Year
1918
Month Day
March 03

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded

On March 3, 1918, in the city of Brest-Litovsk, located in modern-day Belarus near the Polish border, Russia signs a treaty with the Central Powers ending its participation in World War I.

Russia’s involvement in World War I alongside its allies, France and Britain, had resulted in a number of heavy losses against Germany, offset only partially by consistent victories against Austria-Hungary. Defeat on the battlefield fed the growing discontent among the bulk of Russia’s population, especially the poverty-stricken workers and peasants, and its hostility towards the imperial regime, led by the ineffectual Czar Nicholas II. This discontent strengthened the cause of the Bolsheviks, a radical socialist group led by Vladimir Lenin that was working to harness opposition to the czar and turn it into a sweeping revolution that would begin in Russia and later, he hoped, spread to the rest of the world.

The February Revolution broke out in early March 1917 (or February, according to the Julian calendar, which the Russians used at the time); Nicholas abdicated later that month. After Lenin’s return from exile (aided by the Germans) in mid-April, he and his fellow Bolsheviks worked quickly to seize power from the provisional government, led by Alexander Kerensky, Russia’s minister of war. On November 6, aided by the Russian military, they were successful. One of Lenin’s first actions as leader was to call a halt to Russian participation in the war.

An armistice was reached in early December 1917 and a formal cease-fire was declared December 15, but determining the terms of peace between Russia and the Central Powers proved to be far more complicated. Negotiations began at Brest-Litovsk on December 22. Leading their respective delegations were Foreign Ministers Leon Trotsky of Russia, Baron Richard von Kuhlmann of Germany and Count Ottokar Czernin of Austria.

In mid-February, the talks broke down when an angry Trotsky deemed the Central Powers’ terms too harsh and their demands for territory unacceptable. Fighting resumed briefly on the Eastern Front, but the German armies advanced quickly, and both Lenin and Trotsky soon realized that Russia, in its weakened state, would be forced to give in to the enemy terms. Negotiations resumed later that month and the final treaty was signed on March 3.

By the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Russia recognized the independence of Ukraine, Georgia and Finland; gave up Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Germany and Austria-Hungary; and ceded Kars, Ardahan and Batum to Turkey. The total losses constituted 1 million square miles of Russia’s former territory; a third of its population or 55 million people; a majority of its coal, oil and iron stores; and much of its industry. Lenin, who bitterly called the settlement that abyss of defeat, dismemberment, enslavement and humiliation, was forced to hope that the spread of world revolution—his greatest dream—would eventually right the wrongs done at Brest-Litovsk.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

LAPD officers beat Rodney King on camera

At 12:45 a.m. on March 3, 1991, robbery parolee Rodney G. King stops his car after leading police on a nearly 8-mile pursuit through the streets of Los Angeles, California. The chase began after King, who was intoxicated, was caught speeding on a freeway by a California Highway ...read more

"The Star-Spangled Banner" becomes official U.S. national anthem

President Herbert Hoover signs a congressional act making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States. On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” after witnessing the massive overnight British ...read more

Congress passes the Missouri Compromise

After months of bitter debate, Congress passes the Missouri Compromise, a bill that temporarily resolves the first serious political clash between slavery and antislavery interests in U.S. history. In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill ...read more

Congress passes Civil War conscription act

During the Civil War, the U.S. Congress passes a conscription act that produces the first wartime draft of U.S. citizens in American history. The act called for registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45, including aliens with the intention of becoming citizens, by ...read more

Helen Keller meets Anne Sullivan, her teacher and “miracle worker”

On March 3, 1887, Anne Sullivan begins teaching six-year-old Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness at the age of 19 months. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, including her pioneering “touch teaching” techniques, the previously uncontrollable Keller ...read more

Finland declares war on Germany

Finland, under increasing pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union, finally declares war on its former partner, Germany. After the German invasion of Poland, the USSR, wanting to protect Leningrad more than ever from encroachment by the West—even its dubious ...read more

Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a military supply route running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The route sent weapons, manpower, ammunition and other supplies from communist-led North Vietnam to their supporters in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. ...read more

First indoor game of ice hockey

On March 3, 1875, indoor ice hockey makes its public debut in Montreal, Quebec. After weeks of training at the Victoria Skating Rink with his friends, Montreal resident James Creighton advertised in the March 3 edition of the Montreal Gazette that “A game of hockey will be played ...read more

Rutherford B. Hayes is inaugurated in a private ceremony

On March 3, 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes is sworn in as the 19th president of the United States in the Red Room of the White House. Two days later, Hayes was again inaugurated in a public ceremony. Some historical accounts claim that Hayes’ first swearing-in ceremony had occurred ...read more

Congress overrides presidential veto for first time

On March 3, 1845, Congress reins in President John Tyler’s zealous use of the presidential veto, overriding it with the necessary two-thirds vote. This marked Congress’ first use of the Constitutional provision allowing Congressional veto overrides and represented Congress’ ...read more

United States Geological Survey created

Congress establishes the United States Geological Survey, an organization that played a pivotal role in the exploration and development of the West. Although the rough geographical outlines of much of the American West were known by 1879, the government still had astonishingly ...read more

“Birth of a Nation” opens in New York

Director D.W. Griffith’s controversial Civil War epic The Birth of a Nation opens in New York City on March 3, 1915, a few weeks after its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles. A 40-piece orchestra accompanied the silent film. The movie, at 2 hours and 40 minutes, was unusually ...read more

Faulty door dooms plane

A DC-10 jet crashes into a forest outside of Paris, France, killing all 346 people on board, on March 3, 1974. The poor design of the plane, as well as negligent maintenance, contributed to the disaster. Nearly two years earlier, on June 6, 1972, an American Airlines DC-10 was ...read more

Supreme Court rules on communist teachers

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a New York state law that prohibits communists from teaching in public schools. Coming at the height of the Red Scare in the United States, the Supreme Court decision was additional evidence that many Americans were concerned ...read more

Freedman’s Bureau created

On March 3, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. Known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, this federal agency oversaw the difficult transition of African Americans from slavery to freedom. The Freedmen’s Bureau, born ...read more