Irina Mikhutina has been member of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1969 and a historian of Polish–Soviet relations and modern Ukraine. In Ukraine's Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: Russia's Way out of World War I and the Anatomy of Conflict between the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR and the Government of the Central Rada of Ukraine, she explores a topic that has received relatively scant attention in Russian- and Ukrainian-language historiography: the origins of the first peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk, between the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire), and its implications for Russia's withdrawal from World War I. Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Soviet scholars were forced to write within the narrow constraints of the official Communist Party line, which portrayed the Ukrainian Central Rada (Council − Ukraine's government between March 1917 and April 1918) as a bourgeois-nationalist, counterrevolutionary, illegitimate government that quickly became a tool of Austro-German imperialism. 1 Since 1991, Russian historians have understandably been much more interested in reevaluating the second treaty of Brest-Litovsk, between Bolshevik Russia and the Central Powers. Mikhutina's monograph is the first major effort to address this gap in the historiography of the Brest-Litovsk peace conference.
The aim of Mikhutina's study is to explore the "preparation and conclusion of the Ukrainian treaty in the context of the creation of the Ukrainian Republic, the formation of its foreign policy priorities, and their refutation in practice" (Pp. 3-4). Setting aside the somewhat problematic point about the refutation of Ukrainian foreign policy for the moment, we have to emphasize the author's dual approach of analyzing the political origins of Ukrainian statehood in 1917−1918 as well as the diplomatic interactions in Brest-Litovsk. Since the former is closely linked to the ongoing imperial collapse [End Page 470] in Russia, such an approach necessitates an all-Russian context. The first three chapters in the book, which deal, respectively, with the armistice negotiations between the Bolsheviks and the representatives of the Central Powers, the proclamation of the Ukrainian People's Republic and its initial foreign policy objectives, and the development of the conflict between Petrograd and Kiev, provide this context. Chapters four through seven focus on the actual course of negotiations in Brest-Litovsk between the Central Powers, Ukraine, and Russia.
Ukraine's Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is based primarily on research in Ukrainian and Russian archives. The author utilizes four main types of records, some of which have not been used in previous scholarship: (1) Government records from the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) and the Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History (RGASPI); (2) Documents on Russian–Ukrainian relations from the Central State Archives of Higher Organs of the Government of Ukraine (TsDAVOU); (3) Diplomatic records on peace negotiations from the Foreign Policy Archives of the Russian Federation (AVP RF) and TsDAVOU; and (4) Military records from the Russian State Military History Archive (RGVIA), RGASPI, AVP RF, and GARF. In addition to archival records, Mikhutina also relies on published primary sources, among the most important of which are multivolume collections of the records of the Ukrainian Central Rada and on Soviet–German relations, and the papers and memoirs of the principal German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ukrainian statesmen and diplomats involved directly or indirectly with the Brest-Litovsk peace conference.
Chapter one of Ukraine's Treaty of Brest-Litovsk presents the first in-depth overview of the armistice negotiations between the delegations of Russia and the Central Powers in the first two weeks of December 1917, which is based exclusively on Russian archival sources rather than German and/or Austrian ones. 2 Mikhutina explores the initial doubts and differences of opinion within the Bolshevik leadership on the question of opening negotiations with the Central Powers. Could these actually lead to the desired general peace "without annexations and indemnities," or should they merely be the prelude to a revolutionary war, which would spread the proletarian revolution...