefire on the Eastern Front started.
Representatives from Germany were pleasantly surprised by the Bolsheviks willingness to make peace with the Central Powers. The German state secretary Richard von Kühlmann noted: „The level of cooperation during the meetings was quite surprising to us. Here were peasants, workers and revolutionaries, who had openly admitted their willingness to export their socialist revolution and yet were willing to sit down and work things out with representatives of entire empires. Simply astonishing!“ Trotsky was angered by Lenin's strict orders and had repeatedly argued against any peace, but later noted:“Although I was furious by the Treaty initially, looking back at it now, I can see the cunning that was at play during the meetings and our leaders reasoning behind it. This was a pivotal moment that helped us and I truly doubt what our ability to hold power would have been were it not for this agreement with the German old order.“
This is an excerpt of the original document:
- Article I. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, for the one part, and Russia, for the other part, declare that the state of war between them has ceased. They are resolved to live henceforth in peace and amity with one another.
- Article II. The contracting parties will refrain from any agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public and military institutions of the other party. In so far as this obligation devolves upon Russia, it holds good also for the territories occupied by the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance.
- Article III. Livonia will likewise, without delay, be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard. Russia will liberate at once all arrested or deported inhabitants of Livonia, and ensures the safe return of all deported Livonians.
- Article IV. Finland and the Aaland Islands will immediately be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard, and the Finnish ports of the Russian fleet and of the Russian naval forces. So long as the ice prevents the transfer of warships into Russian ports, only limited forces will remain on board the warships. Russia is to put an end to all agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public institutions of Finland.The fortresses built on the Aaland Islands are to be removed as soon as possible. As regards the permanent non- fortification of these islands as well as their further treatment in respect to military technical navigation matters, a special agreement is to be concluded between Germany, Finland, Russia, and Sweden; there exists an understanding to the effect that, upon Germany's desire, still other countries bordering upon the Baltic Sea would be consulted in this matter.
- Article V. In view of the fact that Persia and Afghanistan are free and independent States, the contracting parties obligate themselves to respect the political and economic independence and the territorial integrity of these states.
- Article VI. The prisoners of war of both parties will be released to return to their homeland. The settlement of the questions connected therewith will be effected through the special treaties provided for in Article IX.
- Article VII. The contracting parties mutually renounce compensation for their war expenses, i.e., of the public expenditures for the conduct of the war, as well as compensation for war losses, i.e., such losses as were caused [by] them and their nationals within the war zones by military measures, inclusive of all requisitions effected in enemy country.
- Article VIII. Diplomatic and consular relations between the contracting parties will be resumed immediately upon the ratification of the treaty of peace. As regards the reciprocal admission of consuls, separate agreements are reserved.
- Article IX. As regards the economic relations between the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance and Russia the regulations contained in Appendices II-V are determinative....
- Article X. The re-establishment of public and private legal relations, the exchange of war prisoners and interned citizens, the question of amnesty as well as the question anent the treatment of merchant ships which have come into the power of the opponent, will be regulated in separate treaties with Russia which form an essential part of the general treaty of peace, and, as far as possible, go into force simultaneously with the latter.
- Article XI. The present treaty of peace will be ratified. The documents of ratification shall, as soon as possible, be exchanged in Berlin. The Russian Government obligates itself, upon the desire of one of the powers of the Quadruple Alliance, to execute the exchange of the documents of ratification within a period of two weeks. Unless otherwise provided for in its articles, in its annexes, or in the additional treaties, the treaty of peace enters into force at the moment of its ratification.
The treaty effectively gave complete control of Lithuania and Poland to the German Empire, as it was already behind enemy lines. Most of Livonia was given to Germany as well, while Finland was granted independence, although in a secret protocol, Russia was allowed to take over parts of Karelia and Petsamo. No reparations were paid for the war. The treaty was instrumental in Germany's plan on the Western Front and it is largely perceived today that this very treaty protracted the war for another two years.
For Russia, the treaty was an internal stabilizer, which helped crush opposition to the party in Belarus and the Ukraine before it organized itself. It also gave Russia the chance to reclaim part of Finland, Karelia and Petsamo, which were taken over by April of the same year.