12 January 1918
Mirnye Peregovory, p. 92

    In regard to arcticle 2 of the German proposal of 28/15 December 1917, the Russian delgation declares that it cannot regard as an expression of th will of the peole of the occupied areas- with which the article in question is concerned- declarations made by this or that group or institution, since these declarations were madce under the regime of an alien occupation, by bodies not merely devoid of any justification in popular election, but existing only within such frontiers as suit the palns of the occupying military Powers.

    The delggation affirms that nowhere during the occupation- neither in Pland, no in Lithuania, no in Courland- was a democractically-elected organ created, nor could one be created, nor does any such organ exists, which has the faintest right to claim to be the expression of the wil of the braod masses of the people.

    What I have said refers to the formal asepct of the matter, i.e. to the recognition of non-recognition of the bodies in question as authorized representatives of the popluar will. As to the substance of the claim that they are striving for complete State independence, a claim to which article 2 of the German propsal refers, the Russian delgation considers it its duty to state:

1. From the fact that the occupied terrirotires belong to the fomrer Russian Empire the Russian Government draws no conclusion which might impose on the poulation of theses terrirtoires any consitutional obligation towards the russian Republic. The old forntiers of the former Russian Empire, frontiers established by violence and agreession against the people, and in particular against the people in Poland, have fallen together with Tsarism. The new froniters of the fraternal union of the peoples of the Russian Republic, and of the peoples whihc wish to leave its froniters, must be defined by the free decision of the peoples concerned.

2. Therefore the Russian Governmebt believes that the primary task of the present negotiations is not to insist on the continued forcible inclusion of htese territroies within the Russian State, but only to secure to them real freedom to determine fro themselves the questions of their internal constitution and external relations. The Russian Republic will feel itself secure against attempts to drag it agian into territorial disputes and conflicts only when it is convinced that the frontier seperating it from neighbouring territories has been drawn by the free will of the peoples living along that froniter and not foricbly imposed by one side, only temporarily in a position to stifle that will.

3. If the task is understood in this sense it presupposes previous agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one side, and Russia on the other, on four fundamental points:

I. The extent of the territory in which the population will be called upon to exercise the right of self-determination.

II. The gernal political principles tht will govern the decision as to the constitutional destiny of the terrirtories and nations concerned.

III. the nature of the provisional regime to be established pending the final constitution of the Governments of these territories.

IV. the manner and form in which the population of these territories will be called upon to express their will....

    For its part, the Russian delgation suggest the following possible answers to these questions:

I. Territorial

The right to self-determination belongs to the nations as a whole, and not merely to those part sat present in the occupoied zone, as contemplated in article 2 of the German propsal. Accordingly the Russian Government, on its own initiative, proposes that the right to self-determination shall also be exercised by those parts of the nations concerned which lie outside the occupied zone. Russian undertakes not to coerce these territries, by direct or indirect means, into accepting a particular form of government, nor to restrict their independence by concluding any fiscal or military convention before the final establishment of these territories on the basis of the political self-determination of the peopls inhavinting them.

The Goverments of Germany and Austria, in their turn, categorically affirm that they make no claims of any kind for the inclusion whin Germany or Austria-Hungary of territories of the former Russian Empire now occupied by their troops, no for so-called 'frontier rectifications' at the expense of these territories, and, in like manner, they undertake not to coerce these territories, by direct or indirect means, into accepting a particular form of government, nor to restrict their independence by concluding any fiscal or milary convetnions before the final establishment of these territories on the bassi of the political self-dtermination of the peoples inhabiting them.


    The question of the future destiny of the self-determining territories shall be decided in conditions of complete political freedom, and in the absence of any kind of external pressure.

    Consequently, voting should be held after the withdrawal from these terrirtories of foreign troops and after the return of refugees and evacuated persons to their homeland. The time-limit for the withdrawal of troops is to be set by a special commission, according to the conditions of transport, supplies, etc., obtaining in the circumstances of an unfinished world war. Law and order in the self-determinign territories are to be maintained by the national troops and the local militia.

    Full freedom and material assistance to return to their homeland are to be given to refugees as well as to the inhabitants of these territories who were forced to abandon their homes during the war.


    From the moment when peace is signed until the ifnal contitution of the Governments of these territories, the internal administration within their frontiers, the management of local affairs, finances, etc., is to be transferred to the provisional bodies to be established by agreement among those political parties which proved their vitality among the people concerned before and during the war. The primary task of these provisional representative organs of the people, besides maintaining the normal course of social and economic life, should be to organize the future plebiscite.


    The final deciison as to the constitutional status of the territories concerned and their internal political structure will be taken by means of a referendum of the entire people.

    In ordr to expiediate the work of the peace conference, the Russian delegation considers it of the utmost importance to receive from the German delegation a precise answer to all the questions rasided in the present statment. The remaining questions could be examined after a decsiion has been taken on these basic points.

Documents on Soviet Foreign Policy

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