Russia Rejects German Armistice Offer
June 9 1917, Petrograd–Since the Revolution, many of Russia’s soldiers had questioned why Russia should remain in the war. The Provisional Government had (despite some objections) sworn off any goal of annexing territory or receiving reparations from the war, and urged other countries to do the same. Despite this, they were unwilling to conduct a separate peace with Germany, a position they reiterated on June 9 by rejecting an armistice offer the Germans had broadcast by radio. There were several reasons for this. The new political leaders took Russia’s commitments to her Allies seriously, and did not want autocratic Germany to win the war in the west; if Russia pulled out now, there could very well be annexations elsewhere. Furthermore, Russia, having suffered grave defeats in 1915, and now dealing with the aftermath of the Revolution, would be negotiating from a position of weakness, and would likely have to make many concessions to the Central Powers. While much of the land occupied was in Poland (which the Provisional Government had promised independence anyway), a peace would likely still be humiliating for Russia and her government.
Lastly, the revolutionaries hoped (despite copious evidence to the contrary) that the war would unify Russia around the revolution, by defending it from a foreign threat. Their favorite analogy was to France in the 1790’s, but this was flawed; Germany was not attempting to restore the Czar or undo the revolution.
Often, the soldiers took matters into their own hands. Around the same time, the soldiers’ committees of XXXIII Corps received a German officer, Lt. Bauermeister, who gave lectures well behind the Russian lines, saying that Germany wanted peace and that the Provisional Government was a tool of Allied bankers. The speeches were well-received, and the men of XXXIII Corps declared that they wanted an armistice, raising white flags along their front, despite vehement protests from the officers. The Germans were more than glad to go along with this, until the Russians launched a general offensive a few weeks later. Elsewhere, soldiers increasingly found themselves drawn to the Bolsheviks, the only party advocating for an immediate peace.
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Sources include: Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy.