Assess the reason for the 1905 revolution in Russia Essay
The turn of the 19th century brought together a series of events, discontent and public tension together to form the 1905 revolution, which eventually brought an established autocratic Tsarist regime to an end. But previously, Russia was in turmoil. With a land mass of over 8 million square miles entailing over 100 ethnic races; limited communication organization and transport which was often impassable leaving sections of Russia detached from governing capability, the problems were only just forming.Law and tradition defined the Tsar as the absolute ruler; highlighting the beginning of Russia’s political backwardness in an epoch where all major western countries were forming democratic and representative government. Russia was a state ruled by oppression and operated by a denial of free speech; leading often to extremism; and with a resented Russification system, the government control was deteriorating.
The social structure of Russia was built up through an autocratic pyramid classification; the Tsar with dominant rank at the top; the peasants also known as “dark masses” at the bottom tier, the preponderance with 82% of the population.In between lay working, middle and upper and ruling classes. Each class had their own grievance with the current system, ultimately a driving force leading to revolution, In particular the peasants had problems rooting from 1861 in which the laws of Emancipation not only meant that the majority couldn’t afford redemption payments and put generations into debt; but the land they worked was often insufficient and of poor quality. Many felt betrayed by the government; and especially the Lords who took the best land for themselves.
Moreover there was great underlying resentment for the restrictions imposed by the Mir; which prevented peasants from leaving the villages without permission; and often arranged marriages. Countless peasants were suffering from injustice as the Mir flogged and imprisoned the accused without trial. Their fourth complaint was that of agriculture; which although central to development, was in desperate need of modernisation; an outdated system which relied on subsidence farming.
It was these grievances that provided the springboard for long term poverty, and ultimately lead to short term problems in the increase of political parties against the Tsarist regime. The urban workers had separate troubles of their own. Primarily, after being lured with the prospect of jobs and housing in cities, they were faced with harsh to say the least working conditions. With long hours, severe discipline and little or no safety restrictions, deaths in the factories and mines were frequent.
Alongside this, the wages were kept low and taxes high which ultimately affected the living conditions which were often described as “barrack like”. Hygiene was of no importance, pollution was thick in the sky, and a shortage of beds meant that sharing often occurred, i. e. as one left for a shift, another took the bed. These men were exploited and resented the situation they were in, and with a high concentration of literate workers in a small space, strikes were easily brought up and begun a serious threat to the government.These long term problems were picked up by Witte who encouraged the start of modernisation; however it was this link to modernisation that ultimately led to the revolution. Without emancipation the peasants would not be suffering from severe poverty and had the urban workers not learned that strikes were easily recognised as a method of gaining political attention which in turn leads to the short term problem of growing political parties it is probable that the 1905 revolution wouldn’t have been successful or even likely.It is this therefore that made these grievances the underlying reason behind the revolution, the driving force behind the end of Tsarism.
1893 highlighted Russia’s backwardness in comparison to the other great European nations, not only suffering from an oppressive autocratic monarchy but an increasingly failing economy. The economy was extremely underdeveloped and restricted within the absence of an effective banking system whereby major industrial growth was constrained by low urban workers.The ruling elite recognised that the working conditions of the urban workers was pushing for reform and modernisation was required to increase living standards and create a strong industrial base for the production of war arms.
Que Sergei Witte and his modernisation which primarily encouraged international investment and boosted the economy in statistics. The impact of modernisation on the peasants and working class was a different story, and its significance to the 1905 revolution is pivotal.The dependence on foreign countries was underestimated, and whilst agriculture was ignored, thousands of workers poured into towns and cities, crowding them to the extremes of 10 people sharing a room. Disease was rife and heavy taxes and high interest rates accompanied low wages. In due course it would seem the pressure inflicted on these workers ended in recession, poverty and general unrest which drove them towards revolution. Although suffering immensely, these workers were unable to complain. Russia was a state ruled by oppression, which was met by revolutionary terrorism.
Freedom of speech was denied, and even in 1894 it was a criminal offence to oppose the Tsar and his government who imposed censorship laws on published text. This repression pushed reform groups underground which were frequently infiltrated by Okhrana (Tsarist secret police). The denial of free speech drove political activists to extreme acts of terrorism, e. g.
the 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II by bombing. These acts against the government were repeated throughout the course of the 1905 revolution, with assassination of leaders within the ruling elite with the assassination of the Tsar’s uncle the Grand Duke Sergei.Russia was first and foremost pushing the population into repression; legalising enforced conscription into a corrupt army whereby commissions were bought and sold through nepotism, and there was little room for promotion in merit. Moreover, in a country where over 50% of the population were not of Russian descent; Russification: the imposition of the Russian culture, language and orthodoxy was deeply resented to the point where social tensions were bubbling.Each of these factors grew through tension as the years passed up to 1905 and with freedom of speech prevented; many felt that revolution had to happen to force the government into change. Therefore it became a long term reason of vital significance due to the tension building; it seemed as though revolution was the only way out. This state of oppression came from the autocratic regime of Tsarism. The tsar was the sole leader anointed by God and supported the Russian Orthodox Church.
The church ensured that the tsarist regime was upheld by indoctrination of its followers by procreating the image of the “little father”.The Church’s catechism encouraged the idea that “God commands us to love and obey from the inmost recesses of our heart every authority and particularly the tsar”. However tsarist was deeply resented and emphasised Russia’s political backwardness through the absence of democracy. This resentment of autocracy is often described as one of the underlying factors behind the 1905 revolution. After the assassination of Alex II, tsarist was shown to be vulnerable, and Russia was in need of a strong willed, fair but firm to not only uphold the crumbling tsarist regime, but to modernise Russia.However the man they got is widely recognised as “the source of all problems” (Figes) Nicholas II had as described by Pobedonostev; who is regarded as the prime representative of reactionary views as the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod; as a man who “sticks to his insignificant petty point of view”. Not only was Nicholas completely incapable of ruling Russia to the standards it required, but the influence of the tsarina Alexandra ensured that whilst severe modernisation was required, no efforts were made which inevitably signed the end of Tsarism.Tsarism was a long term link to revolution; however it is the main contributing factor.
The reform and revolutions were made in a desperate effort to overthrow Tsarism and the principles it stood for. As a long term factor it led to the growth of political parties; who although were scrambled underground by the Okhrana, were the leading steps to democracy and the ending of Tsarism. The image of the ‘little father’; portrayed by the church to guarantee that Russians obeyed; was slowly destroyed, coming to a disastrous end during B**** Sunday, the event that is widely accepted as the trigger to revolution.The strain of the Tsarist regime led opposition in the form of political parties which saw a substantial growth in the late 19th century. Most of the supporters were Russian intelligentsia: writers, artists, and philosophers; many of whom had travelled into Europe and seen how democracy had shaped modern countries. As a reason for the 1905 revolution, the significance of the development of political parties such as the Social revolutionaries, the social democrats and the Russian liberals was pivotal as it allowed people from all classes to be involved in the attempt for reform or as the groups changed to overthrow Tsarism altogether.These three major parties became the stepping stones for revolution however each took a different method, the social revolutionaries choosing agitation and terrorism by peasants and urban workers who took to assassinations in a desperate attempt to revolution.
The social democrats; a huge wave of intelligentsia, separated into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks and therefore although they had the mental capacity to challenge Tsarism they weren’t a strong enough united force to be reckoned with.However the Russian liberals were the most coordinated in the run up to the 1905 revolution; and with head strong ideas of what they wanted and a wide span support through the classes; they were able to mount a significant attack on the government. These political parties were not susceptible to indoctrination and oppression and stood up for what they believed in; they became a direct method of protesting that not only led to B**** Sunday, but the revolution itself.The catalyst for the revolution was the Russo-Japanese war, in which the Russian army was defeated by humiliating standards, not only highlighting the Russian armies’ inadequate training and military strength but just how vulnerable it was.
A war that was a desperate attempt to appease the growing discontent of the public but with hindsight should have and could have been avoided totally. It ended in the loss of thousands of lives, increased resentment from foreign nationals from enforced conscription and the worsening of the economic depression.Instead of conciliating the disgruntlement in the public, it atomized the situation, sending the population into an uproar and ultimately blaming the government.
From the peoples perspective something had to change quickly, and revolution was just around the corner. The tension from the humiliation after the loss of the war, the growth of political parties added to the resentment of Tsarism and oppression led to B**** Sunday, the agreed trigger of the revolution. B**** Sunday is the name given the mass failure of an audacious attempt to control revolutionary elements.It was the a peaceful march of several thousand unemployed workers to give a petition to the Tsar demanding reinstatement and relieving of their conditions ending in a massacre of up to 200 innocent victims by the police. It created a public outbreak of horror and disorder, and “the prestige of the royal family, the peculiar mystique of the Tsar as the father of the nation was smashed and gone forever”.
Ultimately b**** Sunday ended the way the public viewed the Tsar, and became the key reason for the 1905 revolution… they wanted change and neither God nor the Tsar could stand in their way.
In summary, although the factors on their own were not enough to start a revolution, together they built up enough tension that would eventually triggered the strikes, barricades, petitions and political meetings of the 1905 revolution. From the start of the mid 1800’s grievances were coming out, followed by modernisation and the problems it brought, accompanied by the Tsarist regime of repression and the growth of political parties which were added to the military failure and humiliation which finally managed to overboard the population into mass rioting.Each factor not only piled pressure onto the government, but onto the public itself, which was suffering from an intense period of hardship many struggling with poverty, low wages and high taxes and unfit living conditions. It seemed inevitable that these factors would come to a bottleneck and erupt spectacularly into a time of total unrest – the 1905 revolution.