This Day In History: February 9

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The first peace treaty of World War I is signed when the newly declared independent state of Ukraine officially comes to terms with the Central Powers at 2 a.m. in Berlin, Germany, on February 9, 1918.

In the treaty, the Central Powers, which included the governments of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and Turkey, formally recognized the independence of Ukraine from Russia. The Central Powers also agreed to provide military assistance and protection from the Bolshevik forces of Russia that were occupying Ukrainian territory. In exchange, the Ukrainian National Republic would provide 100 million tons of food rations to Germany.

Ukraine’s journey toward a period of independence—brief as it proved to be—began shortly after the collapse of the Russian monarchy in March 1917. Led by Premier Vladimir Vinnichenko and War Minister Simon Petlura, Ukrainian political leaders declared the country a republic within Russia. However, after the Bolshevik Revolution, in which the post-monarchy provisional Russian government was overthrown, Vinnichenko proclaimed the complete independence of Ukraine in January 1918.

Bolshevik forces were sent to regain the Ukrainian territory, but after the peace treaty between the Ukraine and the Central Powers was signed, the Russians were forced out by German troops. Within one month of the peace treaty, Russia formally recognized the independence of Ukraine as part of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk it signed with the Central Powers on March 3, 1918. In 1919, though, during the Russian Civil War, the Soviet Union regained the Ukrainian territory and Ukraine became one of the original republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).