March 3rd 1918: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed
On this day in 1918 the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ended Russia’s involvement in World War One, was signed by Russia and the Central Powers. Ending the war was one of the main aims of the new Soviet government after its successful seizure of power in the October Revolution. Leon Trotsky, as Commissar of Foreign Affairs, was vital to the negotiations of the peace. There were splits over the treaty within the ruling Bolshevik party between its leader Vladimir Lenin (who was in favour) and other senior figures (who wanted to continue the war to wait for revolutions in countries including Germany and Turkey). The first proposed treaty conceded huge portions of the former Russian Empire to Germany and the Ottoman Empire, which angered conservatives and nationalists and Trotsky refused to sign it. However the pressure to end the war heightened, the Bolsheviks signed the treaty and ceded much territory to Germany. Thus the treaty led to the independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania. The treaty angered many conservatives in Russia, and contributed to the Russian Civil War (1917 - 1923) between the Bolshevik Red Army and the anti-Bolshevik White Army.
Grand Duchess Olga describes an event of the Tercentenary Celebration in her diary:
Thursday, February 21, 1913
“Walked in the garden. Sunny, warm, muddy and windy. At 12:15 went to Kazan Cathedral for a prayer service. Papa and Alexei were up front in a carraige with a hundred escort guards…
“ My next visit to Moscow took place after the [temporary] fall of Ekaterinburg [to anti-Communist forces]. Speaking with Sverdlov, I asked in passing:
“Oh yes, and where is the Tsar?”
“Finished,” he replied.
“He has been shot.” “And where is the family?”
“The family along with him.”
“All of them?,” I asked, apparently with a trace of surprise.
“All of them,” replied Sverdlov.
“What about it?”
He was waiting to see my reaction. I made no reply.
“And who made the decision?,” I asked.
“We decided it here. Ilyich [Lenin] believed that we shouldn’t leave the Whites a live banner to rally around, especially under the present difficult circumstances.”
I asked no further questions and considered the matter closed.
- From an April 1935 entry in “Trotsky’s Diary in Exile.” Quoted in: Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1990), pp. 770, 787.; Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra (New York: 1976), pp. 496–497.; E. Radzinksy, The Last Tsar (New York: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 325–326.; Ronald W. Clark, Lenin (New York: 1988), pp. 349–350.
The morning was bright and suitably festive. At 10:45 our daughter was taken in the golden carriage to the Great Palace. The procession to church began in the silver hall; I walked with Mama – Prince M. M. Golitsyn carried the baby. I sat alone in the room behind the church while the christening took place. Everything went well, and it seems that the darling little one behaved perfectly. The service finished at 1:30. After embracing Alix, I sat down to a family luncheon. - Nicholas’ Diary, 14 November (OS), 1895.