The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk influenced World War I in three ways: it allowed Russia to withdraw from the war, allowed Germany to focus on the Allies, and forced Russia to give territory to Germany.


The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a separate peace agreement signed on the 3rd of March, 1918, between the Central Powers (German Empire, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey) and the new Russian government established by Bolsheviks. The consequences of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk were tough since Russia lost a large part of its European territory in exchange for the exit from the war. There were certain internal problems in the country, which forced Russia to agree to such unfavorable terms.

In 1917, Russia underwent the change of government as a result of the October Revolution that ended the reign of the Romanov dynasty and brought Bolsheviks to power. After the coup, Bolsheviks had to take measures to stabilize the situation in the country, but the raging war with the Central Powers, in which Russia was engaged, served as an obstacle. The new government had to decide what should be done about Russian participation in World War I, and there were three different views of this question.

Leon Trotsky, a Commissar for Foreign Affairs, wanted to exit from the war without giving territories or paying reparations. The Left Socialist Revolutionaries believed that Russia should wage a guerilla war until the citizens of the countries constituting the Central Powers rebelled against their governments. Vladimir Lenin, the leader of Bolsheviks, considered that Russia needed peace on any terms.

The negotiations with the invaders began in December of 1917 in the Polish town of Brest-Litovsk, which is a present-day Brest in Belarus. The Russian government held back from giving a definite answer about its terms of the armistice. Germany became impatient and launched the offensive, which forced Bolsheviks to hasten their decision. Lenin understood that the country would not survive the continuation of the war, so he threatened to resign if the peace was not signed. As a result, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed in the spring of 1918.

As a consequence of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the map of Europe significantly changed. Russia lost a large part of its territory and had to pay reparations that amounted to six billion German marks. According to the armistice, Russia lost Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Estonia, Belarus, and Finland, all of which turned into independent countries under the supervision of Germany. Romania got Bessarabia, and the Ottoman Empire obtained Kars, Batum, and Ardahan in the Caucasus.

After the armistice was signed and Russian left the war, Germany was able to concentrate its forces on the Allies. However, since Germany had to leave part of its soldiers in the occupied territories, the countries of Entente appeared to be stronger, and the Central Powers lost World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, annulled the armistice between Germany and Russia by requiring Germany to give independence to the protectorates.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had a great significance for Russia. It deprived the country of a large part of fertile lands, coal mines, and other industries and resources, including people. Moreover, many revolutionaries were extremely discontent with the fact that the government agreed to such humiliating terms, which served one of the reasons for the Russian Civil War.

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Source: fc.gsacrd.ab.ca