Armistice Talks Begin at Brest-Litovsk


Various Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Turkish officials at Brest-Litovsk.  Adolf Joffe, head of the Russian delegation, is in the bowler hat on the left.

December 3 1917, Brest-Litovsk–The Russian armistice delegation crossed the German lines on December 2.  Led by Adolf Joffe, a long-time friend of Trotsky, it was a motley group, also consisting of an army officer, two sailors, various Bolshevik revolutionaries (including Anastasia Bizenko, who had been exiled to Siberia for 12 years for assassinating the military governor of Saratov during the 1905 revolution), and a peasant, Roman Stashkov, who Joffe had found by the side of the road.  They were escorted to Brest-Litovsk, the headquarters of Ober Ost since 1915, where they were met by Ober Ost’s chief of staff, Max Hoffmann, as well as representatives from Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

On the first day, it was agreed that the upcoming negotiations should only cover the Eastern Front, as no representatives from the other Allied nations were present.  The Bolsheviks were hopeful that this would change, and this would prove to be a sticking point in later negotiations.  That evening, the Germans and Russians dined together, which apparently provided no end of amusement for the Germans.  Hoffmann recalled:

I shall never forget the first dinner we had with the Russians…Opposite me was the workman, who was evidently caused much trouble by the various implements that he found on the table. He tried to catch the food on his plate first with one thing and then another.  It was only the fork that he used exclusively as a toothpick.  Almost opposite me sat Frau Bizenko next to Prince Hohenlohe who had on his other side the peasant [Stashkov], a typical Russian figure with long grey curls and an enormous untrimmed beard.  He caused a smile to appear on the face of the orderly who was serving round the wine, and had asked him if he would take claret or hock, and he inquired which was the stronger, as he would prefer to have that sort.

The next day, the Russians presented their terms: the Armistice should last for six months, with three days’ notice required before resuming hostilities, the Germans should not use the armistice to transfer any forces from the Eastern Front to other theaters of war, and the Germans should evacuate the islands in the Gulf of Riga that they captured in October.  Hoffman refused to concede this last term, but found the others largely acceptable with some modifications.

Today in 1917: British Sabotage Romanian Oilfields at Ploiesti

Today in 1915: German Attachés Expelled for Organizing Sabotage in United States
Today in 1914:  Hitler Wins Iron Cross, Second Class

Sources include: Prit Buttar, The Splintered Empires.

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