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Brest-Litovsk

Sydney D. Bailey offers up a study in Soviet diplomacy.

Sydney Bailey | Published in History Today

One December evening in 1917, a Curious banquet was held in a Polish town. The host was Field Marshal His Royal Highness Prince Leopold of Bavaria. Included among the guests were two of his friends, the German and Austrian Foreign Ministers, Baron von Ktihlmann and Count Czernin. Other distinguished men were present: Princes and Counts, Generals and Admirals, Ministers and Judges.

The meal was served with accustomed splendour—to the embarrassment of some of the foreign guests, who were unfamiliar with the proper etiquette. One of these guests was an illiterate peasant; another was a political assassin only recently released from jail; among others were a soldier and a sailor from the ranks, a factory worker, a journalist, and two professional revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks were for the first time engaged in diplomatic negotiations.

* * *

Support for the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917 had, to a large extent, been based on Lenin’s promise of peace. The Russian will to fight the German Empire had, of course, been broken while Lenin was in exile. The Tsaritsa and her confidant, Rasputin, were known to be pro-German and hostile to Russia’s Allies. Most of the Tsarist Ministers were either corrupt or incompetent—or both. War-profiteering went almost unchecked. All this had created a feeling that there was something bogus about the war.

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