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Remembered Today:

Brest Litovsk - Pull Russians from Imperial Armies


Broznitsky

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After the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, the Bolsheviks requested all Imperial Forces to pull Russian-born soldiers from front-line duties. This likely occurred in February 1918, plus or minus one month.

Can anybody point to any primary or secondary sources or references for this?

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After the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, the Bolsheviks requested all Imperial Forces to pull Russian-born soldiers from front-line duties. This likely occurred in February 1918, plus or minus one month.

Can anybody point to any primary or secondary sources or references for this?

Which Imperial? (There are at least three candidates.)

Bob Lembke

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The Diary of the Canadian Section, 3rd Echelon (which dealt with personnel matters at the front), gives this almost relevant entry:

" Rouen March 20, 1918

. . .

Considerable correspondence with regard to the extent of the disafection existing

amongst various Russian troops with Canadian Front Line Units has culminated in instructions

from the A.G.,G.H.Q. that the whole of these Russians, about eight hundred in all, will be

transferred forthwith for duty with Canadian Forestry Companies, such Companies being selec-

ted as are not situated in Frontier Departments. The disaffected men are to be distributed

evenly amonst the Companies, and those of bad character, separated. Necessary action is being

taken. (File K.R.22634). "

From memory, I can recall that the 49th Battalion sent its "Russians" back at about this time, perhaps in response to this directive. The reason had something to due with the fact that "Russia was now neutral" or some such, but noted many did not want to go. I am afraid I cannot find the reference.

One can speculate about the real motivations. One factor was that there may have been concern about the fate of Russian born soldiers who had the misfortune to be taken prisoner.

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One can speculate about the real motivations. One factor was that there may have been concern about the fate of Russian born soldiers who had the misfortune to be taken prisoner.

My father was sent to a Rittergut ( a noble estate) when his school closed and before he entered the German Army in mid-1915, to help with the agricultural duties. There were many Russian prisoners. There was one guard, an older man from the Landsturm, and since there were a lot of Russians, and his rifle, ancient, probably single-shot, was heavy, one prisoner was detailed to carry his rifle for him. The Russian peasants slept between white sheets, something they had not even ever seen. (My father spoke some Russian, as well as German, French, English, Latin, and Classical Greek, having visited there several times for both vacation and work, as a teenager.)

When the war was over the POWs were sent back to Russia. Then, one by one, many showed up, having walked across 1000 miles or so of wars, revolutions, etc. They said things like: "Remember me? I'm Ivan. Remember how hard I worked? Can I come in again?" They had never been treated as well as when a POW in Germany. (My father returned to the estate after the war to work there as an administrator, and kept in touch with the people there for quite a while.)

Bob Lembke

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From memory, I can recall that the 49th Battalion sent its "Russians" back at about this time, perhaps in response to this directive. The reason had something to due with the fact that "Russia was now neutral" or some such, but noted many did not want to go. I am afraid I cannot find the reference.

Going off at a slight tangent here, but interesting in that it shows the official attitude to its soldiers, and how far it trusts them.

I used to work with a man who was called up at the end of the war, or in 1946. He was from London, Jewish and serving in the army in the Middle East. He told me that, after the King David Hotel was blown up by the Palestinian Jews, most/all of the Jews in the British army in the region were collected together in one place. This was either in Egypt or Cyprus, can't quite remember which.

These were loyal soldiers some had fought in WW2, and yet all were lumped together and no longer really trusted. How would you have felt? Even in the 1980s this man still felt bad about it.

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Hi Peter,

Check out With Snow on Their Boots which is the story of the Russian troops in France. The Allies didn't recognize Brest-Litovsk since they didn't recognize (officially) the Bolshevik government.

This caused a great deal of trouble as some of the troops in France were naturally sympathetic to the Rvolution and naturally considered 'their' war over. Most of the officers and the Allies didn't recognize the Treaty so according to them the troops were still in for the duration.

The Provisional Government still supported the war and that was the last government the Allies recognized, so as far as they were concerned time stopped right before the October (November) Revolution and the Russians were still in the war.

Hope this helps,

Neil

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James, thanks for that, exactly the type of thing I'm trying to find.

Bob, I mean Canadian, ANZAC, and British.

Neil, yes I have Snowy Boots. The fact remains that the Canadians, at least, pulled the Russians in Spring 1918, almost at the height of Michael, when combat veterans would have been most useful.

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Here is the actual text of the Treaty - note the requirement for areas to be cleared of Russian troops [my emphasis]. In addition, I believe many senior Allied military staff and politicians were concerned that Bolshevism was a "disease" which promoted the welfare state, pacifism, social equity and might lead to a reduction in troops willingness to fight. Therefore, there was some concern to separate out those soldiers with these political dispositions - Borden Battery

The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk [3 March, 1918 ]

Article I. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, for the one part, and Russia, for the other part, declare that the state of war between them has ceased. They are resolved to live henceforth in peace and amity with one another.

Article II. The contracting parties will refrain from any agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public and military institutions of the other party. In so far as this obligation devolves upon Russia, it holds good also for the territories occupied by the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance.

Article III. The territories lying to the west of the line agreed upon by the contracting parties which formerly belonged to Russia, will no longer be subject to Russian sovereignty; the line agreed upon is traced on the map submitted as an essential part of this treaty of peace. The exact fixation of the line will be established by a Russo-German commission.

No obligations whatever toward Russia shall devolve upon the territories referred to, arising from the fact that they formerly belonged to Russia.

Russia refrains from all interference in the internal relations of these territories. Germany and Austria-Hungary purpose to determine the future status of these territories in agreement with their population.

Article IV. As soon as a general peace is concluded and Russian demobilization is carried out completely Germany will evacuate the territory lying to the east of the line designated in paragraph 1 of Article III, in so far as Article IV does not determine otherwise.

Russia will do all within her power to insure the immediate evacuation of the provinces of eastern Anatolia and their lawful return to Turkey.

The districts of Erdehan, Kars, and Batum will likewise and without delay be cleared of the Russian troops. Russia will not interfere in the reorganization of the national and international relations of these districts, but leave it to the population of these districts, to carry out this reorganization in agreement with the neighboring States, especially with Turkey.

Article V. Russia will, without delay, carry out the full demobilization of her army inclusive of those units recently organized by the present Government. Furthermore, Russia will either bring her warships into russian ports and there detain them until the day of the conclusion of a general peace, or disarm them forthwith. Warships of the States which continue in the state of war with the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance, in so far as they are within Russian sovereignty, will be treated as Russian warships.

The barred zone in the Arctic Ocean continues as such until the conclusion of a general peace. In the Baltic sea, and, as far as Russian power extends within the Black sea, removal of the mines will be proceeded with at once. Merchant navigation within these maritime regions is free and will be resumed at once. Mixed commissions will be organized to formulate the more detailed regulations, especially to inform merchant ships with regard to restricted lanes. The navigation lanes are always to be kept free from floating mines.

Article VI. Russia obligates herself to conclude peace at once with the Ukrainian People's Republic and to recognize the treaty of peace between that State and the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance. The Ukrainian territory will, without delay, be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard. Russia is to put an end to all agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public institutions of the Ukrainian People's Republic.

Esthonia and Livonia will likewise, without delay, be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard. The eastern boundary of Esthonia runs, in general along the river Narwa. The eastern boundary of Livonia crosses, in general, lakes Peipus and Pskow, to the southwestern corner of the latter, then across Lake Luban in the direction of Livenhof on the Dvina. Esthonia and Livonia will be occupied by a German police force until security is insured by proper national institutions and until public order has been established. Russia will liberate at once all arrested or deported inhabitants of Esthonia and Livonia, and insures the safe return of all deported Esthonians and Livonians.

Finland and the Aaland Islands will immediately be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard, and the Finnish ports of the Russian fleet and of the Russian naval forces. So long as the ice prevents the transfer of warships into Russian ports, only limited forces will remain on board the warships. Russia is to put an end to all agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public institutions of Finland.

The fortresses built on the Aaland Islands are to be removed as soon as possible. As regards the permanent non- fortification of these islands as well as their further treatment in respect to military technical navigation matters, a special agreement is to be concluded between Germany, Finland, Russia, and Sweden; there exists an understanding to the effect that, upon Germany's desire, still other countries bordering upon the Baltic Sea would be consulted in this matter.

Article VII. In view of the fact that Persia and Afghanistan are free and independent States, the contracting parties obligate themselves to respect the political and economic independence and the territorial integrity of these states.

Article VIII. The prisoners of war of both parties will be released to return to their homeland. The settlement of the questions connected therewith will be effected through the special treaties provided for in Article XII.

Article IX. The contracting parties mutually renounce compensation for their war expenses, i.e., of the public expenditures for the conduct of the war, as well as compensation for war losses, i.e., such losses as were caused [by] them and their nationals within the war zones by military measures, inclusive of all requisitions effected in enemy country.

Article X. Diplomatic and consular relations between the contracting parties will be resumed immediately upon the ratification of the treaty of peace. As regards the reciprocal admission of consuls, separate agreements are reserved.

Article XI. As regards the economic relations between the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance and Russia the regulations contained in Appendices II-V are determinative....

Article XII. The reestablishment of public and private legal relations, the exchange of war prisoners and interned citizens, the question of amnesty as well as the question anent the treatment of merchant ships which have come into the power of the opponent, will be regulated in separate treaties with Russia which form an essential part of the general treaty of peace, and, as far as possible, go into force simultaneously with the latter.

Article XIII. In the interpretation of this treaty, the German and Russian texts are authoritative for the relations between Germany and Russia; the German, the Hungarian, and Russian texts for the relations between Austria-Hungry and Russia; the Bulgarian and Russian texts for the relations between Bulgaria and Russia; and the Turkish and Russian texts for the relations between Turkey and Russia.

Article XIV. The present treaty of peace will be ratified. The documents of ratification shall, as soon as possible, be exchanged in Berlin. The Russian Government obligates itself, upon the desire of one of the powers of the Quadruple Alliance, to execute the exchange of the documents of ratification within a period of two weeks. Unless otherwise provided for in its articles, in its annexes, or in the additional treaties, the treaty of peace enters into force at the moment of its ratification.

In testimony whereof the Plenipotentiaries have signed this treaty with their own hand.

Executed in quintuplicate at Brest-Litovsk, 3 March, 1918.

Internet Source: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1918/brestlitovsk.html

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Thanks for posting that, Dwight. No doubt some of the Russians in the CEF had political leanings, but without access to Russian newspapers in France, I can't imagine there would have been a great knowledge of the Bolshevik manifesto. Letters to and from Russia were not a timely form of communication either.

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There was a large and very active socialist presence in the French Army. They would have been very aware of what was going on and doubtless kept their Russian comrades informed.

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Not to argue the point about the French, but how often did the Canadian Corps serve alongside the French, to have a chance to speak with poilus?

Perhaps more likely hearing the rumour mill back at rest . . . from mademoiselles . . . or finding English newspapers and having them translated . . .

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Not to argue the point about the French, but how often did the Canadian Corps serve alongside the French, to have a chance to speak with poilus?

Perhaps more likely hearing the rumour mill back at rest . . . from mademoiselles . . . or finding English newspapers and having them translated . . .

During the Great War, a socialist International Congress was convened in one of the Scandinavian countries. I think Sweden. Working men and their political represenratives from many countries travelled to this conference. An organisation which had this level of sophistication would not find it impossible to keep Russian soldiers in France informed of the ongoing situation.

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During the Great War, a socialist International Congress was convened in one of the Scandinavian countries. I think Sweden. Working men and their political represenratives from many countries travelled to this conference. An organisation which had this level of sophistication would not find it impossible to keep Russian soldiers in France informed of the ongoing situation.

There was at least one cartoon about this in "Punch".

IIRC, it depicts a 'weasely looking' British representative climbing the gangplank of a ship. Of course, we know where he is going from a label on his suitcase.

A British workman (docker?) is saying something like: "Tell Fritz that the only place that I will meet with him is in France".

Can anyone post this? I have not seen it in 20 years, but the information above ought to enable it to be identified.

If it was mentioned in "Punch" it would probably have been getting some stick in "John Bull" etc, so all the troops would have known of it.

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......................

A British workman (docker?) is saying something like: "Tell Fritz that the only place that I will meet with him is in France".

....................

So more than a bit ironic that actions by London dockers should help to bring the British intervention in the Russian civil war to an end.

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The 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, owing to its mobility and spark-wireless communication, inclusion of several French-speaking officers [brutinel et al] plus visiting liason French officers, did spend a good deal of time "along the seam" between the CEF-BEF and French Armies. However, I am not aware of much interaction between enlisted men of the 1CMMGB and enlisted men of the adjoining French units while at the Front.

Borden Battery

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I am reading the letters and diaries of Alan Seeger, the American poet who joined the French Foreign Legion in 1914, and was killed, I think, in 1916 (haven't got to that, yet). In 1915 he mentioned that all the Belgians and Russians were taken out of his unit at one time, severely cutting into the manpower. He didn't say (and probably didn't know ) why. The Belgians probably were headed to the Belgian Army, which was kept up to strength thru the war; the Russians, I don't know. I thought the Imperial Russian Corps arrived on the Western Front at a later date.

Bob Lembke

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Peter,

I have come across another oblique reference to this in the book Two-Gun Cohen - A Biography by Daniel S. Levy. This relates to my old friends, the Edmonton Irish Guards, who at this time were serving as part of the 8th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops. Our author at this point was making the point that discipline had improved since leaving Canada.

"... The only real incident occurred at the start of 1918, when the Russians refused to work following the news of a Russian-German ceasefire, the subsequent Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and the Russian withdrawal from the war. "it is doubtful whether or not the principles of Bolshevism had begun to take root among the personnel of this Battalion, but it can safely be said that when a very limited number of Russian personnel refused duty and were court-martialled and punished for their disobedience, there was no recurrance of insubordination." wrote Ian Mackenzie, a staff officer with the railway troops."

To put this comment in some relief, we might note that this officer would seem to be Ian Alister (or Alistair) Mackenzie, who would later become a prominent Vancouver (of all places!) politician. He would be an important, if erratic member of the Mackenzie King cabinet during the next war. His fame (or infame?) today rests on his crusade to perminantly expell Japanese Canadians from British Columbia.

Our author seems to have found the quote amont the Ian Mackenzie papers at the Archives in Ottawa. I have not found anything in the on-line C.R.T. diaries.

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Thanks James, for your assistance. I found the Echelon War Diaries to be very interesting, by the way. Lots of fascinating bureaucracy . . .

Peter

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  • 1 year later...

Checking to see if anything new has come to light.

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Seemed to have missed this the first time around.

Events appear to date back to December 1917 when War Cabinet considered the formation of a combatant force from loyal Russians under the command of "loyal" Russian officers.

In April 1918 GHQ Diary notes that Russians were to be withdrawn from fighting units and placed in either 160 Company, Labour Corps or 1 Scottish Company, Non Combatant Corps.

July 1918 991 Company Labour Corps was formed from Russians and Rumanians who had been withdrawn from the Front Line

Ivor

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Checking to see if anything new has come to light.

Was any action taken by the American armed forces in respect to the treaty?

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  • 10 months later...

Just checking to see if anything new has come to light.

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  • 7 years later...

I resurrect this thread to point a bit of stuff I ran across while browsing through the service records of my old friends, the 218th Battalion The Edmonton Irish Guards. I actually have found two similar items so far, but the only one I remembered to note down is that of 279040 Fosty, Anany. Like many of the 218th men he ended up with the 8th Battalion, Canadian Rail;way Troops. Early in 1918, after Russia had left the War, we see in his record (among other things) the following:

"... when on active service disobeying
in such a manner as to show wilful
defiance of authority a lawful command
given by his superior officer in the
execution of his office and sentenced
to 10 years penal servitude. Sentence
confirmed by Lieut. Gen. C. Jacob,
commanding II Corps 4-5-18. Sentence
promulgated 8-5-18."

A couple of months later the sentence was commuted to 2 years, and after the Armistice he was struck off back to Canada where he seems to have gone through the ordinary demobilization process. A note on his file reports his death in Toronto in 1975, presumably after receiving all the normal veterans benefits. One senses that officialdom stomped on this heavily at the time to send a message.

One notes that while most of our "Russians" were Ukrainians or Poles, this fellow was born in Bessarabia.

If you already have this forget I said anything!

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James A Pratt III

The Scialist conference took place in Zimmerwald Switzerland just outside Bern in September 1915. The was another conference like this at Kiental in April 1916. V.L. Lenin was at both of them.

see the following books:

The Russian Revolution R Pipes

Carpthian Disaster

The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Russian Anti-War Movement 1914-1917

Dare call it Treason the French 1917 mutinies does deal with the Russina troops in france

The Grinding Mill prince A Lobanov-Rostovsky The author was an officer with Russian troops in France in 1918

I hope thois is of some use

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