Brest-Litovsk, Peace Treaty of

Image - The Brest-Litovsk Peace negotiations (1918). Image - The Brest-Litovsk Peace negotiations (1918). Image - Ukrainian delegates at the Brest-Litovsk peace conference (1918)

Brest-Litovsk, Peace Treaty of [Брест-Литовський мирний договір; Brest-Lytovs’kyi myrnyi dohovir]. A peace treaty between the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) and the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria, signed on 9 February 1918 in Brest (today in Belarus). When the Russian Bolshevik government began to negotiate an armistice on the eastern front, the government of the Ukrainian Central Rada also began negotiations, because the Austro-German and Romanian fronts ran through Ukrainian territory.

The Central Rada expressed its desire for peace with the four Central Powers in the resolutions of 22, 24, and 26 December 1917, and on 28 December an armistice suspending hostilities at the front was signed. The Bolshevik delegation led by Leon Trotsky began peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk on 3 December 1917. On 1 January 1918 the Ukrainian delegation, headed by Vsevolod Holubovych and including Mykhailo Poloz, Oleksander Sevriuk, Mykola H. Levytsky, and Mykola Liubynsky, arrived at Brest-Litovsk. On 12 January 1918 Count Ottokar Czernin, representing the Central Powers, recognized the independent delegation of the UNR. Counts Czernin and Csáky, representing Austria-Hungary, refused to include the question of Galicia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia in the general peace treaty, claiming these territories were an internal issue of the Habsburg monarchy. But they conceded that the Kholm region and Podlachia should be part of the Ukrainian National Republic. After 20 January 1918 the Ukrainian delegation returned to Kyiv.

The full independence of the Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed in the Fourth of the Universals of the Central Rada which was dated 22 January. The Ukrainian delegation, now headed by Oleksander Sevriuk and including Mykola Liubynsky and Mykola H. Levytsky, returned to Brest-Litovsk. On 1 February 1918 the plenary session was attended by Yukhym Medvediev and Vasyl Shakhrai, representing the ‘Soviet Ukrainian government’ in Kharkiv. On behalf of the Central Powers, Ottokar Czernin recognized the independence and sovereignty of the UNR. On 9 February 1918, over Bolshevik protests, the treaty between the UNR and the Central Powers was signed. Those signing the treaty included Sevriuk, Liubynsky, and Levytsky for the UNR; Gen Max Hoffmann, the representative of the German high command, and R. von Kühlman for Germany; Count Czernin for Austria-Hungary; V. Radoslavov, A. Toshev, I. Stoianovich, T. Anastasov, and Col P. Ganchev for Bulgaria; and Talaat Pasha, I. Hakki Pasha, A. Nessimi Bey, and A. Izzet Pasha for Turkey.

The Central Powers recognized the following as the UNR's boundaries: in the west the 1914 Austro-Hungarian–Russian boundary; in the north the line running from Tarnohorod through Biłgoraj, Szczebrzeszyn, Krasnystaw, Puhachivka, Radzyń Podlaski, Międzyrzec Podlaski, Melnyk, Kamianets, Pruzhany, and Vyhonivske Lake. The exact boundaries were to be determined by a mixed commission on the basis of ethnic composition and the will of the inhabitants (art 2). Articles in the treaty provided for the regulated evacuation of the occupied regions (art 3), the establishment of diplomatic relations (art 4), the return of prisoners of war (art 6), and the exchange of interned civilians and the renewal of public and private legal relations (art 8). Both sides renounced mutual war reparations (art 5). Article 7 provided for the immediate resumption of economic relations and trade and set down the principles of accounting and tariffs.

Austria-Hungary and the Ukrainian National Republic also signed a secret agreement regarding Galicia and Bukovyna. Austria agreed to unify by 31 July 1918 in one crownland those areas of eastern Galicia and Bukovyna where the Ukrainian population predominated. But on 4 July 1918 Austria annulled this secret agreement under the pretext that Ukraine had not delivered to it the amount of grain promised under the treaty. This action was really the result of Polish pressure.

The Central Powers signed a separate peace treaty with Bolshevik Russia at Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918. Russia agreed to recognize the concluded treaty with the UNR, to sign a peace treaty with Ukraine immediately, and to define the border between Russia and Ukraine (art 6).

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk provided Ukraine with German military aid in clearing Bolshevik forces from Ukraine in February–April 1918. However, the Allied Powers received news of the treaty with indignation and suspended relations with the UNR. The Treaty of Rapallo of 1922 between Germany and Soviet Russia canceled the German commitments made at Brest-Litovsk. The disintegration of Austria-Hungary automatically annulled Austria's commitments. Turkey renounced the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by signing a treaty with the Ukrainian SSR in 1922. Only Bulgaria, so far as is known, never formally annulled the treaty.

Der Friedensvertrag mit der Ukraine (Berlin 1918)
Kreppel, J. Der Friede im Osten (Vienna 1918)
Magnes, J. Russia and Germany at Brest-Litovsk: A Documentary History of the Peace Negotiations (New York 1919)
Mirnye peregovory v Brest-Litovske (Moscow 1920)
Kedryn, I. (ed). Beresteis’kyi myr: Spomyny ta materiialy (Lviv 1928)
Wheeler-Bennett, J. Brest-Litovsk: The Forgotten Peace (London 1938; repr 1966)
Borschak, E. La paix ukrainienne de Brest-Litovsk (Paris 1929)
Chubar'ian, A. Brestskii mir (Moscow 1964)
Fedyshyn, O. Germany's Drive to the East and the Ukrainian Revolution 1917–1918 (New Brunswick, NJ 1971)
Magocsi, P. Texts of the Ukrainian ‘Peace’ with Maps (Cleveland 1981)
Nikol’nikov, G. Brestskii mir i Ukraina (Kyiv 1981)
Horak, S. The First Treaty of World War I: Ukraine's Treaty with the Central Powers of February 9, 1918 (New York 1988)

Elie Borschak

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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