On 15 December 1917, an armistice was signed between the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) on the one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire—the Central Powers—on the other. The armistice took effect two days later, on 17 December. (These were 2 December and 4 December, respectively, in the Old Style [O.S.] calendar in use in Russia at the time.) By this agreement Russia de facto exited World War I, although fighting would briefly resume before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on 3 March 1918 and Russia made peace.
The armistice was preceded by two ceasefire agreements. The first was a local agreement reached at Soly on 4 December (21 November O.S.) between the Russians and Germans on the Eastern Front (Russia's "Western Front"). It superseded any local ceasefires or truces already agreed to—without specifying what these were—and was to be in effect from 6–17 December. Notice of the agreement was published in Izvestia on 8 December (25 November O.S.).
A fuller ceasefire encompassing all the Central Powers was signed at Brest-Litovsk on 5 December (22 November O.S.), the day after the agreement with Germany at Soly. This ceasefire came into effect a day later (7 December [24 November O.S.]), but expired on the same date as the local agreement of 4 December. It was published in Izvestia on the day it came into effect. In Soviet historiography there is some dispute about whether any agreement was signed on 5 December, and the explicit reference in the text of the armistice to a ceasefire of that date is dismissed as an error. That the 5 December agreement is historical is generally agreed. One of the Russian negotiators, L. B. Kamenev, wrote about the details of the agreement in Izvestia on 9 December (26 November O.S.); and the German general Max Hoffmann discussed it in his war diary.
Negotiations for a final armistice, which would signal Russia's intention to leave the war permanently and begin peace negotiations, took place at Brest-Litovsk during the ceasefire. The final agreement of 15 December, also signed at Brest-Litovsk, superseded that of 5 December. It extended the suspension of hostilities to 14 January 1918 and would be automatically renewed continually until seven days after notice had been given by any party to resume hostilities. Such notice was given by the Germans on 17 February to both the Russians and the other Central Powers. The armistice thus lapsed on 24 February and the final campaign of the Eastern Front, Operation Faustschlag, began.
A supplement to the armistice was signed later the same day. It provided for a commission to be set up at Saint Petersburg (Petrograd) to restore the postal system, trade relations and the transport of books and newspapers.
- Horne, Charles F. (1920). The Great Events of the Great War: A Comprehensive and Readable Source Record of the World's Great War. New York: The National Alumni [J. J. Little & Ives Co.].
- Slusser, Robert M.; Triska, Jan F. (1959). A Calendar of Soviet Treaties, 1917–1957. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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