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Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
(February 9, 1918)
Signing of the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk during the night between February 9 and 10, 1918. Sitting in the middle from the left: Count Ottokar Czernin, Richard von Kühlmann and Vasil Radoslavov
Signed 1918 February 9
Location Brest-Litovsk Grodno Governorate (German occupation)[1]
Signatories  Austria-Hungary
 Ottoman Empire

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (German language: Brotfrieden, "peace for bread") was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918 between the Russian SFSR and the Central Powers, but prior to that on February 9, 1918, the Central Powers signed an exclusive protectorate treaty with the Ukrainian People's Republic as part of the negotiations that took place in Brest-Litovsk, Grodno Governorate (now Brest, Belarus) recognizing the sovereignty of the republic. Although not formally annexing the territory of the former Russian Empire, Germany and Austria-Hungary secured a food supply support in return for the military protection. Ukraine was recognized as a neutral state to the Quadruple Alliance.


Ukrainian People's Republic

Because of the civil unrest in the Russian Republic culminating in the October Revolution the Ukrainian People's Republic declared its wider autonomy under the government of the General Secretariat of Ukraine. In its declaration the General Secretariat announced the elections for the Ukrainian Constituent Assembly to be held on January 9, 1918 and the first convocation on January 22 of the same year.

On December 17, 1917 Vladimir Lenin as the head of the Sovnarkom released an ultimatum in which he was accusing the Central Rada of disorganizing the frontlines, stopping "any troops going into the region of the Don, the Urals, or elsewhere", sheltering political enemies such as the members of the Cadet party and ones who sided with Kaledine, as well as obligating to "put an end to the attempts to crush the armies of the Soviet and of the Red Guard in the Ukraine". Lenin gave a 24 hours notice to the government of what he called "the independent and bourgeois Republic of the Ukraine" to respond. Having Soviet armies already in Ukraine, the government of Ukraine had to act quickly to preserve the sovereignty of the state.

The Ukrainian Central Rada expressed desire for peace treaty with foreign countries and its recognition worldwide. Since the representatives of the Britain and French Empires did not wish to recognize its sovereignty considering it as a part of their major ally, the Russian Empire, the treaty was giving a chance for some recognition in face of the Central Powers.

On January 1, 1918 a Ukrainian delegation headed by Vsevolod Holubovych arrived at Brest-Litovsk. The initial delegation beside Liubynsky, Sevriuk, and Levytsky included Mykhailo Poloz.

The Peace Negotiations

The peace negotiation was initiated by the government of Soviet Russia on December 3, 1917 represented by the delegation headed by the Ukrainian-born Leon Trotsky. Several resolutions were reached between December 22–26 and on December 28, 1917 an armistice was signed suspending hostilities at front-lines. Prior to that a Soviet government of Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic was formed in Kharkiv on December 17, 1917. The final undersigning was being procrastinated by Bolsheviks in hope to reach some agreement with the Entente treaty members.

On January 12, Count Ottokar Czernin as a representative of the Central Powers recognized the independent delegation from the Ukrainian People's Republic,[2] but together with Csáky refused to discuss the questions of the Halychyna, Bucovina, Subcarpathian Rus. They agreed that the Kholm Governorate and the region of Podlachia were part of the Ukrainian People's Republic. The Russian Bolshevik delegation, headed by Leon Trotsky, had at first also recognized the independent Ukrainian delegation on January 10.[3]

Delegates from the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Central Powers during a break in the negotiations in Brest-Litovsk, early February 1918

The Ukrainian delegation returned on January 20, 1918 to Kiev, where the Tsentralna Rada proclaimed a fully sovereign Ukrainian state on January 25 (dated January 22). Right after this a new Ukrainian delegation was sent to Brest headed now by Oleksandr Sevriuk. Meanwhile, Bolshevik revolts occurred in different cities in Ukraine, which more or less forced the Ukrainian People's Republic – which was lacking organized military forces – to seek foreign aid.[2] However, the situation for the Central Powers was also critical, especially for Austria-Hungary, which suffered severe food shortages.[3] On February 1, plenary session of the Congress was attended also by the Soviet government of Ukraine in the face of Yukhym Medvediev and Vasyl' Shakhrai. Nevertheless, the Central Powers continued to negotiate with the delegation from the Ukrainian People's Republic as the sole representatives of Ukraine.[2] While the Tsentralna Rada was abandoning Kiev for Bolshevik troops, a peace treaty was signed in Brest-Litovsk during the night of February 8–9 over the Bolsheviks protests.

The German newspaper "Lubeck Ads" on its front page (Extrablatt) printed the announcement about "Peace with the Ukraine". "Today on February 9, 1918 at 2 o'clock in the morning the Peace between the Quadruple Alliance and the Ukrainian People's Republic was signed".

Heute am 9. Februar 1918, 2 Uhr morgens wurde der Friede zwischen dem Vierbund und der Ukrainische Volksrepublic unterzeichnet.



Ukraine German Empire Austria-Hungary Bulgaria Ottoman Empire
Head of delegation Sevriuk Foreign state secretary von Kühlmann Foreign Minister Czernin Prime Minister Radoslavov Grand Vizier Mehmed Talat
Foreign Minister Liubynsky Ober Ost Hoffmann Ambassador Toshev I. Hakki Pasha
Levytsky I. Stoianovich A. Nessimi Bey
Economical Adviser Ostapenko T. Anastasov
P. Ganchev
Ahmed İzzet Pasha

Within days of the treaty's signing, an army of over 450,000 men from the Central Powers entered Ukraine, and after only a month most of the Bolshevik troops had left the country without any significant resistance. Soon after the takeover of Kyiv by Ukrainian and German troops, the Tsentralna Rada could return to Kyiv on March 2.[4]

Terms of the peace treaty

Closing session of the Peace protocol signing during the night between February 9 and 10, 1918. From the left: General Brinkmann, Mykola Liubynsky, Mykola Levytsky, Oleksandr Sevriuk, General Max Hoffmann and Serhiy Ostapenko.

Peace with the Ukraine (Friede mit der Ukraine) by "Lubeck Ads" (February 9, 1918)

The treaty recognized the following as the Ukrainian People's Republic's boundaries: in the west the 1914 Austro-Hungarian–Russian boundary which excluded the Ukrainian Halychyna in the new Ukrainian state; in the north the line running from Tarnogród, Biłgoraj, Szczebrzeszyn, Krasnystaw, Radzyń Podlaski and Międzyrzec Podlaski in present Lublin Voivodeship (Poland), Sarnaki in present Masovian Voivodeship (Poland), Kamyanyets and Pruzhany in present Brest Voblast (Belarus). The exact boundaries were to be determined by a mixed commission on the basis of ethnic composition and the will of the inhabitants (article 2).[5]

The articles in the treaty also provided for the regulated evacuation of the occupied regions (article 3), the establishment of diplomatic relations (article 4), mutual renouncement of war reparations (article 5), the return of prisoners of war (article 6), and the exchange of interned civilians and the renewal of public and private legal relations (article 8). Article 7 provided for the immediate resumption of economic relations and trade and set down the principles of accounting and tariffs.[5]

Austria-Hungary and the Ukrainian People's Republic also signed a secret agreement regarding Halychyna and Bukovyna. Austria-Hungary agreed to unify by July 31, 1918 in one crownland those areas of eastern Halychyna and Bukovyna where the Ukrainian population predominated. But on July 4, Austria-Hungary annulled this secret agreement under the pretext that Ukraine had not delivered to it the amount of grain promised under the treaty. It is believed that this action was the result of Polish pressure.[2]

The Central Powers signed a separate Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Bolshevist Russia on March 3, 1918. Russia agreed to recognize the concluded treaty with the Ukrainian People's Republic and to immediately sign a peace treaty with Ukraine, to define the borders between Russia and Ukraine without delay, to clear the Ukrainian territory of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard, as well as put an end to all agitation or propaganda against the government or the public institutions of the Ukrainian People's Republic (article 6).[6]

Effects of the treaty

Austro-Hungarian troops enter Kamianets-Podilskyi after the treaty had been signed in Brest-Litovsk. (Austria-Hungary War Press bureau)

The treaty immediately caused much opposition among Poles, particularly those in Austria-Hungary. Polish politicians in the Austrian parliament immediately begun their protests, paralyzing the parliament; civil servants begun a strike, and spontaneous demonstrations took place in various cities and towns. Most notably, the Polish Auxiliary Corps refused to follow Austrian orders, and after the battle of Rarańcza broke through the front lines to join Polish forces in the Russian Civil War. Although the Austrian government in Vienna withdrew from parts of the treaty, the damage it had caused to the Polish-Austrian relations was significant, and the pro-Austrian and anti-independence faction of Polish-Austrian politicians were permanently weakened.[7]

The treaty of Brest-Litovsk provided the Ukrainian People's Republic with German and Austro-Hungarian military aid in clearing Bolshevik forces from Ukraine in February–April 1918, but the treaty also meant that the Entente Powers suspended relations with the Ukrainian People's Republic.

Soon, however, the invited foreign forces from the Central Powers were seen as occupants by a major part of the Ukrainian population and also parts of the Tsentralna Rada. In late April the German Supreme Commander in Ukraine, Hermann von Eichhorn, issued an order making Ukrainians subject to German military courts for offenses against German interests, the First Ukrainian Division (the Blue coats) was disarmed, and German soldiers even arrested two ministers after they criticized the German actions. The final break with the Tsentralna Rada came on April 29, when General Pavlo Skoropadskyi declared himself Hetman of the Ukrainian state.[8]

The Treaty of Rapallo of 1922 between Germany and Soviet Russia canceled the German commitments made at Brest-Litovsk. The disintegration of Austria-Hungary in late 1918 automatically annulled its commitments. Turkey renounced the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by signing a treaty with the Ukrainian SSR in 1922. Only Bulgaria, as far as is known, did not formally annul the treaty.[2]


  1. (Russian) Whom belong Brest in 1918? Argument among Ukraine, Belarus, and Germany. Ukrayinska Pravda, March 25, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  3. 3.0 3.1 Volodymyr Kubijovyč (ed.): Ukraine – A Concise Encyclopaedia I, p.744.
  4. Orest Subtelny: Ukraine – A history, p.352–353.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk February 9, 1918
  6. The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk March 3, 1918
  7. (Polish) Piotr Galik, Chwalebna zdrada: Rarańcza 1918
  8. Volodymyr Kubijovyč (ed.): Ukraine – A Concise Encyclopaedia I, p.745.

Further reading

  • Volodymyr Kubijovyč (ed.): Ukraine – A Concise Encyclopaedia I. University of Toronto Press 1963.
  • Orest Subtelny: Ukraine – A history. ISBN 0-8020-7191-0.
  • US Department of State. Proceedings of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Conference: the peace negotiations between Russia and the Central Powers 21 November 1917-3 March 1918. "Government Printing Office". Washington, 1918.

External links

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