At the time of the Russian Revolution, most major world powers (including Russia) were brawling in the First World War. Once the Russian revolutionaries overthrew and killed their monarch, they had a lot of problems to deal with—namely, implementing their new government and defeating the Russian generals who resisted communism. The leaders of the revolutionary government believed they could not accomplish their agenda in Russia while they were still fighting in the trenches of WWI. Therefore, the revolutionaries signed the treaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918, ending the war between Russia and Germany.
The treaty, however, was enormously one-sided in favor of Germany. Russia ceded approximately ¼ of its land to Germany. Around 44% of Russia’s population in 1918 lived in those regions. Besides land and manpower, the Russians also handed over more than half of some of their important resource-producing regions—the Russians lost 73% of its iron ore and 75% of its coal because of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. For context, some of the regions that Russia ceded to the Central Powers of WWI are now known as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Russia also gave land to Turkey, and was forced to grant independence to Ukraine, Georgia and Finland.
Of course, when the Allied Powers won WWI and imposed the Treaty of Versailles on the Central Powers, Germany lost all of the land it gained from Russia. The independent nations of Poland, Finland and Georgia, however, remained independent.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Warfare in the Western World: Military Operations Since 1871 (Volume II), by Robert A. Doughty and Ira D. Gruber et al. Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1996.