Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.
World War I
The start of World War I was complicated, to say the least. In 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian national. Germany, Austria-Hungary's closest ally, jumped to the country's defense and threatened to intervene in Serbia. Meanwhile, Russia (Serbia's ally) began to mobilize in case of war. Within a few short weeks, half of Europe was caught up in World War I thanks to a tricky system of alliances. To simplify things a little bit, think of it this way: World War I was fought between two groups--
- the Central Powers made up of Germany and Austria-Hungary
- the Allied Powers made up of France, Great Britain, and Russia (and eventually the United States!)
After about three years of conflict, Russia was ready to leave the war, and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was the country's way out.
While Russia was fighting alongside Great Britain and France, the country had a number of problems internally. Compared to other countries in Europe, Russia was way behind economically and technologically. The country was ruled by the ineffective Czar Nicholas II (basically the king of Russia) and an equally inefficient government called the Duma.
In the spring of 1917, the poor and starving Russian people had had enough. A group of radical socialists called the Bolsheviks led an uprising against the government and took control of the government. The Bolsheviks' leader, Vladimir Lenin, was at the head of the revolution.
Within a few short months, Lenin had made changes in Russia to consolidate his power and win over the hearts and minds of the Russian people. Lenin knew that Russia had sustained heavy losses fighting against the Central Powers, and World War I didn't show signs of ending any time soon. To keep the Bolshevik Revolution alive, Lenin decided to withdraw Russia from the war.
On November 8, 1917, Russia reached out to the Central Powers to ask for peace negotiations. Within a month, this request had turned into an armistice, which means that the two sides called a truce and fighting between Russia and Germany and Austria-Hungary stopped. Negotiations began on December 22 in Brest-Litovsk, an area located in present-day Belarus. Among the people negotiating the treaty were Russia's Leon Trotsky, Germany's Richard von Kuhlmann, and Austria-Hungary's Count Ottokar Czernin (what a name!).
Negotiations were ongoing from December to February with little progress. In February, Trotsky abandoned the talks. In his mind, the Central Powers were asking Russia for too much. After Trotsky walked away from the negotiating table, Germany mobilized its troops and resumed its attack on Russia. Both Trotsky and Lenin realized that they had no other option but to come to an agreement--their country was far too weak to continue the war effort.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
On March 3, 1918, Russia and the Central Powers signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in which Russia agreed to:
- allow Finland, Georgia, and Ukraine to become separate states.
- give the Central Powers Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
- cede territory to Turkey.
As a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Russia suffered significant losses. To end its involvement in World War I, it gave up roughly 1 million square miles of land. Along with all that land, Russia also lost about 55 million Russian citizens and major industrial regions. Fortunately for Russia, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was made invalid in November 1918 when the Central Powers were forced to surrender to the Allies.
In 1914, World War I broke out between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers. In 1917, radical socialists called Bolsheviks led a revolution in Russia. Under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, the Bolsheviks seized the government. In November 1917, Lenin decided to abandon the Allied Powers and requested peace negotiations with the Central Powers. Following an armistice in early December, the two countries entered peace talks that lasted through February. At one point, Leon Trostky (the Russian diplomat) abandoned peace talks because of the unfair demands of the Central Powers. Talks resumed after Germany mobilized its troops against Russia. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918. As a part of the agreement, Russia recognized Finland, Georgia, and Ukraine as separate states and gave extensive territories to Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. In total, Russia lost about 1 million square miles of land. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was no longer valid after the Central Powers surrendered in 1918.
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