"... There is no doubt that our army at the moment and in the coming weeks (and probably in the coming months) is absolutely unable to successfully repel the German offensive ..."
18 February 1918, the troops of the German bloc on the Eastern Front launched an offensive. As a result, by the summer of 1918, the Austro-German invaders occupied the Baltic States, Ukraine, the Crimea, the Don Region, part of the Taman Peninsula, part of the Voronezh and Kursk provinces.
The split among the Bolsheviks on the issue of peace with Germany
By mid-January 1918, a split was formed in the RSDLP (B.): A group of “left-wing communists,” headed by N. I. Bukharin, began to insist on rejecting German demands. The main argument of the “Left Communists” was that the socialist revolution in Russia would perish without an immediate revolution in the countries of Western Europe. They did not allow any agreements with the imperialist states and demanded to declare a “revolutionary war” to international imperialism, at the same time they declared their readiness to “go for the possibility of losing Soviet power” in the name of “the interests of the international revolution”. A number of Bolshevik leaders opposed the shameful conditions for Russia proposed by Germany: N. I. Bukharin, F. E. Dzerzhinsky, M. S. Uritzky, A. S. Bubnov, K. B. Radek, A. A. Ioffe, N. N. Krestinsky, N. V. Krylenko, N. I. Podvoisky, etc.
People's Commissariat of LD Leonid Trotsky put forward an "intermediate" platform "neither peace nor war" - "We stop the war, do not make peace, demobilize the army." In fact, he provoked the Germans to continue the war in order to crisis the Soviet government and strengthen their own positions in the party and the state. Part of the "Left Communists" supported Trotsky.
V. Lenin insists on accepting the German demands by publishing "Theses on Peace" on 7 (20) in January. At a meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) 11 (24) in January, Lenin clearly and clearly expressed the essence of the position of Soviet Russia: “For a revolutionary war, an army is needed, but we have no army ... There is no doubt the peace that we are forced to make now, if war breaks out, our government will be swept away and peace will be concluded by another government. ” Stalin, Sergeev, Sokolnikov supported the signing of the peace. The “Left Communists”, temporarily rejecting the slogan of an immediate “revolutionary war” (only two people voted for it), gave the ballot to Trotsky’s proposal, which received 9 votes against 7. Then Lenin made a proposal for all sorts of tightening of the negotiations, which was adopted by a majority vote.
The Bolsheviks were in a desperate situation: it was impossible to fight — the German divisions could have rendered peace in Petrograd a few days after the outbreak of hostilities, but they could not make peace — most local councils opposed it. If the Soviets in the frontline areas demanded peace at any cost, fearing occupation and seeing the collapse of the front and the nearest rear, then the Soviets in the depths of Russia, especially Siberia and the Far East, shouted about a revolutionary war, completely unaware of the situation. As a result, before the third stage of the negotiations, Trotsky's formula “no war - no peace” was supported by Lenin.
The Ukrainian factor
Meanwhile, another 28 December 1917 (January 10 1918) a delegation of the Ukrainian Central Council arrived in Brest-Litovsk. Ukrainian nationalists did not stand on ceremony and demanded the accession to Ukraine of the Kholm region (which was part of Poland) and Galicia and Bukovina belonging to Austria-Hungary. The Ukrainian delegation decided to take advantage of the plight of the powers of the German bloc - internal problems, the need for peace on the Eastern Front and difficult negotiations with the Soviet government, as well as the need for food supplies from Little Russia-Ukraine. The Austro-German side insisted that they reduce their demands and confine themselves to the Kholmshchina alone, agreeing that Bukovina and Eastern Galicia establish autonomy under the rule of the Hapsburgs.
9 (22) January 1918, the Central Council, against the background of the onset of the Soviet offensive against Kiev, declared the UNR "independent, independent, free, sovereign state of the Ukrainian people." By January 15 (28) the Red Army approached Kiev, and in the city itself an uprising began at the Arsenal plant. In other parts of Kiev, the Red Guard detachments also revolted. January 20 (February 2) the uprising in the streets of Kiev was put down, only its main stronghold, the Arsenal plant, held out. After a bloody assault, the plant was taken by the troops of Simon Petliura on January 22 (February 4). Hundreds of rebels were shot.
However, the defeat of the uprising did not save the CR. Soviet power was established throughout the Left-Bank Ukraine. 22 January (4 February), on the day of the suppression of the Bolshevik uprising in Kiev, the troops of M. A. Muravyov approached the city and entrenched in Darnitsa, after which they began shelling the city. The head of the General Secretariat (Council of Ministers) of the Central Council V.K. Vinnichenko and members of his cabinet got tired, resigned and, together with the President of the Central Committee M. S. Grushevsky, fled from Kiev. The power was seized by two students - Golubovich, who became the head of the “government”, and Kovenko, who became the commandant of Kiev. For some time they rather actively defended Kiev, but having convinced of the senselessness of this business, they got into cars and drove off to Zhytomyr. January 26 (February 8) Soviet troops occupied Kiev.
Germany was under pressure from the Entente, the population was starving, the Germans and Austrians urgently needed food, and it could be found in Little Russia. Therefore, the German government could not allow the Bolsheviks to take up in the Kiev region. Therefore, on January 27 (February 9) the German and Austro-Hungarian delegations signed a separate peace treaty with the delegation of the Central Council. On behalf of the Rada, the contract was signed by the dropout student A. Sevruk.
In exchange for military assistance in ousting Soviet troops from the territory of the UNR, the CR committed to supply Germany and Austria-Hungary until July 31 1918 a million tons of grain, 400 million eggs, up to 50 thousand tons of cattle meat, lard, sugar, hemp, manganese ore, etc. Austria-Hungary also committed to create an autonomous Ukrainian region in Eastern Galicia. The borders between the UNR and Austria-Hungary under this treaty coincided with the pre-war ones between the Russian Empire and Austria-Hungary. Within the limits of the future Poland, they were to be finally recognized by a joint commission based on ethnographic relations and the interests of the population.
On January 31 (February 13) in Brest, the delegation of the UNR appealed to Germany and Austria-Hungary for UNR assistance against the Soviet troops. The German command gave its preliminary consent to enter the war against the Bolsheviks and began to actively prepare for the march on Ukraine.
Ukrainian delegation in Brest-Litovsk, from left to right: N. Lyubinsky, V. Golovich, N. Levitsky, Lyussenti, M. Polosov and A. Sevryuk
The signing of the Brest Peace Treaty between the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the Central Powers. Sit in the middle from left to right: Ottokar Czernin, Richard von Kühlmann and Vasil Radoslavov
27 - January 28 (February 9 - 10) the German side negotiated in an ultimatum tone, but did not present an official ultimatum. As soon as they learned about the signing of a peace agreement with the Central Rada in Berlin, Kaiser Wilhelm II categorically demanded that the Soviet delegation immediately submit an ultimatum about accepting German peace conditions with the rejection of the Baltic regions to the Narva-Pskov-Dvinsk line. That is, the Soviet government was demanded to cede unoccupied parts of Estonia and Latvia.
Kühlmann made a categorical demand for the Soviet delegation to immediately sign the world on German terms. The pretext for this ultimatum was the appeal of Trotsky to the German soldiers, allegedly intercepted in Berlin, urging them to "kill the emperor and the generals and to fight with the Soviet troops." The Soviet delegation still had the opportunity to tighten the negotiations, but Trotsky 28 January rejected the German conditions of peace, putting forward the slogan "Neither peace nor war: we do not sign peace, we stop the war, and we demobilize the army." This position of Trotsky provided complete freedom of action in Germany and Austria-Hungary. Kühlmann responded by saying that the non-signing of a peace treaty by Russia would automatically entail the termination of the truce. After this statement, the Soviet delegation pointedly left the negotiations.
On the same day, Trotsky, without the consent of the SNK, sent a telegram to the commander-in-chief Krylenko, in which he demanded to issue an order immediately to the active army to end the state of war with the powers of the German bloc and to demobilize the Russian army. Krylenko also without agreement with SNK early in the morning of 29 in January of 1918 (11 in February of 1918) issued and sent on all fronts an order to cease hostilities and to demobilize the army. This order of Trotsky contributed to the final collapse of the Russian front and the German invasion.
German invasion plans
5 (18) January, the headquarters of the German Eastern Front, at the direction of the German High Command, began preparations for an offensive operation in the Petrograd direction, codenamed “Fauststlag” (“Punch”). German generals built their plans on the basis of the strategy of a lightning war. The German command expected that the collapse of the Russian army and the advance of the German troops into the depths of Russia would lead to the rapid fall of Soviet Russia. At the end of January, Hindenburg also approved an offensive plan on the Ukrainian front.
January 31 (February 13) Kaiser Wilhelm II held a meeting with representatives of the imperial government and high command in Homburg, which was to finally decide on the resumption of hostilities against Soviet Russia. Ludendorff spoke in favor of an offensive that was supposed to liberate divisions on the Eastern Front for the transfer to the French theater in order to organize a strategic offensive; maintain the agreement with Ukraine and ensure the supply of Germany and Austria-Hungary at the expense of the Russian regions; crush or extremely weaken the Soviet government.
There were also those who doubted the need for a decisive offensive. Kühlmann believed that immediate intervention and even the occupation of Petrograd would immediately cause internal complications in Germany. Kühlmann proposed to limit himself initially to the support of the internal counter-revolution in Russia. Vice-Chancellor Payer noted: “We can start, but how to finish?” The vast spaces of Russia, the possibility of guerrilla war and the disintegration of the Austro-German forces themselves were a mortal threat to the German military machine.
However, the Kaiser supported the demands of Ludendorff. At the same time, they decided to cover up the invasion with the help of the Russians in the struggle against the Bolsheviks. The meeting spoke about the danger of Bolshevism, the need to "destroy the Bolsheviks," that "the center of the revolutionary plague must be eliminated by force weapons". The meeting adopted the date of the expiration of a truce with Russia - February 17. The offensive was scheduled simultaneously in three directions - Petrograd (in the Baltic States), central (in Belarus) and southern (in Ukraine, together with the Austrians). According to the developed plan, it was supposed to occupy the entire Baltic states up to Narva and provide armed support to Finland. It was also decided to occupy Ukraine, to liquidate Soviet power in the occupied territories and to start exporting grain and raw materials. It was decided to use the “non-signing of a peace treaty by Trotsky” as a formal motive for ending the ceasefire. By February 18, the 81,5 infantry and 18 cavalry divisions of the Fourth Union countries were on the Eastern Front (excluding the Turkish army in the Caucasus).
In the evening of February 16, the German command officially declared to the remaining Soviet representative in Brest-Litovsk that at the 12 hours of the day on February 18 the truce between Russia and Germany ends and the state of war resumes. According to the terms of the truce concluded by 2 (15) of December 1917, in the event one of the parties intends to terminate the agreement, she should have warned the other party 7 days before the outbreak of hostilities. The Germans violated this condition. The Soviet government protested to the German government over the violation of the armistice terms, but there was no response.
Austrian troops are parade on Nikolaev Boulevard, Odessa. 1918 year
18 February, the troops of the German bloc on the Eastern Front launched an offensive on the entire front from the Baltic Sea to the Carpathians. The German troops that entered the territory of Ukraine (the Austro-Hungarian army began the offensive a week later) gradually advanced in the eastern and southern directions, without encountering any noticeable resistance from the front units of the former Russian imperial army or the Soviet troops. Front-line units have already been completely decomposed by revolutionary and nationalist propaganda. In the Caucasus, the Turkish army, violating the truce, launched the 12 offensive in February in the direction of the pre-war Russian-Turkish border, in order to occupy the territory of the Transcaucasus and further advance into the North Caucasus.
Russia did not have the armed forces capable of restraining their onslaught. In the evening of the same day, at a meeting of the Central Committee of the party after a bitter struggle with the "Left Communists", the majority (7 for, 5 against, 1 abstained) favored the signing of peace. February 19, at the initiative of Lenin, SNK sent a radiogram to Berlin, in which he protested against the German invasion and agreed to sign peace on the terms of Germany.
At the same time, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, work began in preparation for repelling the German-Austrian attack. February 20 SNK appealed with an appeal "To the Toiling Population of All Russia", in which he declared that the Soviet people, although ready to accept the conditions of peace, are determined to fight the invaders. On the same day, the Temporary Executive Committee of the CPC, headed by Lenin, was created, authorized to resolve operational issues of defense. February 21 published a decree of the Council of People's Commissars "The Socialist Fatherland is in danger!" The Soviets and Revolutionary Organizations were required to "protect every position until the last drop of blood," to destroy food supplies that could fall into the hands of the enemy. The railroad workers were ordered to divert rolling stock to the east, destroy railways and railway buildings during the retreat. The mobilization of workers and peasants for digging trenches was announced. Emergency measures were taken to provide the existing troops with food, to establish military production and to strengthen the rear. In large cities, volunteers enrolled in the Red Army. Formed units of the Red Army were sent to the most threatened sectors of the front - under Narva, Revel and Pskov.
The German offensive quickly unfolded across the front. February 18 was occupied by Dvinsk, February 19 - Lutsk and Rivne, February 21 - Minsk and Novograd-Volynsky, February February 24 - Zhytomyr. Austro-Hungarian troops invaded the territory of Ukraine 25 February, crossing the border rivers Zbruch and Dniester, and immediately occupied the cities of Kamyanets-Podilsky and Hotin. The Austrians, advancing on the Odessa direction along the Lviv-Ternopil-Zhmerynka-Vapnyarka railway, quickly occupied Podolia, meeting only small Soviet units at Vinnitsa and Zhmerinka in early March.
Parts of the Austro-Hungarian army enter Kamenetz
February 23 received a response from the German government, containing even more severe conditions. The new ultimatum consisted of 10 points. If the first two repeated the previous demands, in others, Russia was required to completely clear Livonia and Estland, recognize the Central Government are happy and withdraw troops from Ukraine and Finland, and also withdraw all troops from Turkey and return the Anatolian provinces to it. In addition, the Russian army was subject to complete demobilization, all ships were to return to the ports and disarm, and in the Arctic Ocean before the conclusion of peace a German blockade was established. For the adoption of this ultimatum was given two days. On the same day, a meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (B) was held. 7 members of the Central Committee voted for the immediate signing of the Germanic terms of the world, 4 voted against, and four abstained. The Central Committee unanimously decided to immediately prepare for the defense of the socialist fatherland. On the same day, Lenin spoke at a joint meeting of the factions of the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, at the Bolshevik faction, and then at the meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. In a fierce struggle against the Left Social Revolutionaries (at the meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee they voted against the conclusion of peace), the Mensheviks and Right-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries and the “Left Communists” he won the approval of the Central Executive Committee’s decision of the party’s Central Committee. On the night of February 24, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the SNK of the RSFSR accepted the German conditions.
Meanwhile, the interventionists continued. In the Caucasus, Turkish troops captured the cities of Erzincan, Bayburt, Ardahan. February 24 Turks occupied Trapezund, February 27 was left Erzerum. With the fall of Erzurum, the Turks actually regained control over all of Western Armenia. February 25 Germans took Revel, February 28 - Pskov, March 1 - Kiev and Gomel, March 5 - Mogilev. The long-standing dream of the Austrian and German politicians came true: "Od Kiyev to Berlin, Prostagla Ukraine." In Kiev, settled the main apartment of the German command, headed by Field Marshal Hermann von Eichgorn. Eichhorn headed the occupation administration of most of the occupied regions of Ukraine, with the exception of parts of the Volyn, Podolsk, Kherson and Yekaterinoslav provinces, transferred under the control of the Austro-Hungarian administration.
On February 28, the Soviet delegation headed by G.Ya. Sokolnikov arrived in Brest-Litovsk and immediately made a strong protest against the violation of the armistice terms by Germany and its allies. In response to this, the new head of the German delegation, F. Rosenberg, stated that hostilities would end only after the signing of a peace treaty. March 1 resumed peace talks. 3 March was signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty.
March 3 launched an attack on the Poltava direction. As a result of the onset of the Austro-Hungarian troops 13 March, Odessa was occupied. March 12 Germans occupied Chernigov, 15 - Bakhmach, 27 - Gadyach, April 1 - Sumy and Ahtyrka. 29 March Poltava was in the hands of the Germans. In the southern direction, German troops 17 of March occupied Kherson, and 19-th - Nikolaev. German troops moved east. After the 3 fights of April, Yekaterinoslav was taken, and the 8 of April - Kharkov. By the end of April, the entire territory of the UNR was under the control of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies.
In the second half of April, the offensive on the Crimea began. German troops occupied Perekop and invaded the Crimea. At the same time, an uprising of Crimean Tatars began throughout the peninsula. The Sevastopol fortress was the second strongest in Russia, had powerful weapons and even without fleet could resist the enemy for a long time. With the presence of the Russian fleet, which had an advantage on the Black Sea, the Germans would not be able to take Sevastopol. But in Russia there was confusion, discipline and order, as well as strong central authority (the Bolsheviks had yet to restore their order). The revolutionary "brothers" with great pleasure robbed and slaughtered the bourgeois, but did not want to fight anymore. There were almost no officers left in the Russian Navy. Therefore, some decided to drape, while others decided to negotiate with the Germans. The Bolsheviks decided to withdraw the fleet to Novorossiysk and to implement this plan they released Admiral Sablin from prison. When the Germans reached Sevastopol, Sablin took some of the ships to Novorossiysk. Part of the ships remained, many of them were not manned.
On the night of May 1, the German cruisers Geben and Breslau took up positions in front of Sevastopol. 1 May German soldiers marched into the city. Also 1 in May was abandoned by Soviet troops Taganrog, 8 in May fell Rostov-on-Don. At the end of May, German troops landed on the Taman Peninsula. In May, German troops began landing in Georgia.
As a result, by the summer of 1918, the Austro-German invaders occupied the entire Baltic region, Ukraine, the Crimea, the Don region, part of the Taman peninsula, part of the Voronezh and Kursk provinces. The front stabilized along the Bataysk-Don-Northern Donets-Degtevo-Osinovka-Novobelaya-Valuyki-Grushevka-Belgorod-Sudzha-Rylsk line. By agreement of 29 in March of 1918, the part of the Volyn, Podolsk, Kherson and Yekaterinoslav provinces were part of the occupation of Austro-Hungary. At the same time, management and operation of coal and mining areas were joint here. Nikolaev, Mariupol and Rostov-on-Don were occupied by mixed units - the German command in Nikolaev and Rostov-on-Don, the Austro-Hungarian - in Mariupol. The remaining provinces of Ukraine, Crimea, and Taganrog were occupied by German troops. Railway and water transport throughout the occupied territory was placed under the control of the Germans.
In Ukraine, the occupiers decided to replace the Central Council with a more efficient local government. Field Marshal Eichhorn decided to give Ukraine a hetman. For this position, the Germans chose a rich landowner, a mason, Lieutenant General Pavel Petrovich Skoropadsky. The hetman's “election” of 29 on April 1918 of the year in Krutikov’s circus (very symbolic) on Nikolayevskaya Street in Kiev. In the circus gathered "voters", they asked to save Ukraine from chaos and "shouted" Hetman Skoropadsky. The Central Council was dispersed by the German guard (an indicator of its "power"). Not a single person came to the defense of the Rada. The hetman era began - another “power” of traitors to popular interests. It was a screen for the Germans, behind which the robbery of Little Russia was carried out. The hetman himself lived in the house of the Kiev governor-general. And under the office of the hetman on the second floor was located the premises of the German guard. So Skoropadsky was sitting on German bayonets in the literal and figurative sense.
The Baltic was occupied by the Germans and was regarded as a colony of the Second Reich. On the initiative of the German occupation authorities 8 in March 1918, the Courland Landtag was elected in Mitau, the majority of deputies were German nobles and rich burghers. Landtag decided to proclaim the German Kaiser of Duchy under the scepter. March 15 Wilhelm recognized the Duchy of Courland as an independent state. On April 12, in Riga, at the joint meeting of Livonia, Estland, the city of Riga and the island of Ezel, the creation of the Baltic Duchy was announced (it also included the Duchy of Courland). And also about the separation of Estonia and Latvia from Russia, the establishment of a personal union of the Baltic Duchy with Prussia. Heinrich Hohenzollern, brother of the German Kaiser, became the ruler of the Baltic duchy. The only official language for office work and school education was German. As in Little Russia and in the Crimea, in the Baltic States, the Germans exported everything valuable, including timber.
Germany's interests spread to the Caucasus. Kaiser Wilhelm emphasized: "Georgia must be included in the Reich in one form or another." 27 April 1918 Germany forced Turkey to sign a secret agreement in Constantinople on the division of spheres of influence. Turkey departed the south-western part of Georgia and almost the whole of Armenia, the rest of the Transcaucasus was taken over by Germany. 28 May, the Georgian government was recognized by Germany. In Poti, six treaties were signed, according to which Germany received a monopoly on the exploitation of Georgia’s economic resources, and the port of Poti and the railway came under the control of the German command. 10 June Germanic troops entered Tiflis. German interventionists took control of the mail, telegraph, banks, military and financial departments. German instructors were attached to the Georgian army. Germany began to plunder local resources.
German troops in Kiev. March 1918 of the year