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On November 6, 1917, the Kerensky Government was overthrown by the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates. In a proclamation addressed to the army, to all Soviets and to the garrison and proletariat of Petrograd, the Committee proclaimed its authority, "until the creation of a Government by the Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates." The Committee considered the first point in the "program of the new authority" to be "the offer of an immediate democratic peace." The proclamation closed with the words: '' Soldiers! for Peace, for Bread, for Land, and for the Power of the People!"

On November 20, 1917, Leon Trotzky, Russian Commissar for Foreign Affairs, sent to the Entente and American Embassies at Petrograd a Note, announcing that "the Congress of Workmen's, Soldiers' and Peasants' Delegates of All the Russias, instituted on November 8 a new Government of the Republic of All the Russias," and that the Congress had approved "proposals for a truce and for a democratic peace without annexation and without indemnities, based on the principle of the independence of nations and of their right to determine for themselves the nature of their own development.''

On November 23, 1917 the English Government through Lord Robert Cecil made a hostile reply to the Russian proposal for an armistice. "The action just taken by the extremists in Petrograd . . . would of course be a direct breach of the agreement of September 5, 1914, and ... if approved and adopted by the Russian nation would put them practically outside the pale of the ordinary councils of Europe. But I do not believe that the Russian people will confirm this action or approve a proclamation ... to open all along the line peace negotiations with the enemy across the trenches. . . . There is no intention of recognizing such a Government."

Brest-Litovsk - December 3, 1917

The preliminary negotiations for a formal truce were begun on November 29. The chief of the Russian armies was requested to appoint a commission with written authority to be sent to the headquarters of the commander of the German East front at Brest-Litovsk. A temporary truce for 48 hours (up to December 5) was signed on December 3 at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and Germany. This was to be regarded as "merely a preliminary arrangement" in order to permit the formal negotiations for a general armistice to be begun without interference. The formal negotiations for a general armistice were opened at Brest-Litovsk in the presence of representatives of Russia, and of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria. The Delegation of the Central Powers was exclusively military and was under the leadership of General Hoffmann.

The Russian Delegation refused to sign at this stage of the negotiations a formal armistice. It was thereupon agreed: to interrupt the negotiations for an armistice for one week to December 12, and to suspend hostilities (Waffenruhe) for ten days beginning on December 7 and ending December 17 at noon.

The Ukrainian Parliament authorized the sending of Delegations to Brest-Litovsk and Roumania. It also called upon all belligerents to participate in the peace negotiations and it notified neutrals that it had taken these steps. It also declared that it was preparing a peace program from the point of view of the recognition of the Ukraine as a part of the Russian Federative Republic.

On 13 December 1917 the negotiations for an armistice to replace the existing truce were begun at Brest-Litovsk. The next day Lloyd George made a number of references to Russia in an address before Grey's Inn Benchers: "Russia threatens to retire out of the war and leave the French Democracy, whose loyalty to the word they passed to Russia brought on them the horrors of this war, to shift for themselves. I do not wish to minimize in the least the gravity of this decision. Had. Russia been in a condition to exert her strength this year we might now be in a position to impose fair and rational terms of peace. By her retirement she strengthens the Hohenzollerns and weakens the forces of democracy. Her action will not lead, as she imagines, to universal peace. It will simply prolong the world's agony, and inevitably put her in bondage to the military dominance of Prussia. ... If the Russian democracy has decided to abandon the struggle against military autocracy, the American democracy is taking it up. . . . The Russians are a great-hearted people, and valiantly have they fought in this war, but they have always been-certainly throughout this war -the worst organized State in Europe."

On 15 December 1917 the armistice between Russia and all the Central Powers was signed. It was to begin at noon on Monday, December 17, and remains in force until January 14, 1918. Unless seven days' notice was given it continued in force automatically.

Brest-Litovsk - 09 February 1918

The aim of the Bolsheviki was to inaugurate a social revolution throughout the world, which would end the World War and bring about a democratic peace. They formed a revolut1onary army, called the Red Guard, which began making war on the "bourgeois" throughout Russia. This produced a panic among the conservative elements. The "Little Russians," : occupying the southern region generally called Ukraine, decided to secede from Bolshevik Russia.

On 17 December 1917 the Soviet Government delivered an ultimatum to the Ukrainian Rada stating that "in case a satisfactory reply has not been received within twenty-four hours, the Council of the People's Commissars will consider the Rada in a state of war against the influence of the Soviets in Russia and in the Ukraine." In the ultimatum the "independent national rights of all the nationalities that were oppressed by the Czarist Great Russian bourgeoisie, even to the point of recognizing the right of these nationalities to separate themselves from Russia," are once more confirmed. Nevertheless, the Rada is accused "under cover of phrases and declarations regarding national independence," of having given itself over to a "systematic bourgeois policy" and of giving assistance to the "counter-revolutionary forces of the Cadets and of Kaledin." This ultimatum was ignored at Kiev, and war between the two Republics was formally begun on 18 December 1917.

Brest-Litovsk - January 1918In January 1918 it was seriously proposed by the German peace delegates at the conference at Brest-Litovsk to out off from Russia all of Courland and the other Baltic provinces so that practically the best part of the Russian Baltic coast would remain in German hands. Such a step would take from Russia, Courland, Lithuania, Esthonia and Livonia; its ultimate effect would be to make of Russia, as in the case of France, a mortal enemy, for the government there will not always remain in Bolsheviki hands. The efiect would be to |establish another Alsace-Lorraine problem on Gei-manys eastern front, only that the problem would be a greater and more dangerous one. The limits proposed for German annexation would bring Germany to the borders of the Ukraine, which had already declared its independence of Russia proper. If Ukraine independence is preserved, it would be the second largest state in area in Europe, having 850,000 square miles and a population of 30,000,000. An independent state here would shut all the remainder of Russia 06 from the Black Sea, through which three-quarters of the exports and one-fifth of the imports pass. The entire district is called the granary of Russia for it supplies the rest of Russia with wheat, oats, barley and other foodstuffs. Russia, with the proposed arrangements, would be practically forbidden the sea and would be placed in economic subserviency to her German neighbor on the west.

Long-drawn-out peace parleys began and, at one time, the negotiations were broken off because the Germans, contrary to agreement, were transferring their troops from the Eastern to the Western Front. Trotzky insisted on the adoption of the Bolshevik formula of "no annexations and no indemnities," to which the representatives of the Central Powers agreed. While the negotiations were going on, the Russian armies were being demobilized. The Germans, on the other hand, continued their advance in Russia. On February 19, 1918, they occupied Dwinsk and Lutsk.

The Ukraine established an independent government and sent its own representatives to Brest-Litovsk to negotiate a separate peace with the Central Powers. The latter gladly welcomed them, and on February 9 a treaty of peace was signed by the Central Powers and Ukraine. The terms of this treaty recognized the independence of Ukraine and partially f1xed its boundaries; it provided for free trade between them; and, especially, it made arrangements for the delivery of agricultural and industrial products to the Central Powers.

Brest-Litovsk - 04 March 1918

When negotiations between the Germans and the Russians at Brest-Litovsk broke down in February 1918, the Germans renewed their assault on Russia. By that time, the Russian army had ceased to function as an effective fighting force, and the Germans advanced rapidly, threatening Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities. Trotzky hoped to arouse a democratic sentiment in Germany in favor of a general peace on the basis of "no annexations and no indemnities." But the German people seemed to be satisfied with their Government, in spite of the fact that it was now Central demanding the annexation of Russian territory, thus violating the Reichstag resolution of July 19, 1917, which placed that body on record as opposed to forcible annexation of territory.

Disgusted with this turn of affairs, Trotzky left Brest-Litovsk and announced that Russia was at peace with her enemies without a treaty. But the Germans were not to be satisfied without a formal treaty. They responded by overrunning Livonia and marching on Petrograd.

On March 4, the Bolshevik Government was compelled to sign a peace treaty with the Central Powers. It provided for the following: (1) that Russia give up Finland, Esthonia, Livonia, Courland, Poland, and Lithuania, which were to decide their fate by the process of'' self-determination "; (2) that Ukraine be recognized as an independent republic; (3) that Batum Ardahan, and Kars in the Caucasus be permitted "selfdetermination"; 2 and (4) that the Bolsheviki cease their revolutionary propaganda in the ceded regions. Dy this treaty Russia lost approximately half a million square miles of territory and 66,000,000 of her population.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 17-11-2015 19:32:57 ZULU