Primary Documents - Official Russian Announcement of Withdrawal from Brest-Litovsk Peace Talks, 10 February 1918

Leon Trotsky Reproduced below is the text of the official Bolshevik announcement published on 10 February 1918 declaring Russia's withdrawal from the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations (click here to read the Bolsheviks' earlier protest at the progress of peace talks).

At the same time as its withdrawal from the peace talks - on accounts of the annexationist demands of the representatives of the Central Powers - Leon Trotsky simultaneously announced that Russia had also unilaterally pulled out of the war: fighting was to cease immediately.

Trotsky was however obliged to return to the peace conference once German-led forces instigated military advances into Russian territory immediately after his announcement (and prodded by Lenin who feared ever worse peace terms).  Russia indicated its willingness to sign the treaty on 28 February; it was duly signed on 3 March 1918.

Click here to read the reaction of German Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling to news of the settlement.  Click here to read the reaction of Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Czernin.

Leon Trotsky's Announcement of Russian Withdrawal from Brest-Litovsk Peace Negotiations, 10 February 1918

The peace negotiations are at an end.  The German capitalists, bankers, and landlords, supported by the silent cooperation of the English and French bourgeoisie, submitted to our comrades, members of the peace delegations at Brest-Litovsk, conditions such as could not be subscribed to by the Russian revolution.

The Governments of Germany and Austria possess countries and peoples vanquished by force of arms.  To this authority the Russian people, workmen and peasants, could not give its acquiescence.  We could not sign a peace which would bring with it sadness, oppression, and suffering to millions of workmen and peasants.

But we also cannot, will not, and must not continue a war begun by Tsars and capitalists in alliance with Tsars and capitalists.  We will not and we must not continue to be at war with the Germans and Austrians - workmen and peasants like ourselves.

We are not signing a peace of landlords and capitalists.  Let the German and Austrian soldiers know who are placing them in the field of battle and let them know for what they are struggling.  Let them know also that we refuse to fight against them.

Our delegation, fully conscious of its responsibility before the Russian people and the oppressed workers and peasants of other countries, declared on February 10th, in the name of the Council of the People's Commissaries of the Government of the Federal Russian Republic to the Governments of the peoples involved in the war with us and of the neutral countries, that it refused to sign an annexationist treaty.

Russia, for its part, declares the present war with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria at an end.

Simultaneously, the Russian troops have received the following order for complete demobilization on all fronts.

Text of Military Order

No military operations must again take place.

The beginning of a general demobilization on all fronts is decreed.  I order the issue of instructions on the front for the withdrawal of the troops from the first lines and for their concentration in the rear, and, further, for their dispatch to the interior of Russia, in accordance with the general plan for demobilization.

For the defence of the frontier some detachments of younger soldiers must be left.

I beg our soldier comrades to remain calm and await with patience the moment of the return of each detachment to its home in its turn.  I beg that no effort be spared to bring into the stores all artillery and other military equipment which cost milliards of the people's money.

Remember that only systematic demobilization can be carried out in the shortest time, and that systematic demobilization alone can prevent interference with the sending of food supplies to those detachments which remain for a certain period on the front.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "salient" is a battle line that projects into territory nominally held by enemy forces.

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