Russian-German peace talks begin at Brest-Litovsk

Russian-German peace talks begin at Brest-Litovsk

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

A week after the armistice was signed between Russia and Germany and nearly three weeks after a ceasefire was declared on the Eastern Front, representatives of the two countries begin peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk, near the Polish border in what is now the city of Brest, in Belarus.

The leader of the Russian delegation was Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik People’s Commissar for Foreign Relations. Max Hoffmann, the commander of German forces on the Eastern Front, served as one of the chief negotiators on the German side. The main difference of opinion in Brest-Litovsk was over cessation of Russian land to the Germans—the Russians demanded a peace without annexations or indemnities and the Germans were unwilling to concede on this point. In February 1918, Trotsky announced he was withdrawing the Russians from the peace talks, and the war was on again.

Unfortunately for Russia, with the renewal of fighting the Central Powers quickly took the upper hand, seizing control of most of Ukraine and Belarus. The Bolshevik hope that the workers of Germany and Austria, offended by their governments’ naked territorial ambition, would rise up in rebellion in the name of the international proletariat soon vanished. On March 3, 1918, Russia accepted peace terms even harsher than those originally suggested, losing Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Livonia, and Courland to Germany. Meanwhile, Finland and the Ukraine saw Russia’s weakness as an opportunity to declare their independence. In all, Brest-Litovsk deprived Lenin’s new state of one million square miles of territory and one-third of its population, or 55 million people.

Terms of the Treaty and its Effects

On December 15, 1917, an armistice between Soviet Russia and the Central Powers was concluded and fighting stopped. On December 22, peace negotiations began at Brest-Litovsk. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918. The signatories were Bolshevik Russia signed by Grigori Yakovlovich Sokolnikov on the one side and the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Ottoman Empire on the other. The treaty marked Russia’s final withdrawal from World War I as an enemy of her co-signatories, on unexpectedly humiliating terms.

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: A photo of the signing of armistice between Russia and Germany on March 3, 1918. The treaty marked Russia’s final withdrawal from World War I and resulted in Russia losing major territorial holdings.

In the treaty, Bolshevik Russia ceded the Baltic States to Germany they were meant to become German vassal states under German princelings. Russia ceded its province of Kars Oblast in the South Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire and recognized the independence of Ukraine. Further, Russia agreed to pay six billion German gold marks in reparations. Historian Spencer Tucker says, “The German General Staff had formulated extraordinarily harsh terms that shocked even the German negotiator.” Congress Poland was not mentioned in the treaty, as Germans refused to recognize the existence of any Polish representatives, which in turn led to Polish protests. When Germans later complained that the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was too harsh, the Allies (and historians favorable to the Allies) responded that it was more benign than Brest-Litovsk.

With the adoption of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Entente no longer existed. Despite this enormous apparent German success, the manpower required for German occupation of former Russian territory may have contributed to the failure of the Spring Offensive and secured relatively little food or other material for the Central Powers war effort. The Allied powers led a small-scale invasion of Russia, partly to stop Germany from exploiting Russian resources, and to a lesser extent, to support the “Whites” (as opposed to the “Reds”) in the Russian Civil War. Allied troops landed in Arkhangelsk and in Vladivostok as part of the North Russia Intervention.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk lasted just over eight months. Germany renounced the treaty and broke diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia on November 5. The Ottoman Empire broke the treaty after just two months by invading the newly created First Republic of Armenia in May 1918. In the Armistice of November 11, 1918, that ended World War I, one of the first conditions was the complete abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Following the German capitulation, the Bolshevik legislature annulled the treaty on November 13, 1918. In the year after the armistice, the German Army withdrew its occupying forces from the lands gained in Brest-Litovsk, leaving behind a power vacuum that various forces subsequently attempted to fill. In the Treaty of Rapallo, concluded in April 1922, Germany accepted the Treaty’s nullification, and the two powers agreed to abandon all war-related territorial and financial claims against each other.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk marked a significant contraction of the territory controlled by the Bolsheviks or that they could lay claim to as effective successors of the Russian Empire. While the independence of Finland and Poland was already accepted in principle, the loss of Ukraine and the Baltics created, from the Bolshevik perspective, dangerous bases of anti-Bolshevik military activity in the subsequent Russian Civil War (1918–1922). Indeed, many Russian nationalists and some revolutionaries were furious at the Bolsheviks’ acceptance of the treaty and joined forces to fight them. Non-Russians who inhabited the lands lost by Bolshevik Russia in the treaty saw the changes as an opportunity to set up independent states not under Bolshevik rule. Immediately after the signing of the treaty, Lenin moved the Soviet Russian government from Petrograd to Moscow.

The fate of the region and the location of the eventual western border of the Soviet Union was settled in violent and chaotic struggles over the course of the next three-and-a-half years.

Tag: Hòa ước Brest-Litovsk

Biên dịch: Nguyễn Huy Hoàng

Vào ngày này năm 1917, đúng một tuần sau khi hiệp ước đình chiến trong Thế chiến I được ký giữa Nga và Đức và gần ba tuần sau khi một thỏa thuận ngừng bắn được tuyên bố trên mặt trận phía Đông (bao gồm các chiến trường ở Đông và Trung Âu), phái đoàn đại diện hai nước đã bắt đầu các cuộc đàm phán hòa bình tại Brest-Litovsk, gần biên giới Ba Lan, nay là thành phố Brest ở Belarus.

Lãnh đạo phái đoàn Nga là Leon Trotsky, Dân ủy Bolshevik về Quan hệ Đối ngoại. Max Hoffmann, chỉ huy các lực lượng Đức trên mặt trận phía Đông, là một trong những trưởng đoàn đàm phán của Đức. Sự bất đồng ý kiến lớn giữa hai nước ở Brest-Litovsk là về vấn đề quân đội Đức dừng xâm chiến lãnh thổ Nga: phía Nga đề nghị một hòa ước mà không bị sáp nhập lãnh thổ hoặc bồi thường chiến tranh còn người Đức thì không muốn nhượng bộ vấn đề này. Tháng 2 năm 1918, Trotsky tuyên bố ông sẽ rút Nga khỏi các cuộc hòa đàm, và chiến tranh một lần nữa tiếp diễn. Continue reading 󈬆/12/1917: Nga-Đức đàm phán Hòa ước Brest-Litovsk”

Chances for a German Soviet armistice in 1941-42

Post by rob » 12 Oct 2002, 22:16

Brest-Litovsk II

Post by Scott Smith » 13 Oct 2002, 00:36

Moved my response from this thread:

[url=]Hitler's declaration of war on america.

With no assurance of direct American help, a second Brest-Litovsk would have been a surprisingly good deal for Stalin (even though the Soviets might still otherwise have ultimately won the war). Besides, taking tangible objectives that have been contested before is less inducive to paranoia than a general crusade, e.g., a war to eradicate Bolshevism. Stalin would have dodged a bullet and would be left feeling more secure where it mattered than before. He would have been even more xenophobic and cautious by being less inclined to trust the Western democracies who had made wooing the Soviets into an art-form.

As far as whether a Nazi-Soviet armistice would be likely, not before the first German setbacks, of course. The Germans had no reason to deal when they were winning. And after Pearl Harbor and the American entry into the war the Soviets had no reason to deal. So in hindsight, Hitler should have been willing to deal with the Russians instead of declaring war on the USA, and Stalin should not have overplayed his hand before Barbarossa, which prompted Hitler to distrust him and try to secure his eastern flank.

I think a settlement along the lines of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk would have been reasonable. The Baltics and Bessarabia would have rather been under German rule than Russian and that probably goes for Ukraine as well.

Post by michael mills » 13 Oct 2002, 04:56

Throughout the war, the Western Allies were afraid that Hitler and Stalin would make a separate peace, leaving Germany free to concentrate its forces to repel the planned Anglo-American invasion.

Even in 1944 that fear still persisted. That is why Britain immediately publicised Himmler's offer to trade one million Jews for trucks to be used solely on the Eastern Front, made in May of that year it wanted to demonstrate to Stalin that the Western Allies were not dealing with Hitler behind his back, thereby giving Stalin an excuse to make his own deal.

There certainly were peace feelers in 1942 and 1943. Stalin often used the tacit threat of making a separate peace with Germany as a lever to pressure the Western Allies into opening the Second Front as soon as possible.

How serious Stalin was is very much a moot point. It is quite possible that as 1942 and 1943 wore on, without any sign of a Second Front, Stalin would have been prepared to sign a peace with Germany that would have ended the war in the East, and the huge burden it was placing on the Soviet Union. In my opinion, I think Stalin would have signed a separate peace with Hitler if it would have left him in a position similar to that of 1941, ie the Soviet Union out of the war and able to recover its strength, with a stalemate in the West (Germany unable to defeat Britain and America, the latter unable to invade the Continent) that would have led inevitably to the weakening of Germany, enabling the Soviet Union to advance westward at some point in the future, when the balance of power had moved in its favour.

Something like that happened after the First World War. Bolshevik Russia surrendered large parts of its territory at Brest-Litovsk in order to gain a breathing space. After the surrender of Germany, it began to spread its influence westward, both by fomenting revolution and by actual invasion in the case of Poland. However, it was far to weak to achieve its aims, particularly in the face of British opposition (the Royal Navy was blockading the coast, and even threatened to bombard Petrograd into oblivion). In 1942, the Soviet Union was immeasurably more powerful.

The above is a separate issue from what happened immediately after the German invasion. It is known from Soviet memoirs that in those first weeks, Stalin was seriously considering the option of giving Hitler the Baltic States, Ukraine, and even parts of Russia proper and the caucasus, in return for peace and being allowed to retain power in a rump state.

Interests Me Too.

Post by Citadel » 13 Oct 2002, 19:34

I think the prime argument against a new German-Soviet peace pact, at any point after the start of Barbarossa, was that the old one had failed.

Hitler invaded Russia in part because of the blackmail over resources which Stalin was using against him, a return to peace would either be a return to that blackmail or the annexation of the resources for Germany. clearly something that Stalin would find unacceptable as it was his trump card prior to the invasion.

Neither man was one to sue for peace once their bluff had been called, not least because both had sold the conflict personally to their people as a "Total War". How would the Germans have taken an armistice that left them with no gains for their dead, or the Communist party have taken Stalin quitting against a Capitalist aggressor?

Hitler could have sued for peace when his armies were clearly in retreat, long before the rape of Germany by the Red army, and the Allies would have pressured the Soviets to settle. The fact he chose to burn his own nation indicates his state of mind, he was a fanatic by then who wanted to take his own people to hell with him. If he would not settle then , he would never have settled before.

Had Moscow fallen, had Stalingrad fallen. then maybe Stalin would have offered, but by such a time a triumphant Hitler would never have settled for anything but conquest. The two nations had good reasons to settle, their two leaders none whatsoever and hence the massacres continued.

22/12/1917: Nga-Đức đàm phán Hòa ước Brest-Litovsk

Vào ngày này năm 1917, đúng một tuần sau khi hiệp ước đình chiến trong Thế chiến I được ký giữa Nga và Đức và gần ba tuần sau khi một thỏa thuận ngừng bắn được tuyên bố trên mặt trận phía Đông (bao gồm các chiến trường ở Đông và Trung Âu), phái đoàn đại diện hai nước đã bắt đầu các cuộc đàm phán hòa bình tại Brest-Litovsk, gần biên giới Ba Lan, nay là thành phố Brest ở Belarus.

Lãnh đạo phái đoàn Nga là Leon Trotsky, Dân ủy Bolshevik về Quan hệ Đối ngoại. Max Hoffmann, chỉ huy các lực lượng Đức trên mặt trận phía Đông, là một trong những trưởng đoàn đàm phán của Đức. Sự bất đồng ý kiến lớn giữa hai nước ở Brest-Litovsk là về vấn đề quân đội Đức dừng xâm chiến lãnh thổ Nga: phía Nga đề nghị một hòa ước mà không bị sáp nhập lãnh thổ hoặc bồi thường chiến tranh còn người Đức thì không muốn nhượng bộ vấn đề này. Tháng 2 năm 1918, Trotsky tuyên bố ông sẽ rút Nga khỏi các cuộc hòa đàm, và chiến tranh một lần nữa tiếp diễn.

Thật không may cho Nga, với việc đổi mới chiến thuật tác chiến, Liên minh Trung tâm (Đức, Đế quốc Áo-Hung, và Ý) nhanh chóng giành được thế thượng phong, nắm quyền kiểm soát phần lớn Ukraine và Belarus. Niềm hy vọng của Đảng Bolshevik Nga rằng giai cấp công nhân Đức và Áo, bất mãn trước tham vọng lãnh thổ trơ trẽn của chính phủ hai nước, sẽ nổi dậy nhân danh giai cấp vô sản quốc tế, đã nhanh chóng tan biến.

Ngày mùng 3 tháng 3 năm 1918, Nga chấp nhận các điều khoản đàm phán hòa bình thậm chí còn đáng sợ hơn những gì được đề xuất lúc ban đầu, đánh mất Ba Lan, Litva, và các nước vùng Baltic là Estonia, Livonia, và Kurzeme (nay thuộc Latvia) vào tay Đức. Trong khi đó, Phần Lan và Ukraine đã nhận ra sự suy yếu của Nga là một cơ hội để họ tuyên bố độc lập. Tổng cộng, Hòa ước Brest-Litovsk đã tước đi một vùng lãnh thổ rộng hơn một triệu dặm vuông (khoảng 2,6 triệu km 2 ) khỏi nhà nước non trẻ của Lenin và một phần ba dân số của nó, tương đương 55 triệu người.[1]

Ảnh: Lễ ký hiệp ước đình chiến giữa Nga và Liên minh Trung tâm ngày 15 tháng 12 năm 1917. Nguồn: Văn khố Liên bang Đức.

[1] Xem thêm Michael Kort, The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath, London: Routledge, 2014, p. 122.


By 1917, Germany and Imperial Russia were stuck in a stalemate on the Eastern Front of World War I and the Russian economy had nearly collapsed under the strain of the war effort. The large numbers of war casualties and persistent food shortages in the major urban centers brought about civil unrest, known as the February Revolution, that forced Emperor (Tsar/Czar) Nicholas II to abdicate. The Russian Provisional Government that replaced the Tsar in early 1917 continued the war. Foreign Minister Pavel Milyukov sent the Entente Powers a telegram, known as Milyukov note, affirming to them that the Provisional Government would continue the war with the same war aims that the former Russian Empire had. The pro-war Provisional Government was opposed by the self-proclaimed Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, dominated by leftist parties. Its Order No. 1 called for an overriding mandate to soldier committees rather than army officers. The Soviet started to form its own paramilitary power, the Red Guards, in March 1917. [8]

The continuing war led the German Government to agree to a suggestion that they should favor the opposition Communist Party (Bolsheviks), who were proponents of Russia's withdrawal from the war. Therefore, in April 1917, Germany transported Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin and thirty-one supporters in a sealed train from exile in Switzerland to Finland Station, Petrograd. [9] Upon his arrival in Petrograd, Lenin proclaimed his April Theses, which included a call for turning all political power over to workers' and soldiers' soviets (councils) and an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the war. At around the same time, the United States entered the war, potentially shifting the balance of the war against the Central Powers. Throughout 1917, Bolsheviks called for the overthrow of the Provisional Government and an end to the war. Following the disastrous failure of the Kerensky Offensive, discipline in the Russian army deteriorated completely. Soldiers would disobey orders, often under the influence of Bolshevik agitation, and set up soldiers' committees to take control of their units after deposing the officers.

The defeat and ongoing hardships of war led to anti-government riots in Petrograd, the "July Days" of 1917. Several months later, on 7 November (25 October old style), Red Guards seized the Winter Palace and arrested the Provisional Government in what is known as the October Revolution.

A top priority of the newly established Soviet government was to end the war. On 8 November 1917 (26 October 1917 O.S) Vladimir Lenin signed the Decree on Peace, which was approved by the Second Congress of the Soviet of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies. The Decree called "upon all the belligerent nations and their governments to start immediate negotiations for peace" and proposed an immediate withdrawal of Russia from World War I. Leon Trotsky was appointed Commissar of Foreign Affairs in the new Bolshevik government. In preparation for peace talks with the representatives of the German government and the representatives of the other Central Powers, Leon Trotsky appointed his good friend Adolph Joffe to represent the Bolsheviks at the peace conference.

On 15 December 1917, an armistice between Soviet Russia and the Central Powers was concluded. On 22 December, peace negotiations began in Brest-Litovsk.

Arrangements for the conference were the responsibility of General Max Hoffmann, the chief of staff of the Central Powers' forces on the Eastern Front (Oberkommando-Ostfront). The delegations that had negotiated the armistice were made stronger. Prominent additions on the Central Powers' side were the foreign ministers of Germany, Richard von Kühlmann, and Austria-Hungary Count, Ottokar Czernin, both the Ottoman grand vizier Talaat Pasha and Foreign Minister Nassimy Bey. The Bulgarians were headed by Minister of Justice Popoff, who was later joined by Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov. [10] [11]

The Soviet delegation was led by Adolph Joffe, who had already led their armistice negotiators, but his group was made more cohesive by eliminating most of the representatives of social groups, like peasants and sailors, and the addition of tsarist general Aleksandr Samoilo and the noted Marxist historian Mikhail Pokrovsky. It still included Anastasia Bitsenko, a former assassin, representing the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries who were at odds with the Bolsheviks. Again, the negotiators met in the fortress in Brest-Litovsk, and the delegates were housed in temporary wooden structures in its courtyards because the city had been burnt to the ground in 1915 by the retreating Russian army. They were cordially welcomed by the German commander of the Eastern Front, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, who sat with Joffe on the head table at the opening banquet with one hundred guests. [12] As they had during the armistice negotiations, both sides continued to eat dinner and supper together amicably intermingled in the officers' mess.

When the conference convened Kühlmann asked Joffe to present the Russian conditions for peace. He made six points, all variations of the Bolshevik slogan of peace with "no annexations or indemnities". The Central Powers accepted the principles "but only in case all belligerents [including the nations of the Entente] without exception pledge themselves to do the same". [13] They did not intend to annex territories occupied by force. Joffe telegraphed the marvelous news to Petrograd. Thanks to informal chatting in the mess, one of Hoffmann's aides, Colonel Friedrich Brinckmann, realized that the Russians had optimistically misinterpreted the Central Powers' meaning. [14] It fell to Hoffmann to set matters straight at dinner on 27 December: Poland, Lithuania and Courland, already occupied by the Central Powers, were determined to separate from Russia on the principle of self-determination that the Bolsheviks themselves espoused. Joffe "looked as if he had received a blow on the head". [15] Pokrovsky wept as he asked how they could speak of "peace without annexations when Germany was tearing eighteen provinces away from the Russian state". [16] The Germans and the Austro-Hungarians planned to annex slices of Polish territory and to set up a rump Polish state with what remained. The Baltic provinces were to become client states ruled by German princes. Czernin was beside himself that this hitch that was slowing the negotiations self-determination was anathema to his government and they urgently needed grain from the east because Vienna was on the verge of starvation. He proposed to make a separate peace. [17] Kühlmann warned that if they negotiated separately, Germany would immediately withdraw all its divisions from the Austrian front Czernin dropped that threat. The food crisis in Vienna was eventually eased by "forced drafts of grain from Hungary, Poland, and Romania and by a last moment contribution from Germany of 450 truck-loads of flour". [18] At Russian request, they agreed to recess the talks for twelve days.

The Soviets' only hopes were that time would make their allies agree to join the negotiations or that the western European proletariat would revolt and so their best strategy was to prolong the negotiations. As Foreign Minister Leon Trotsky wrote, "To delay negotiations, there must be someone to do the delaying". [19] Therefore Trotsky replaced Joffe as the leader.

On the other side were significant political realignments. On New Year's Day in Berlin, the Kaiser insisted that Hoffmann reveal his views on the future German-Polish border. He advocated taking a small slice of Poland Hindenburg and Ludendorff wanted much more. They were furious with Hoffmann for breaching the chain of command and wanted him to be dismissed and sent to command a division. The Kaiser refused, but Ludendorff no longer spoke with Hoffmann on the telephone since the communication was now through an intermediary. [20]

The German Supreme Commanders were also furious at ruling out of annexations, contending that the peace "must increase Germany's material power". [21] They denigrated Kühlmann and pressed for additional territorial acquisitions. When Hindenburg was asked why they needed the Baltic states he replied, "To secure my left flank for when the next war happens." [22] However, the most profound transformation was that a delegation from the Ukrainian Rada, which had declared independence from Russia, had arrived at Brest-Litovsk. They would make peace if they were given the Polish city of Cholm and its surroundings, and they would provide desperately needed grain. Czernin no longer was desperate for a prompt settlement with the Russians.

When they reconvened Trotsky declined the invitation to meet Prince Leopold and terminated shared meals and other sociable interactions with the representatives of the Central Powers. Day after day, Trotsky "engaged Kühlmann in debate, rising to subtle discussion of first principles that ranged far beyond the concrete territorial issues that divided them". [23] The Central Powers signed a peace treaty with Ukraine during the night of 8–9 February even though the Russians had retaken Kiev. German and Austro-Hungarian troops entered Ukraine to prop up the Rada. Finally, Hoffmann broke the impasse with the Russians by focusing the discussion on maps of the future boundaries. Trotsky summarised their situation "Germany and Austria-Hungary are cutting off from the domains of the former Russian Empire territories more than 150,000 square kilometers in size". [24] He was granted a nine-day recess for the Russians to decide whether to sign.

In Petrograd, Trotsky argued passionately against signing and proposed that instead, "they should announce the termination of the war and demobilization without signing any peace." [25] Lenin was for signing rather than having an even more ruinous treaty forced on them after a few more weeks of military humiliation. The "Left Communists", led by Nikolai Bukharin and Karl Radek, were sure that Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria were all on the verge of revolution. They wanted to continue the war with a newly-raised revolutionary force while awaiting for these upheavals. [26] Consequently, Lenin agreed to Trotsky's formula—a position summed up as "no war – no peace"—which was announced when the negotiators reconvened on 10 February 1918. The Soviets thought that their stalling was succeeding until 16 February when Hoffmann notified them that the war would resume in two days, when fifty-three divisions advanced against the near-empty Soviet trenches. On the night of 18 February, the Central Committee supported Lenin's resolution that they sign the treaty by a margin of seven to five. Hoffmann kept advancing until 23 February when he presented new terms that included the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Ukraine and Finland. The Soviets were given 48 hours to open negotiations with the Germans, and another 72 to conclude them. [27] Lenin told the Central Committee that "you must sign this shameful peace in order to save the world revolution". [28] If they did not agree, he would resign. He was supported by six Central Committee members, opposed by three, with Trotsky and three others abstaining. [29] Trotsky resigned as foreign minister and was replaced by Georgy Chicherin.

When Sokolnikov arrived at Brest-Litovsk, he declared "we are going to sign immediately the treaty presented to us as an ultimatum but at the same time refuse to enter into any discussion of its terms". [30] The treaty was signed at 17:50 on 3 March 1918.

Signing Edit

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March 1918. The signatories were Soviet Russia signed by Grigori Sokolnikov on the one side and the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Ottoman Empire on the other.

The treaty marked Russia's final withdrawal from World War I as an enemy of her co-signatories, on severe terms. In all, the treaty took away territory that included a quarter of the population and the industry of the former Russian Empire [31] and nine tenths of its coal mines. [32]

Territorial cessions in eastern Europe Edit

Russia renounced all territorial claims in Finland (which it had already acknowledged), Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), most of Belarus, and Ukraine.

The territory of the Kingdom of Poland was not mentioned in the treaty because Russian Poland had been a possession of the white movement, not the Bolsheviks. The treaty stated that "Germany and Austria-Hungary intend to determine the future fate of these territories in agreement with their populations." Most of the territories were in effect ceded to Germany, which intended to have them become economic and political dependencies. The many ethnic German residents (Volksdeutsche) would be the ruling elite. New monarchies were created in Lithuania and the United Baltic Duchy (which comprised the modern countries of Latvia and Estonia). The German aristocrats Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach (in Lithuania), and Adolf Friedrich, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (in the United Baltic Duchy), were appointed as rulers.

This plan was detailed by German Colonel General Erich Ludendorff, who wrote, "German prestige demands that we should hold a strong protecting hand, not only over German citizens, but over all Germans." [33]

The occupation of Western Russia ultimately proved a costly blunder for Berlin, as over one million German troops lay sprawled out from Poland nearly to the Caspian Sea, all idle and depriving Germany of badly needed manpower in France. The hopes of utilizing Ukraine's grain and coal proved abortive in addition, the local population became increasingly upset at the occupation. Revolts and guerrilla warfare began breaking out all over the occupied territory, many of them inspired by Bolshevik agents. German troops also had to intervene in the Finnish Civil War, and Ludendorff became increasingly paranoid about his troops being affected by propaganda emanating from Moscow, which was one of the reasons he was reluctant to transfer divisions to the Western Front. The attempt at establishing an independent Ukrainian state under German guidance was unsuccessful as well. However, Ludendorff completely ruled out the idea of marching on Moscow and Petrograd to remove the Bolshevik government from power.

Germany transferred hundreds of thousands of veteran troops to the Western Front for the 1918 Spring Offensive, which shocked the Allied Powers but ultimately failed. Some Germans later blamed the occupation for significantly weakening the Spring Offensive.

Russia lost 34% of its population, 54% of its industrial land, 89% of its coalfields, and 26% of its railways. Russia was also fined 300 million gold marks.

Territorial cessions in the Caucasus Edit

At the insistence of Talaat Pasha, the treaty declared that the territory Russia took from the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), specifically Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi, were to be returned. At the time of the treaty, this territory was under the effective control of Armenian and Georgian forces.

Paragraph 3 of Article IV of the treaty stated that:

The districts of Erdehan, Kars, and Batum will likewise and without delay be cleared of Russian troops. Russia will not interfere in the reorganization of the national and international relations of these districts, but leave it to the population of these districts to carry out this reorganization in agreement with the neighboring states, especially with the Ottoman Empire.

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia rejected the treaty and instead declared independence. They formed the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.

Soviet-German financial agreement of August 1918 Edit

In the wake of Soviet repudiation of Tsarist bonds, the nationalisation of foreign-owned property and confiscation of foreign assets, the Soviets and Germany signed an additional agreement on 27 August 1918. The Soviets agreed to pay six billion marks in compensation for German losses.

ARTICLE 2 Russia shall pay Germany six billion marks as compensation for losses sustained by Germans through Russian measures at the same time corresponding claims on Russia's part are taken into account, and the value of supplies confiscated in Russia by German military forces after the conclusion of peace is taken into account. [34]

The amount was equal to 300 million rubles. [35]

The treaty meant that Russia now was helping Germany win the war by freeing up a million German soldiers for the Western Front [36] and by "relinquishing much of Russia's food supply, industrial base, fuel supplies, and communications with Western Europe". [37] [38] According to historian Spencer Tucker, the Allied Powers felt that "The treaty was the ultimate betrayal of the Allied cause and sowed the seeds for the Cold War. With Brest-Litovsk, the spectre of German domination in Eastern Europe threatened to become reality, and the Allies now began to think seriously about military intervention [in Russia]." [39]

For the Western Allied Powers, the terms that Germany had imposed on Russia were interpreted as a warning of what to expect if the Central Powers won the war. Between Brest-Litovsk and the point when the situation in the Western Front became dire, some officials in the German government and the high command began to favor offering more lenient terms to the Allied Powers in exchange for their recognition of German gains in the east. [ citation needed ]

The treaty marked a significant contraction of the territory controlled by the Bolsheviks or that they could lay claim to as effective successors of the Russian Empire. While the independence of Poland was already accepted by them in principle, and Lenin had signed a document accepting the Finnish independence, the loss of Ukraine and the Baltics created, from the Bolshevik perspective, dangerous bases of anti-Bolshevik military activity in the subsequent Russian Civil War (1918–1922). However, Bolshevik control of Ukraine and Transcaucasia was at the time fragile or non-existent. [40] Many Russian nationalists and some revolutionaries were furious at the Bolsheviks' acceptance of the treaty and joined forces to fight them. Non-Russians who inhabited the lands lost by Bolshevik Russia in the treaty saw the changes as an opportunity to set up independent states.

Immediately after the signing of the treaty, Lenin moved the Soviet government from Petrograd to Moscow. [41] Trotsky blamed the peace treaty on the bourgeoisie, the social revolutionaries, [42] Tsarist diplomats, Tsarist bureaucrats, "the Kerenskys, Tseretelis and Chernovs". [43] the Tsarist regime, and the "petty-bourgeois compromisers". [44]

Relations between Russia and the Central Powers did not go smoothly. The Ottoman Empire broke the treaty by invading the newly created First Republic of Armenia in May 1918. Joffe became the Soviet ambassador to Germany. His priority was distributing propaganda to trigger the German revolution. On 4 November 1918, "the Soviet courier's packing-case had 'come to pieces ' " in a Berlin railway station [45] it was filled with insurrectionary documents. Joffe and his staff were ejected from Germany in a sealed train on 5 November 1918. In the Armistice of 11 November 1918 that ended World War I, one clause abrogated the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Next, the Bolshevik legislature (VTsIK) annulled the treaty on 13 November 1918, and the text of the VTsIK Decision was printed in the newspaper Pravda the next day. In the year after the armistice following a timetable set by the victors, the German Army withdrew its occupying forces from the lands gained in Brest-Litovsk. The fate of the region, and the location of the eventual western border of the Soviet Union, was settled in violent and chaotic struggles over the course of the next three and a half years. The Polish–Soviet War was particularly bitter it ended with the Treaty of Riga in 1921. Although most of Ukraine fell under Bolshevik control and eventually became one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union, Poland and the Baltic states re-emerged as independent nations. In the Treaty of Rapallo, concluded in April 1922, Germany accepted the Treaty's nullification, and the two powers agreed to abandon all war-related territorial and financial claims against each other. This state of affairs lasted until 1939. As part of the secret protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union advanced its borders westward by invading Poland in September 1939, taking a small part of Finland in November 1939, and annexing the Baltic States and Romania (Bessarabia) in 1940. It thus overturned almost all the territorial losses incurred at Brest-Litovsk, except for the main part of Finland, western Congress Poland, and western Armenia.

Emil Orlik, the Viennese Secessionist artist, attended the conference, at the invitation of Richard von Kühlmann. He drew portraits of all the participants, along with a series of smaller caricatures. These were gathered together into a book, Brest-Litovsk, a copy of which was given to each of the participants. [46]

Russian-German peace talks begin at Brest-Litovsk - HISTORY

On December 22, delegations sent by the Central Powers meet face to face with the representatives of the October Revolution. Trotsky later writes, “The circumstances of history willed that the delegates of the most revolutionary regime ever known to humanity should sit at the same diplomatic table with the representatives of the most reactionary caste among all the ruling classes.”

Berlin, December 18: Film production company UFA founded for war propaganda

The Universum Film AG (UFA) is founded with a starting capital of 25 million Reichsmarks. The initiative comes from General Erich Ludendorff. On July 4, in a letter to the royal ministry of war, he called for a “unification of the German film industry” in order to “achieve according to a uniform perspective a systematic and forceful influence on the masses in the interests of the state.” Ludendorff complained that Germany’s enemies, especially France, Great Britain and the United States, are far ahead of Germany in the use of the new medium of film.

Ludendorff wrote that the film industry is an “effective weapon of war.” The various companies should be purchased by the state: “But it must not be made known that the state is the buyer. The entire financial transaction must be made by a competent, influential, experienced, reliable private hand (bank) which is, above all else, loyal to the government.”

Under the leadership of Deutsche Bank, Ludendorff’s plan is put into action. Also contributing to the start-up capital are the electrical companies AEG and Robert Bosch AG, the shipping companies Hapag and Norddeutscher Lloyd, and the record company Carl Lindström AG. As an organizational core, the 450 employees of the Bild and Filmamt (BUFA, the Image and Film Office), founded in January by the supreme command (OHL), are absorbed into the UFA. Major Alexander Grau, Ludendorff’s personal advisor for press and propaganda matters, becomes director.

Propaganda, not art, is the aim of the OHL. In their films, directors and performers stitch together the “reality” as dictated by the military and allowed by the censors. The resulting concoctions are shown as newsreels in cinemas, as supporting films or used for training purposes by the army. Many of these films can be seen online today on the website

Bei unseren Helden an der Somme (With Our Heroes on the Somme), for instance, is a three-act propaganda film which shows in re-enacted scenes the “heroic struggle” of the soldiers at the front and is intended to strengthen the “German fighting community.” It is an answer to the feature-length British propaganda film The Battle of the Somme, which fills the cinemas in France and Britain.

Numerous films are produced in which war propaganda is deliberately concealed in romantic stories about love, heroes and villains. No less than 900 cinemas for soldiers are quickly established at the front to maintain the mood of the soldiers during the short breaks in fighting. They are shown the war not as they experience it, but as a meaningful, legitimate fight for the liberation of “people oppressed by the enemy.” Only years later in the Weimar Republic does the UFA raise itself somewhat above the level of shallow propaganda. However, it never breaks completely with its origins as the product of German militarism and imperialist war.

New York City, December 19: Public school teachers fired for “subversive” views

Three De Witt Clinton High School teachers are dismissed after the New York City Board of Education rules that they are guilty of “holding views subversive of discipline and of undermining good citizenship.” The teachers all appear to have German surnames: Samuel Schmalhausen, Thomas Mufson, and A. Henry Schneer.

An attorney representing the teachers aptly calls their firing “a lynching on unsupported charges.” It is alleged that one of Schmalhausen’s students has written a paper critical of President Woodrow Wilson, and, according to the Board of Education, the teacher’s marginal comments did not evince enough criticism or “outraged honor.” Schneer is condemned for lines of poetry he has written. Mufson is fired, in part, because he refused to speak at his “inquisition,” as another attorney calls the hearing.

On December 24, the Board of Education recommends that a six-month unpaid suspension be imposed on Queens elementary school teacher Fannie Ross for “conduct unbecoming a teacher” and “tactless remarks.” In volunteer work for the state census, Ross allegedly has expressed opposition to the military draft.

The Board of Education is slated to take up, on December 26, a proposal to eliminate all foreign language instruction from the elementary schools.

Australia, December 20: Conscription plebiscite defeated amid growing anti-war sentiment

A second attempt by the Nationalist government of Prime Minister Billy Hughes to introduce conscription measures is defeated in a plebiscite marked by widespread expressions of anti-war sentiment among workers and young people.

The government has been seeking to overcome a dramatic fall in voluntary military recruitment by introducing some form of compulsory military service for over 12 months. Massive Australian casualties in the 1916 and 1917 battles of the Western Front, coupled with a growing domestic social crisis, has resulted in mounting political disaffection. Voluntary enlistment plummets from a high of 166,000 in 1915 to just 45,000 in 1917.

The first attempt to push through conscription was defeated in a November 1916 plebiscite, triggering splits within the Labor Party and the establishment of a breakaway Nationalist government led by Hughes.

The 1917 plebiscite question is more limited than in the previous survey. Rather than mandating full conscription, it proposes a draft of 18 to 44 year olds, through a ballot, in months when voluntary enlistment is less than 7,000. The proposal is nevertheless voted down by over 53 percent of the electorate.

The plebiscite follows significant social upheavals, including a six-week strike involving 100,000 workers in New South Wales and Victoria in August and September against government attempts to boost war-time productivity through attacks on workers’ conditions. The suppression of the Great Strike is followed by food riots involving thousands of working class women in Melbourne.

During the conscription plebiscite, socialists and others call anti-war meetings and demonstrations. While giving a speech in Warwick, Queensland, calling for a yes vote, Hughes is pelted with an egg by a young worker, in an incident that comes to symbolize broader opposition.

As they have throughout the war, the government carries out repressive measures, including launching an Australian army raid on the Queensland government print offices over allegations of “subversive” anti-conscription material.

Russia, December 20 (December 7, O.S.): Soviet government establishes VCheKa

Following a nationwide civil servants’ strike, which forms part of the ongoing sabotage of the new state power by the remnants of the old regime, the Sovnarkom appoints a special commission to review and establish the tasks of a new body to fight counter-revolutionary elements and attempts at sabotage. Out of the discussions within that body, which are reported to the Sovnarkom, emerges the “All-Russian Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage,” abbreviated as VCheKa. Feliks Dzerzhinsky, a Polish-Russian revolutionary, is appointed as its head.

The new revolutionary government is under tremendous strain and pressure. In addition to the marauding White armies, which are supplied and funded by imperialism, the Soviet government is compelled to defend itself against industrial sabotage, theft, corruption, profiteering, speculation, assassination attempts against its leaders, and all manner of counterrevolutionary intrigues and conspiracies. These conditions leave the Soviet government with no choice but to take measures to defend itself from internal threats.

In addition, the establishment of the VCheKa is bound up with the dissolution of the Military Revolutionary Committee, which had played a key role in organizing the October uprising and had fulfilled various functions in its immediate aftermath. To ensure that revolutionary policies continue to be carried out, a body that fulfills some of the former functions of the Military Revolutionary Committee is needed. In this way, the VCheKa serves as a necessary counterweight to the significant influence of moderate Left SRs over the Commissariat of the Interior and the Commissariat of Justice, which are obstructing the efforts of revolutionary tribunals.

The creation of the VCheKa coincides with the Sovnarkom’s decision to accept, by and large, the proposal by the Left SRs for a coalition government after weeks of tense negotiations. In particular, Lenin is concerned about Left SR Isaac Steinberg serving as Commissar of Justice—a concern that turns out to be fully justified, as Steinberg will, within the first week in office, declare political amnesty for prisoners in the Smolny and try to release prisoners of the revolutionary tribunals without consulting the Sovnarkom. The VCheKa, in contrast to the Military Revolutionary Committee and the Sovnarkom, is composed exclusively of reliable Bolsheviks. Over the weeks that follow, the Bolshevik members of the Sovnarkom and the Left SRs, especially Steinberg, vie over control of the VCheKa, a struggle in which the Bolsheviks ultimately prevail.

The VCheKa, tasked with “extinguishing the resistance of exploiters,” consists at first of around 40 officials, who are given command of the Sveaborg regiment and a group of Red Guards. As the civil war and class struggle intensifies in the following year, hundreds of regional committees will be established at various administrative levels throughout the country.

Petrograd, December 21 (12 O.S.): Trotsky warns US ambassador against intervention

Trotsky issues a warning to US Ambassador to Russia David R. Francis against American intervention on behalf of the White forces mobilizing behind Kaledin. The Soviet government has discovered that H.W. Anderson, head of the US Red Cross mission to Romania, has organized the delivery of 72 automobiles to Kaledin’s counterrevolutionary forces in Rostov, using a letter from Francis. The documents are discovered with an individual named “Colonel Kolpashnikoff” in Petrograd, who is arrested and imprisoned at Peter and Paul Fortress. The US denies the charges—claiming that the vehicles are destined for the Middle East and are being sent there via Rostov on the Black Sea.

Trotsky’s speech is cheered “wildly” at a gathering of “revolutionary organizations,” according to a report in the New York Times. Trotsky says:

Last night we found that American agents in Russia were participating in the Kaledine movement. We arrested Colonel Kolpashnikoff, attached to the American mission to Rumania, who was trying to get a train load of automobiles, clothing and supplies to Rostov. Among the documents was a letter from David R. Francis requesting that the train be given free passage, as it was bound for the mission at Jassy. One letter from Colonel Anderson, head of the American Red Cross Mission to Rumania, to Kolpashnikoff said that if money were needed Ambassador Francis was ready to advance 100.000 rubles on the account of the Red Cross.

We think the American ambassador must break his silence now. Since the revolution he has been the most silent diplomat In Europe. Evidently he belongs to the Bismarck school, in which it was taught that silence is golden. He must explain his connection to this conspiracy.

We tell all the Ambassadors, ‘If you think you can, with the help of American gold, under the guise of the holy mission of the Red Cross, support and bribe Kaledine, you are mistaken. If you think that, you are no longer representatives of America but private adventurers and the heavy hand of the revolution will reach out after you.’

I desire to let the representatives of all the foreign powers know that we are not so blind as to let our fleet be trampled on… [T]he revolutionary government is not lacking in dignity and pride, and we are not acting under the influence of the Anglo-American bourgeoisie, but have pure principle for which we will conquer or perish.

December 22 (December 9, O.S.): Bolsheviks and Left SRs agree on coalition government

After weeks of heated negotiations, the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, which had broken from the petty-bourgeois democratic Socialist Revolutionary Party only a few weeks ago, form a coalition government. Outside the Bolsheviks and in opposition to the SRs and Mensheviks, the Left SRs have been the only political tendency to support the seizure of power by the Congress of Soviets in November. As a political tendency, the Left SRs express a dramatic shift to the left among significant sections of the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie. They were thus seen by the Bolsheviks as an important, if not entirely reliable, ally.

The Left SRs initially opposed entering a government with the Bolsheviks, insisting that an all-socialist coalition government, which would have included the Mensheviks and SRs, had to be formed.

In the negotiations with the Bolsheviks, the Left SRs insist on gaining control over key Commissariats. Eventually, the Bolsheviks adopt their demands, handing them several important Commissariats, including that of Agriculture, of Justice, of the Interior and of Telegraphic Agencies. However, the government would be conflict-ridden from the start. In particular, the Commissariat of Justice under the Left SR lawyer Isaac Steinberg would go on to systematically undermine the struggle against the counter-revolution by the Bolsheviks, especially when these efforts targeted members of petty-bourgeois socialist parties such as the Mensheviks and the SRs.

Even more bitter conflicts will surround the peace negotiations with Germany. In March 1918, the Left SRs will resign from the coalition in protest over the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. In July, the Left SRs will stage an unsuccessful revolt in an effort to seize power from the Bolsheviks.

Brest-Litovsk, December 22: Peace negotiations begin between the Soviet government and the Central Powers

Peace negotiations without precedent in history begin near the city of Brest-Litovsk, not far from the front lines where a brief truce has gone into effect. On December 22, delegations sent by the Central Powers meet face to face with the representatives of the October Revolution.

On one side, there are arrayed the blood-drenched representatives of imperialism. Germany’s foreign minister, Richard von Kuhlmann, attends the conference, together with Count Ottokar Czernin for Austria-Hungary and Talat Pasha and Foreign Minister Nassimy Bey for the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria sends its Minister of Justice, later followed by Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov.

On the other side is a delegation from the Soviet government led by Bolshevik Adolph Joffe. The first delegation includes a soldier, a peasant, and a worker. The Soviet delegation also includes the world’s first woman diplomat, Anastasia Bitsenko.

In 1905, Bitsenko attempted the assassination of the tsarist general Victor Sakharov, known as the “butcher of Saratov.” Freed from prison in 1917, she participates in the negotiations at Brest-Litovsk as a representative of the Left SR party. She will subsequently join the Communist Party.

Trotsky later writes, “The circumstances of history willed that the delegates of the most revolutionary régime ever known to humanity should sit at the same diplomatic table with the representatives of the most reactionary caste among all the ruling classes.”

A massive demonstration will be held in Petrograd on December 28 in support of a democratic peace. The position of the Soviet representatives is that the war should be ended without any annexations or indemnities, and that no country or nation should be forcibly annexed or subordinated to another. This program enjoys significant support not only throughout Russia but around the world.

The representatives of the Central Powers have entirely opposite goals. The German High Command insists that any treaty signed at Brest-Litovsk “must increase Germany’s material power.” Further, under cover of guaranteeing “national self-determination,” the Central Powers are conspiring to establish reactionary national monarchies in territories seized from Russia.

The truce coincides with a wave of fraternization and desertions all along the front. The Bolshevik leadership considers their best strategy to be to delay the negotiations as long as possible. “To delay negotiations, there must be someone to do the delaying,” Lenin later remarks, and Trotsky as the new Commissar for Foreign Affairs is subsequently dispatched to join the negotiations with this mission.

Berlin, December 22: Industrialist August Thyssen submits his wish list for Brest-Litovsk peace talks to the Chancellor

August Thyssen, chairman of the largest German coal, iron, steel and arms concern apart from Krupp, submits his list of demands for the Brest-Litovsk peace talks with the new Soviet government to the Chancellor. At the top of the list is unrestricted access to the phosphorus and iron-rich ores, abandoned mines and manganese in Ukraine and the Caucasus, which are highly valuable and extremely important for steel production.

Just how critical this demand is for the survival of German imperialism is made clear by the fact that Germany controls virtually no ore mines of its own. Prior to 1914, Russia held a 50 percent share of global manganese production and accounted for three quarters of Germany’s manganese ore requirements. In the meantime, the manganese mines in India and Brazil have been expanded, but they are under the control of Germany’s opponents in the war: the US and Britain.

Along with Thyssen’s list, a veritable flood of petitions, memorandums and lists of demands arrive at the Chancellery and the special office for peace talks led by Karl Helfferich from the full spectrum of light and heavy industry, including the German Trade Conference and other business associations over several days. According to these demands, Germany will not only have tariff-free access to all goods exported and imported by Russia, but also be given preferential treatment. There is even a plan to completely exclude Britain and the US from trade with Russia.

To expand the predominance of German big business throughout Eastern and Central Europe, all of the Baltic states, Poland and eventually the entire Ukraine are to be declared independent under the pretext of “the right of a nation to self-determination.” This will mean in practice that they are dominated by Germany. And as the German Trade Conference declares in its memorandum, concerning Russia itself, it “will be made an object of exploitation through the imposition of relevant economic agreements.”

These are precisely the same goals of conquest laid out by German imperialism in the September Program of 1914. Through the exploitation of the willingness of the Bolshevik government to make peace and the desire for peace among the masses in Russia and Germany, Berlin now seeks to impose its imperialist designs by means of a peace treaty.

Paris, December 22: French socialists denounce Bolsheviks’ peace proposal

In a resolution signed by 28 members of the Chamber of Deputies, including Albert Thomas and Jules Guesde, the French Socialist Party denounces the Bolsheviks’ call for an immediate end to the war and the initiation of peace talks.

“It is not necessary to remind you with what words of enthusiasm and hope French socialists acclaimed the dawn of the Russian revolution,” proclaims the text, published in full in today’s edition of the New York Times. “From that first hour also, before the parliament and in all our meetings, we have not ceased to give our endorsements to the general terms of a just, immediate and durable peace adopted by the new Russia.”

The Socialist deputies express their “deep pain” at witnessing the beginning of peace talks between the Soviet government and Germany, “which may lead to a separate peace. Such a consummation would not only permit the central empire to prepare for, or actually achieve military victory and finally to dictate their conditions in the name of force, it would even serve—it already serves—the machinations of all the enemies of democracy and socialism.”

The Socialist Party’s chief concern, as it has been from the war’s outbreak, is the defense of French imperialist interests. Through their steadfast support for the war and suppression of the class struggle, the socialists have enabled the bourgeoisie to continue the bloody conflict. Socialist Party politicians have entered French war-time governments. The most despicable role of all has been played by Thomas, who was given the task of organizing French factories for munitions production in October 1914, and served as Minister of Armament from December 1916 to September 1917.

The cynical invocation of “democracy” and “socialism” reflects their fear that revolution could rapidly spread to France. French workers and soldiers have been closely following the course of the Russian Revolution since the toppling of the tsar in February. In May, widespread mutinies gripped the army, expressing deepening anti-war sentiment among the soldiers. Powerful strikes have continued throughout the year, despite the best efforts of the Socialist Party and trade unions to prevent them in the name of national defense.

Narva, December 23 (10 O.S.): Narva is transferred to the Governorate of Estonia after popular referendum

On December 10, a referendum is held on whether the region of Narva, a historic city mostly populated by Estonians, should become part of the Governorate of Estonia. The referendum passes with 80 percent support. The plebiscite is held at the request of the Narva Soviet, with the support of its Executive Committee, which requested permission from the Sovnarkom to incorporate Narva into the Governorate of Estonia. The request is granted in accord with the Bolshevik policy of destroying all the vestiges of former tsarist oppression of national minorities.

The following week, the Estonian and Tallinn Committees of the Estonian Bolshevik Party will hold a congress to discuss whether Estonia should form an autonomous soviet republic. The delegates ultimately decide that this is not necessary. Thanks to Soviet power, the delegates believe that the region enjoys sufficient autonomy and freedom. At the same time, the delegates do not wish to do anything to separate themselves from the revolutionary working class of Petrograd and the rest of Russia. Meanwhile, efforts by the SRs, including poet Gustav Suits, to build momentum for an independent Estonian republic fail to achieve substantial popular support.

Ever since the Soviet government concluded a truce with the Central Powers, troops have been deserting from the front en masse. Estonia is now left with a fraction of its former soldiers. In January, faced with the threat of a new German invasion, the Sovnarkom will announce the formation of new socialist armed forces: The Red Army and the Red Navy. However, the invading German forces will reach Estonia before the new socialist regiments can achieve readiness.

London, December 24: Lloyd George presents British war aims

The New York Times publishes the full text of a speech given by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George on London’s war aims.

The address amounts to a direct reply to the Bolsheviks’ call for an immediate peace, which is finding broad support among workers around the world. Lloyd George seeks to justify the ongoing slaughter with references to “justice” and “democracy.”

“We have arrived at the most critical hour in this terrible conflict,” the prime minister states in an address to the House of Commons, “and before any government takes the fateful decision as to the conditions under which it ought either to terminate or continue the struggle, it ought to be satisfied that the conscience of the nation is behind these conditions, for nothing else can sustain the effort which is necessary to achieve a righteous end to this war.”

Acknowledging the crucial role the Labour Party and trade unions are playing in suppressing the working class as the war proceeds, he adds, “Last week I had the privilege, not merely of perusing the Declared War Aims of the Labour Party, but also of discussing in detail with the labour leaders the meaning and intention of that declaration.”

The most hypocritical portion of Lloyd George’s speech relates to the outbreak of war and London’s views on its conclusion. He asserts that Britain entered the conflict to protect Belgium after it was invaded. He then demands that German colonies be granted “self-determination” and free access established from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Poland must be independent, he declares, and the nationalities within the Austro-Hungarian empire must be allowed self-government. Of course, there is no talk of “self-determination” for India or British possessions in Africa and Southeast Asia, all of which are part of the world’s largest empire.

“If, then, we are asked what we are fighting for,” the Lloyd George concludes, “we reply as, we have often replied: we are fighting for a just and lasting peace, and we believe that before permanent peace can be hoped for three conditions must be fulfilled firstly, the sanctity of treaties must be established secondly, a territorial settlement must be secured, based on the right of self-determination or the consent of the governed, and, lastly, we must seek by the creation of some international organization to limit the burden of armaments and diminish the probability of war.”

Petrograd, December 24 (December 11, O.S.): Decree establishes workers’ insurance in case of loss of work

A Soviet decree establishes a system of fully funded unemployment benefits. An unemployed worker, provided his or her previous earnings are not in excess of three times the local average, is entitled to wages equal to the local average, but not to exceed previous earnings.

Workers who have left their previous employment without valid reason, or who have failed to take up a new job without a valid reason, are excluded from these benefits. Unemployed workers receiving these benefits are registered on labor exchanges, and the Soviet authorities take an active role in helping unemployed workers to find new employment. Private employment agencies are abolished.


Signing of the treaty, December 15, 1917

Borders drawn up in Brest-Litovsk

The treaty, signed between Bolshevik Russia on the one side and the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Ottoman Empire (collectively the Central Powers) on the other, marked Russia's final withdrawal from World War I as an enemy of her co-signatories, fulfilling, on unexpectedly humiliating terms, a major goal of the Bolshevik revolution of November 7, 1917.

In all, the treaty took away territory that included a quarter of the Russian Empire's population, a quarter of its industry and nine-tenths of its coal mines.

Transfer of territory to Germany

Russia's new Bolshevik (Communist) government renounced all claims on Finland (which it had already acknowledged), the future Baltic states (Lithuania, Courland and Semigallia), Belarus, and Ukraine, and the territory of Congress Poland (which was not mentioned in the treaty). Most of these territories were in effect ceded to the German Empire, which intended to have them become economically dependent on and politically closely tied to the empire under various German kings and dukes.

Regarding the ceded territories, the treaty stated that "Germany and Austria-Hungary intend to determine the future fate of these territories in agreement with their populations". In fact Germany appointed aristocrats to the new thrones, and Lithuania.

Occupation of the ceded territories by Germany required large amounts of manpower and trucks, and yielded little in the way of foodstuffs or other war material. The Germans transferred hundreds of thousands of veteran troops to the Western Front as rapidly as they could, where they began a series of spring offensives that badly shocked the Allies.

Transfer of territory to the Ottoman Empire

At the insistence of the Ottoman leader Talat Pasha, all lands Russia had captured from the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), specifically Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi, were to be returned. This territory was under the effective control of the newly established Democratic Republic of Georgia and the Democratic Republic of Armenia until 1940. After the Russians conquered these republics, the territory under Armenian control, by and large, went to Turkey whereas the territory under Georgian control mostly reverted to Russia after Georgia's fall.

Paragraph 3 of Article IV of the treaty states that:

"The districts of Erdehan, Kars, and Batum will likewise and without delay be cleared of the Russian troops. Russia will not interfere in the reorganization of the national and international relations of these districts, but leave it to the population of these districts, to carry out this reorganization in agreement with the neighboring States, especially with Turkey."

Protection of Armenians' right to self-determination

Russia supported the right of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Russia to determine their destiny, by ensuring the conditions necessary for a referendum:

  1. The retreat (within 6–8 weeks) of Russian armed forces to the borders of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, and the formation in the ADR of a military power responsible for security (including disarming and dispersing the Armenian militia). The Russians were to be responsible for order (protecting life and property) in Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi until the arrival of the Ottomans.
  2. The return by the Ottoman Empire of Armenian emigrants who had taken refuge in nearby areas (Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi).
  3. The return of Ottoman Armenians who had been exiled by the Ottoman Government since the beginning of the war.
  4. The establishment of a temporary National Armenian Government formed by deputies elected in accordance with democratic principles (the Armenian National Council became the Armenian Congress of Eastern Armenians, which established the Democratic Republic of Armenia). The conditions of this government would be put forward during peace talks with the Ottoman Empire.
  5. The Commissar for Caucasian Affairs would assist the Armenians in the realization of these goals.
  6. A joint commission would be formed so Armenian lands could be evacuated of foreign troops.

Russian-German financial agreement of August 1918

In the wake of Russian repudiation of Tsarist bonds, nationalization of foreign-owned property and confiscation of foreign assets, the Russians and Germans signed an additional agreement on August 27, 1918. Russia agreed to pay six billion marks in compensation to German interests for their losses.

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk brought about the end of the war between Russia and Germany in 1918. The German were reminded of the harshness of Brest-Litovsk when they complained about the severity of the Treaty of Versailles signed in June 1919.

Lenin had ordered that the Bolshevik representatives should get a quick treaty from the Germans to bring about an end to the war so that the Bolsheviks could concentrate on the work they needed to do in Russia itself.

The start of the discussions was an organisational disaster. Representatives from the Allies, who were meant to have attended, failed to show. Russia, therefore, had to negotiate a peace settlement by herself.

After just one week of talks, the Russian delegation left so that it could report to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. It was at this meeting that it became clear that there were three views about the peace talks held within the Bolshevik hierarchy.

Trotsky believed that Germany would offer wholly unacceptable terms to the Russians and that this would spur the German workers to rise up in revolt against their leaders and in support of their Russian compatriots. This rebellion would, in turn, spark off a world-wide workers rebellion.

Kamenev believed that the German workers would rise up even if the terms of the treaty were reasonable.

Lenin believed that a world revolution would occur over many years. What Russia needed now was an end to the war with Germany and he wanted peace, effectively at any cost.

On January 21st, 1918, the Bolshevik hierarchy met. Only 15 out of 63 supported Lenin’s viewpoint. 16 voted for Trotsky who wanted to wage a “holy war” against all militarist nations, including Germany. 32 voted in favour of a revolutionary war against the Germans, which would, they believed, precipitate a workers rebellion in Germany.

The whole issue went to the party’s Central Committee. This body rejected the idea of a revolutionary war and supported an idea of Trotsky. He decided that he would offer the Germans Russia’s demobilisation and an end to the war but would not conclude a peace treaty with them. By doing this he hoped to buy time. In fact he got the opposite.

On February 18th, 1918, the Germans, tired of the Bolshevik’s procrastination, re-started their advance into Russia and advanced 100 miles in just four days. This re-confirmed in Lenin’s mind that a treaty was needed very quickly. Trotsky, having dropped the idea of the workers of Germany coming to the aid of Russia, followed Lenin. Lenin had managed to sell his idea to a small majority in the party’s hierarchy, though there were many who were still opposed to peace at any price with the Germans. However, it was Lenin who read the situation better than anyone else.

The Bolsheviks had relied on the support of the lowly Russian soldier in 1917. Lenin had promised an end to the war. Now the party had to deliver or face the consequences. On March 3rd, 1918, the treaty was signed.

Under the treaty, Russia lost Riga, Lithuania, Livonia, Estonia and some of White Russia. These areas had great economic importance as they were some of the most fertile farming areas in Western Russia. Germany was allowed by the terms of the treaty to exploit these lands to support her military effort in the west.

Lenin argued that though the treaty was harsh, it freed the Bolsheviks up to deal with problems in Russia itself. Only those on the extreme left of the party disagreed and were still of the belief that the workers of Germany would rise up in support of them. By March 1918, this clearly was not going to be the case. Lenin’s pragmatic and realistic approach enabled him to strengthen his hold on the party even more and side-line the extreme left still further.


German–Soviet agreements in 1939 and past hostilities Edit

During the summer of 1939, after it had conducted negotiations with a British-French alliance and with Germany regarding potential military and political agreements, [8] the Soviet Union chose Germany, which resulted in an August 19 German–Soviet Commercial Agreement providing for the trade of certain German military and civilian equipment in exchange for Soviet raw materials. [9] [10] Four days later, the countries signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which contained secret protocols dividing the states of Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet "spheres of influence". [11]

Just before the signing of the agreements, the parties had addressed past hostilities, with German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop telling Soviet diplomats that "there was no problem between the Baltic and the Black Sea that could not be solved between the two of us". [12] [13] [14] Diplomats from both countries addressed the common ground of anti-capitalism and anti-democracy by stating "there is one common element in the ideology of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union: opposition to the capitalist democracies", [13] [15] "neither we nor Italy have anything in common with the capitalist west" and "it seems to us rather unnatural that a socialist state would stand on the side of the western democracies". [16]

A German official explained that their prior hostility toward Soviet Bolshevism had subsided with the changes in the Comintern and the Soviets' renunciation of a world revolution. [16] A Soviet official characterised the conversation as "extremely important". [16] At the signing, Ribbentrop and Stalin enjoyed warm conversations, exchanged toasts and further discussed their prior hostilities between the countries in the 1930s. [17]

Ribbentrop stated that Britain had always attempted to disrupt Soviet-German relations, was "weak" and wanted "to let others fight for her presumptuous claim to world dominion". [17] Stalin concurred by adding, "If England dominated the world, that was due to the stupidity of the other countries that always let themselves be bluffed". [17] Ribbentrop stated that the Anti-Comintern Pact was directed not against the Soviet Union but Western democracies, and "frightened principally the City of London [the British financiers] and the English shopkeepers".

He added that Berliners had joked that Stalin would yet join the Anti-Comintern Pact himself. [18] Stalin proposed a toast to Hitler, and Stalin and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov repeatedly toasted the German nation, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and Soviet-German relations. [18] Ribbentrop countered with a toast to Stalin and a toast to both countries' relations. [18]

As Ribbentrop left, Stalin took him aside and stated that the Soviet government took the new pact very seriously, and he would "guarantee his word of honor that the Soviet Union would not betray its partner". [18]

Relations during partition of Poland Edit

One week after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact had been signed, the partition of Poland started by the German invasion of western Poland. [19]

Thee Soviet Comintern suspended all anti-Nazi and antifascist propaganda by explaining the war in Europe to be a matter of capitalist states attacking each other for imperialist purposes. [20]

When anti-German demonstrations erupted in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the Comintern ordered the Czech Communist Party to employ all of its strength to paralyze "chauvinist elements". [20] Moscow soon forced the French Communist Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain to adopt an antiwar position.

Two weeks after the German invasion, the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland in co-ordination with German forces. [21] On September 21, the Soviets and the Germans signed a formal agreement coordinating military movements in Poland, including the "purging" of saboteurs. [22] A joint German-Soviet parade was held in L'vov and Brest. [23]

Stalin had decided in August that he was going to liquidate the Polish state, and a German-Soviet meeting in September addressed the future structure of the "Polish region". [23] The Soviets stated in September that they must enter Poland to "protect" their ethnic Ukrainian and Belarusian brethren therein from Germany, but Molotov later admitted to German officials that the excuse had been necessary because the Soviets could find no other pretext for their invasion. [24]

Three Baltic States described by the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) were given no choice but to sign a "Pact of Defence and Mutual Assistance", which permitted the Soviet Union to station troops in them. [25]

Expansion of raw materials and military trading Edit

Hitler's pressing for a German invasion of Poland in 1939 placed tremendous strain on the German war machine, which had been gradually gearing up for total war only in 1942 or 1943. [26] Germany's lack of raw materials meant that it had to seek increased supply from outside. [26] However, a British blockade occurred, which left it increasingly desperate for materials. [26] The only country that could still supply Germany with the oil, rubber, manganese, grains, fats and platinum that it needed was the Soviet Union. [26] Meanwhile, the Soviets' demands for manufactured goods, such as German machines, were increasing, and their ability to import those goods from outside decreased when many countries ceased trading relations after the Soviets had joined the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. [27]

Accordingly, Germany and the Soviet Union entered an intricate trade pact on February 11, 1940, which was over four times larger than the one that both countries had signed in August 1939. [9] The new trade pact helped Germany to circumvent the British blockade. [9]

In the first year, Germany received hundreds of thousands of tons of cereals, oil and other vital raw materials, which were transported through Soviet and occupied Polish territories. [9] In addition, the Soviets provided Germany with access to the Northern Sea Route for both cargo ships and raiders (though only the raider Komet had used the route before June 1941). This forced Britain to protect sea lanes in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. [28]

Finland, Baltics and Romania Edit

In November 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, [29] resulting in stiff losses and the entry of an interim peace treaty in March 1940 that granted to the Soviet Union the eastern region of Karelia (10% of the Finnish territory). [29] In mid-June 1940, while international attention was focused on the German invasion of France, Soviet NKVD troops raided border posts in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia [25] [30] and replaced each government with pro-Soviet politicians, who then requested entry for their respective countries to the Soviet Union. [25] [31] In June, the Soviets issued an ultimatum demanding Bessarabia, Bukovina, and the Hertza region from Romania. [32] After the Soviets had agreed with Germany that they would limit their claims in Bukovina to northern Bukovina, Germany urged Romania to accept the ultimatum. [33] Two days after the Soviet entry, Romania acceded to the Soviet demands, and the Soviet Union occupied the territory. [32]

The Soviet invasion of Finland, which had been covertly ceded to it under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocols, created domestic problems for Hitler. [34] The German populace did not know about the secret protocols that divided up spheres of influence. [33] Many Germans opposed the Soviet invasion, and Finland had close ties with Germany. [34] [35] Hitler had to deflect opposition to Germany's pro-Soviet policies from even Nazi Party stalwarts. [34] Supporting the Soviet invasion became one of the most ideologically and politically-difficult aspects of the pact for the German government to justify. [36]

The secret protocols caused Hitler to be in the humiliating position being forced to evacuate ethnic German families, the Volksdeutsche, in a hurry although they had lived in Finland and the Baltic countries for centuries, all the while to condone the invasions officially. [35] [37] When the three Baltic countries, which did not know about the secret protocols, sent letters protesting the Soviet invasions to Berlin, Ribbentrop returned them. [38]

In August, Molotov told the Germans that with the government change, they could close down their Baltic consulates by September 1. [38] The Soviet annexations in Romania caused further strain. [38] Germany had given Bessarabia to the Soviets in the secret protocols but not Bukovina. [38] Germany wanted the 100,000 tons of grain for which they had previously contracted with Bessarabia, guarantees of German property safety, guarantees for 125,000 Volksdeutsche in Bessarabia and Bukovina and the reassurance that the train tracks carrying Romanian oil would be left alone. [37]

Increasing German raw material dependence Edit

In the summer of 1940, Germany grew even more dependent on Soviet imports. [39] German occupations of France, the Netherlands and Belgium created additional demand and decreased avenues for indirect supply. [39] Compared to 1938 figures, the expanded Greater Germany and its sphere of influence lacked, among other items, 500,000 tons of manganese, 3.3 million tons of raw phosphate, 200,000 tons of rubber and 9.5 million tons of oil. [39] Meanwhile, the Baltic invasions resulted in the Soviet occupation of states on which Germany had relied for 96.7 million Reichsmarks of imports in 1938 [40] at blackmailed favorable economic terms but from which they now had to pay Soviet prices. [37] Hitler increasingly believed the eventual invasion of the Soviet Union to appear the only way for Germany to solve that resource crisis. [39] No concrete plans had yet been made, but Hitler told one of his generals in June that the victories in Western Europe "finally freed his hands for his important real task: the showdown with Bolshevism". [41] However, German generals told Hitler that occupying Western Russia would create "more of a drain than a relief for Germany's economic situation". [42]

Suspension of Soviet raw materials to Germany Edit

In August 1940, the Soviet Union briefly suspended its deliveries under their commercial agreement after relations were strained following a disagreement over policy in Romania, the Soviet-Finnish War, Germany's falling behind in its deliveries of goods under the pact, and Stalin's concern that Hitler's war with the West might end quickly after France had signed an armistice. The suspension created significant resource problems for Germany. [43]

By late August, relations improved again as the countries had redrawn the Hungarian and Romanian borders and settled some Bulgarian claims, and Stalin was again convinced that Germany would face a long war in the west with Britain's improvement in its air battle against Germany and the execution of an agreement between the United States and Britain regarding destroyers and bases. [44]

However, in late August, Germany arranged its own annexation of part of Romania, which targeted oil fields. The move raised tensions with the Soviets, who responded that Germany was supposed to have consulted with the Soviet Union under Article III of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. [45]

Before entering a deal with Italy and Japan, German officials had discussed the feasibility of including the Soviet Union as a fourth member to direct Soviet focus southward, to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, both of which were in the British sphere of influence. German officials indicated that they would be willing to give the Soviet Union freedom to operate east of the Dardanelles. [46]

Just before the signing of the agreement, Germany informed Molotov that it would enter the pact and that while it was not explicitly stated, the pact was effectively directed against "American warmongers" by demonstrating to them the folly of war with three great powers aligned against them. [47] Moscow had actually been aware of the proposed pact terms from Soviet intelligence sources in Japan. [46]

On September 27, 1940, Germany, Italy and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, which divided the world into spheres of influence and was implicitly directed at the United States. The pact contained an explicit provision (Article 5) that stated it did not concern relations with the Soviet Union. [46] Molotov, worried that the pact contained a secret codicil pertaining specifically to the Soviet Union, attempted to extract information from the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Togo. [48]

On a home visit, the German military attaché to the Soviet Union, Ernst Köstring, stated on October 31 that "the impression is steadily growing in me that the Russians want to avoid any conflict with us". [48]

Meanwhile, from August to October, Germany conducted a massive air campaign against Britain to prepare for Operation Sea Lion, the plan to invade Britain. [49]

Throughout the summer, Hitler vacillated between plans to attack the Soviet Union or to offer it part of a deal like the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, except one that would look south, where the Soviets would receive ports only on the west side of the Black Sea, or it might be given the Bosporus if Germany maintained a friendly third-party state with access, such as Bulgaria. [50]

German ambassador to Moscow, Friedrich von der Schulenburg, had been contemplating a potential four-power pact since the collapse of France in June. [51] After he had covertly learned about Hitler's potential Soviet invasion plans, which he opposed, von der Schulenburg and others began attempting to sway Hitler and his contingent at least extend to their agreement as long as Russia's claims remained in the areas of Turkey and Iran. [52] He even concealed in his reports to Berlin the Soviets' doubts on Germany's good faith after the annexations in Romania. [52]

Köstring, von der Schulenburg and others drafted a memorandum on the dangers of a German invasion of the Soviet Union that included that the Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States would end up being only a further economic burden for Germany. [50] German Foreign Office State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker argued that the Soviets in their current bureaucratic form were harmless, the occupation would not produce a gain for Germany and "why should it not stew next to us in its damp Bolshevism?" [50]

In October 1940, Stalin requested that Molotov be permitted to discuss with Hitler the countries' future relations. [53] Ribbentrop responded to Stalin in a letter that "in the opinion of the Führer. it appears to be the historical mission of the Four Powers — the Soviet Union, Italy, Japan and Germany — to adopt a long range-policy and to direct the future development of their peoples into the right channels by delimitation of their interests in a worldwide scale". [54]

The delivery of Ribbentrop's letter was delayed to Stalin. That resulted after earlier press stories in the ideas no longer seemed "fresh", which caused Ribbentrop to lash out at the German embassy in Moscow's personnel. [53] [55] Delivering the letter, von Schulenburg stated that the Berlin conference would be a preliminary meeting preceding a convening of the four powers. [55]

Stalin was visibly pleased by the invitation for talks in Berlin. [56] Stalin wrote a letter responding to Ribbentrop on entering an agreement regarding a "permanent basis" for their "mutual interests". [57]

On November 6, Köstring wrote that "since Göring has now put our military deliveries in balance with the Russian deliveries, one may hope that the negotiations will end in peace and friendship". [48] During the first two weeks in November, German and Soviet economic negotiators in Moscow enjoyed moderate success. [58] German military-economic negotiators had hoped for success in the negotiations, in part because they felt that it would strengthen their arguments against Hitler's policy, which was increasingly anti-Soviet. [59]

On November 1, the head of the Army General Staff, Franz Halder, met with Hitler and wrote, "The Führer hopes he can bring Russia into the anti-British front", [60] After Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidential election four days later after he had promised that there would be no foreign wars if he was elected, Goebbels noted that "after his statement, Roosevelt will hardly be able to enter the war in an active capacity". [60] Meeting with Benito Mussolini, Ribbentrop explained the German view of the meetings that the acid test would be the Soviets' stand on the Balkans. [50] With the Balkans and the Bosporus a potential "dangerous overlapping of interests" if the Soviets backed away from it, it would be a peaceful and even a preferable alternative to an invasion. [50]

Hitler revealed to Mussolini that he did not expect to accommodate the Soviets beyond forcing Turkey to yield to some guarantees on the Bosporus. [50] Also, he did not want Stalin taking a Romanian entry point to the Bosporus and stated that "one Romanian bird in the hand is worth more than two Russians in the bush". [55] However, Hitler stated that he was skeptical because he believed that Stalin was obsessed with the Danube and Bulgaria. [55] Germany was aware that the Soviet Union had attempted to extend guarantees to Bulgaria to become its ally and that Bulgaria had turned it down. [61]

November 12 Edit

Stalin sent Molotov to Berlin to negotiate the terms for the Soviet Union to join the Axis and potentially enjoy the spoils of the pact. [62] Molotov spent much of the trip to Berlin searching his rail car for listening devices. [63] Molotov's train arrived at 11:05 a.m. on November 12. [64] [65] It was a bad omen for success that von Schulenburg, the architect of the meeting, was excluded. [50] Molotov was greeted by Ribbentrop at the train station decorated with Soviet and German flags above a large basket of flowers, with an orchestra playing The Internationale in Germany for the first time since 1933. [66] After a brief breakfast, the talks started immediately that day at the Schloss Bellevue Hotel. [64] After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Moscow journal published certain selected correspondence revealing that Stalin was closely supervising Molotov's talks via telegram, but some of those telegrams remain unpublished. [67]

At the outset, Ribbentrop stated, "England is beaten and it is only a question of time when she will admit her defeat. The beginning of the end has now arrived for the British empire." [65] He further stated that "the entry of the United States into the war is of no consequence at all for Germany. Germany and Italy will never again allow an Anglo-Saxon to land on the European Continent. This is no military problem at all. The Axis Powers are, therefore, not considering how they can win the war, but rather how rapidly they can end the war which is already won". [65] He further stated that Germany and the Soviet Union had together "done some good business"" [65]

Accordingly, Ribbentrop concluded that the time had come for the four powers (Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy and Japan) to define their "spheres of interest". [65] [68] He stated that Hitler had concluded that all four countries would naturally expand "in a southerly direction". [65] Ribbentrop said that he wondered if the Soviets might turn southward toward the sea, and Molotov inquired, "Which sea?" Ribbentrop stated that "in the long run the most advantageous access to the sea for Russia could be found in the direction of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea". [65] [68]

Regarding the division of the world into four spheres of influence, Molotov stated the new idea was "very interesting" and worthy of a discussion in Moscow with Ribbentrop participating. [69] Stalin became annoyed with a telegram to him from Molotov stating that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was "exhausted" with the exception of the Finnish issue, with Stalin stating that any future agreements would be added to it merely because it served as a fundamental basis for Soviet-German relations. [69]

In the afternoon, Molotov visited Hitler at the Reich Chancellery. [64] [65] Hitler also spoke of striking that "final blow against England" and stated that "it is time to think about division of the world after our victory". [64] Regarding the "problem of America"," according to Shirer, he stated that it could not "endanger the freedom of other nations before 1970 or 1980". [65] A different account was given by Hitler's interpreter at the meeting, Paul Schmidt. Citing Hitler, Schmidt told in his memoirs (1950): "Hitler went on to call for battle against the United States, who 'not in 1945 but at the earliest in 1970 or 1980 would seriously endanger the freedom of other nations'". [70] Hitler and Molotov agreed that the United States had no business in Europe, Africa or Asia. [65] Hitler stated that there were no fundamental differences between the two countries in their pursuit of aspiring for "access to the ocean". [65] Molotov expressed his agreement with Hitler about the role of America and Britain and about Soviet participation in the Axis pact in principle but only if the Soviets could participate as an active partner. [69] [71] The same day, Germany also postponed until the following year its plans to invade Britain because of its failures in the air campaign against Britain. [49]

Molotov agreed with Hitler that there were no unresolved problems between the countries except on Finland. [69] When Molotov returned to his hotel, he stated that he was "relieved at Hitler's amiability". [61] In a telegram to Molotov that night, Stalin insisted that the security of the Soviet Union cannot be ensured "without securing tranquility in the area of the Straits" in reference the Bosporus Straits for entry into the Black Sea. [1] That was linked directly with the Soviet-Bulgarian agreement for passage of Soviet troops for "the defense of entry into the Black Sea". [1] Stalin added that "this question still bears current importance and does not allow any procrastination". [1]

November 13 Edit

Molotov and Hitler resumed their discussions the next morning. [72] Molotov demanded to know why German troops occupied Finland, and Hitler replied that they were travelling through Finland to Norway and wondered whether the Soviets intended to go to war over Finland. [72] While Hitler agreed that Finland was within the Soviets' sphere of influence, he also stressed that Germany had a legitimate wartime interest in Finland's nickel and wood supply and that any new conflict in the Baltics would lead to a severe strain in relations. [69] Molotov concluded that nothing good could come from further talks about Finland and stated that he saw no signs of any resumption of a Soviet-Finnish conflict. [73] According to Hitler, however, Molotov stated, "Russia felt herself again endangered by Finland, Russia should be able to liquidate Finland", which for him "was the first question which I found difficult to answer. But I could not do otherwise than refuse this". [74]

Molotov conveyed Stalin's interest in reviewing the status of the Bosporus and pressed for a guarantee for Bulgaria, at least in principle. [73] Molotov later noted that Hitler became "markedly agitated" at the request to revoke guarantees to Romania. [61] Molotov stated Stalin's wish to grant a guarantee to Bulgaria similar to the one that Germany and Italy had granted to Romania. [61] Hitler pointed out that the Soviets had entered Bukovina in Romania, which went beyond the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. [75] Hitler stated the parties had made a prior oral agreement that the former Austrian territories, such as the Balkan states within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were to fall within the German sphere of influence. [68] Hitler pointed out that a primary goal of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was to restore the countries' old empires. [68] Stalin, still hoping to get a draft agreement, was monitoring the conversations by telegram and sent a telegram to Molotov to remind Hitler of the importance of securing the Bosporus that explained the events of the Crimean War. [61] Hitler stated that he could not make decisions regarding Bulgaria until he had conversed with Italian leader Benito Mussolini. [73]

Hitler changed the subject to the larger matter of the opportunities available after the conquest of England. [68] [72] Hitler told Molotov that: [7]

After the conquest of England, the British Empire would be apportioned as a gigantic world-wide estate in bankruptcy of forty million square kilometres. In this bankrupt estate there would be for Russia access to the ice-free and really open ocean. Thus far, a minority of forty-five million Englishmen had ruled six hundred million inhabitants of the British Empire. He was about to crush this minority. Under these circumstances there arose world-wide perspectives. All the countries which could possibly be interested in the bankrupt estate would have to stop all controversies among themselves and concern themselves exclusively with the partition of the British Empire. This applied to Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Japan.

Molotov told Hitler that "the time has now come to discuss a broader agreement between the USSR and Germany", but the Soviet government first wanted to know the precise meaning of "the New Order in Europe" regarding the participating countries and the ultimate aims of the pact. [73] Molotov then was scheduled to meet with Ribbentrop that afternoon.

A telegram that Molotov sent to Stalin on the meeting with Hitler underscored, "Hitler's great interest in reaching an agreement and strengthening friendly relations with the USSR with respect to spheres of influence." [73] Molotov stated that his talk with neither Hitler nor Ribbentrop produced the desired results, as the issues with Turkey and the Balkans had not been addressed. [1]

Because of British aerial bombardment, Ribbentrop and Molotov conducted talks that night in an air-raid shelter. [76] Ribbentrop reiterated that the chief goals were to define the four powers' interests and to reach an agreement with Turkey on the Bosporus issue. [1] Ribbentrop proposed several parallel steps the parties should then take such as Molotov discussing the issues raised in Berlin with Stalin while Ribbentrop discussed them with Japan. [1] Germany, Italy and the USSR would also pressure Turkey to acquiesce to Soviet demands on the Bosporus. [73] Thereafter, the parties would negotiate and draft confidential documents bearing in mind that the final accord would be a Soviet entry into the Axis. [1] What Molotov did not know was that the very night, Hitler issued secret "Instruction No. 18", directing his forces to continue to prepare for war in the east "irrespective of the results yielded by these discussions". [77] [78]

German proposed draft agreement Edit

In the air-raid shelter, Ribbentrop gave Molotov a draft agreement with two parts. [1] As had become the practice between the parties, one part was of the agreement that would eventually be made public, and the other contained the secret agreement. [1] The public portion contained an agreement with a ten-year duration whereby the parties would respect each other's natural spheres of interests, and Germany, Italy and Japan would affirm their recognition of existing Soviet borders. [1]

The draft of the secret agreement included the obligation not to join any alliance directed at the four signatories and to assist each other in economic matters. [1] The secret agreement contained a protocol defining the territorial objectives of the four signatories, with Germany laying claims to Central Africa, Italy in North and Northeast Africa, Japan in Southeast Asia and the Soviet zone to the ”center south of the national territory of the Soviet Union in the direction of the Indian Ocean.” [76] [79] A second secret protocol provided that Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union would "liberate" Turkey from its international obligations with Britain to guarantee its borders. [79]

Molotov stated that the Soviet Union was concerned with several European issues, such as Turkey and Bulgaria, but also the fates of Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece. [76] In addition, the Soviets were also interested in the question of Swedish neutrality and the passage from the Baltic Sea. [76] Molotov also cuttingly remarked that if England's fate was sealed, why they were talking in an air raid shelter. [76]

Reaction to Molotov trip Edit

The news that Molotov held talks in Berlin initially stunned world media, with the British press endeavouring to determine whether the Soviets were preparing to join the Axis pact. [79] When Molotov returned, he noted that the meeting produced "nothing to boast about" and that Ribbentrop's projected trip to Moscow was no longer mentioned but that the German draft proposal led to a complacent rather than crisis approach of continuing negotiations through "diplomatic channels". [80] The pro-"Continental Bloc" Germans in Ribbentrop's entourage expected that Stalin would eventually yield, given the weakness of the Red Army. [80] Weizsäcker commented that "we can continue for a long time" and that "war with Russia is impossible as long as we are busy with England, and afterwards it will be unnecessary". [80] On November 14, Köstring reiterated his conviction that the Soviets indeed had no aggressive designs. On the contrary, "Molotov's trip (to Berlin) is for me just further proof of an idea that I have long held namely, that the Soviet Union wants to have peace with us, since it cannot expect any advantage from a conflict with us. The decisive factor in [evoking] the Soviet desire for peace is and remains the demonstrated strength of our army". [48]

Hitler had already issued a secret directive on the eventual attempts to invade the Soviet Union. [79] [81] He had not yet abandoned the possibility of other political outcomes and still talked of a "great worldwide coalition that stretched from Yokohama to Spain", but he had resolved to not give up the Balkans. [82]

Meanwhile, the Soviets immediately summoned the Bulgarian ambassador to the Foreign Ministry and stated that the Soviets needed to do a deal with the Bulgarians before they joined the Axis and that Germany was attempting to make them a puppet state. [82] The Bulgarians turned down the offer and leaked it to Germany. [82] Hitler still hoped to dissuade Stalin from giving guarantees to Bulgaria if the Bosporus issue could be solved, and he pressed the Bulgarian ambassador that the Soviets could be persuaded against resistance if the Bulgarians joined the pact, ans he warned about the horrors of Soviet occupation. [82]

The Soviets had meanwhile produced the biggest surprise. In an unannounced November 25 visit in Sofia, the Soviets told Bulgarian Prime Minister Bogdan Filov that if Bulgaria permitted transfer access to Soviet troops, the Soviets were prepared to drop their objections to Bulgaria's entry into the Axis, and most surprisingly, the Soviets stated that it likely would not be an issue, as it would "very probably, almost certainly" lead to the Soviets' own entry into the Axis. [83] The stunned Filov stated that it required further contemplation. [83] The Soviet negotiators had concluded that the Bulgarian government "is already committed to Germany to the hilt". [83]

Stalin told the head of the Comintern, the Bulgarian Georgi Dimitrov, that Germany wanted Italy in the Balkans, but in the final analysis, it had no choice but to recognise Soviet interests in maintaining Black Sea access and to assure that the Bosporus would not be used against them. [83]

Stalin directed Molotov to draft a new pact with a much greater scope, including the division of Europe, Asia and Africa among the four powers. [84] On November 25, the same day as the surprise statement of Soviet nonresistance to Bulgaria's joining the Axis and a potential Soviet joining of the pact, [85] the Soviets offered a counterproposal to Ribbentrop's draft agreement. [79] It began, "The Soviet government is prepared to accept the draft of the Pact of Four Powers on political cooperation and economic mutual assistance". [79] Instead of two secret protocols, Stalin proposed five:

  1. German troops would depart Finland in exchange for a Soviet guarantee of continued nickel and wood shipments and peace with Finland
  2. A mutual assistance pact to be signed with Bulgaria in the next few months that would permit Soviet bases
  3. The centre of Soviet territorial domination would be south of Baku and Batumi (ports now in Azerbaijan and Georgia, south of which are Iraq and Iran)
  4. Japanese renunciation of rights to northern Sakhalin oil and coal concessions in exchange for appropriate compensation
  5. An affirmation that the Soviet-Bulgaria mutual assistance treaty was a political necessity. [4]

The proposals came concurrently with massively-increased economic offers. [85] The Soviets promised by May 11, 1941 the delivery of 2.5 million tons of grain, 1 million tons above their current obligations. [4] They also promised full compensation for Volksdeutsche property claims. [4]

Schnurre, who could not conceal his delight over the offer, immediately telegrammed Berlin that "in view of the present status of the negotiations here, Molotov's statements today must be viewed as a surprising indication of goodwill on the part of the Soviet Government. Molotov's proposal regarding compensation for property claims in the Baltic states considerably exceeds our expectations". [4]

Hitler, however, saw the Soviet territorial ambitions in the Balkans as a challenge to German interests and saw the plan as effectively making Bulgaria into an adjunct of the Axis Pact. [6] On several occasions, Molotov asked German officials for their response to Moscow's counterproposals, but Germany never answered them. [6] [84] [86] [87] Germany's refusal to respond to the counterproposal worsened relations between the countries. [88] Regarding the counterproposal, Hitler remarked to his top military chiefs that Stalin "demands more and more", "he's a cold-blooded blackmailer" and "a German victory has become unbearable for Russia" so that "she must be brought to her knees as soon as possible". [7]

On December 5, Hitler received military plans for the possible invasion and approved them all, with a schedule to begin in May 1941. [78] On December 18, 1940, Hitler signed Führer Directive No. 21 to the German high command for an operation, now codenamed Operation Barbarossa, stating: "The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign". [78] [89] The date for the invasion was set for May 15, 1941. [89] On the other side of the border, Stalin had anticipated an eventual war against Germany. Speaking to his generals in December, Stalin referenced Hitler's references to a Soviet attack in Mein Kampf and stated that they must always be ready to repulse a German attack, that Hitler thought that the Red Army would require four years to ready itself and so "we must be ready much earlier" and that "we will try to delay the war for another two years." [75]

On January 17, 1941, seven days after the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement, Molotov asked German officials whether the parties could then work out an agreement for entry to the Axis Pact. [63] [90] Molotov expressed astonishment at the absence of any answer to the Soviets' November 25 offer to join the pact [90] and never received an answer. [90] On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria joined the Axis, which further unsettled Stalin after Germany had continued to ignore Stalin's November 25, 1940 Axis entry proposal. [91] After six months of preparations, Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, which ended any hope for the proposed alliance.

Von der Schulenburg was executed as one of the conspirators in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. [92]

In 1948, one month after Nazi government foreign ministry documents describing the negotiations had been publicly released by the United States, the Soviet Foreign Information Bureau wrote a response in a book, Falsifiers of History. [93] [94] After receiving translations of the newly-released documents, Stalin personally edited, struck and rewrote by hand entire sections of drafts he had been given of Falsifiers before the book's release in February 1948. [95]

In Falsifiers, Stalin claimed that he was merely "probing out" Germany in Axis negotiations and to have outright rejected Hitler's proposal to share a division of the world. [79] That version persisted without exception in all historical studies, official accounts, memoirs and textbooks published in the Soviet Union until 1990. [79]