Peace At Any Price

Leonid Pasternak: The Price of Blood (on the Fourth Anniversary of the Imperialist War) (191Smilie: 8) Anti-war editorial in a Soviet publication with an image of a bleeding soldier. Source: Hoover Political Poster Database. 2007.

In 1917 the new Russian Revolutionary Government knew that it could never stabilize Russia while still in the midst of WWI.  Russia had to seek peace with Germany and the other Central Powers before the struggle to build a new stable government could begin.

The new Bolshevik government signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk after two months of negotiations, on March 3, 1918  at the destroyed fortified town of Brest Litovsk in modern day Poland.   The treaty demanded that Russia default on its prior commitments to the Triple Entente as Imperial Russia.  The Bolshevik government was more than happy to accommodate this request since they felt no loyalty to the other governments which had supported the prior imperial dynasty, and this would end their commitment to continue fighting the Central Powers.  However, the Central Powers demanded still more from the new Bolshevik government.  Russia was forced to ceded the Baltic States to Germany, the province of Kars Oblast to the Ottoman Empire, and to recognize the independence of Ukraine. As if this was not enough, the Bolshevik government agreed to pay six billion German marks in reparations to Germany.  These agreements were a strong blow to Russia, but the new Bolshevik government was willing to agree to such stringent and damaging conditions in order to secure peace, and begin their inward campaign of reform.

The first two pages of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in (from left to right) German, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Ottoman Turkish and Russian.

The terms of the treaty were shockingly harsh even to the German negotiator.  The Russian people wanted peace desperately but even so, these terms were unpopular to them.  Even many Bolsheviks disapproved of the treaty.  Propaganda became extremely important to show the Russian people that peace at any price was worth it for the new Russia.

Pro-Peace Propaganda Video

This video displays images of fraternization between German and Russian soldiers on the German front, showing that peace with Germany is not impossible, the war was not too brutal or cruel for friendships to grow even between soldiers.  It also shows a picture of Kaiser Wilhelm’s signature on the Treaty of Brest Litovsk.  the video attempted to brighten the mood of the Russian people by showing clips of the rear soldiers of the front-line fighting positions, and Germans standing in position.  These images were all intended to show that the war was not so cruel an event that revenge was necessary, or that peace and cooperation could not be achieved, the Germans were willing to make peace and the time to end the bloodshed was right.  This type of propaganda was able to successfully sway most Russian people to accept the harsh terms of the treaty.  However, there still remained many groups of Russians who strongly protested the agreement.

 

Sources:

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1917brest&Year=1917&navi=byYear

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Brest-Litovsk

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia A History. Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2009.

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