1905-02-22 to 1907-06-16
Russian EmpireThe Russian Revolution of 1905 was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire, some of which was directed at the government. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies. It led to constitutional reform (namely the "October Manifesto"), including the establishment of the State Duma, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906. The 1905 revolution was spurred by the Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese war (1904–1905), but also by the growing realization by the people of the need for reform, after politicians such as Sergei Witte failed to accomplish this. While the Tsar managed to keep his rule, the events foreshadowed those of the Russian revolutions in 1917, which resulted in the overthrow of the monarchy, execution of the royal family, and creation of the Soviet Union by the Bolsheviks. Some historians contend that the 1905 revolution set the stage for the 1917 Russian Revolutions, and allowed for Bolshevism to emerge as a distinct political movement in Russia, although it was still a minority. Lenin, as head of the USSR later on, called it "The Great Dress Rehearsal," without which the "victory of the October Revolution in 1917 would have been impossible".
Every year, thousands of nobles in debt mortgaged their estates to the noble land bank or sold them to municipalities, merchants, or peasants. By the time of the revolution, the nobility had sold off one-third of its land and mortgaged another third. The government hoped to make peasants—freed by the Emancipation reform of 1861—a politically conservative, land-holding class by enacting laws to enable them to buy land from nobility and pay small installments over many decades.
"In the provinces of Kharkov and Poltava in 1902, thousands of them, ignoring restraints and authority, burst out in a rebellious fury that led to extensive destruction of property and looting of noble homes before troops could be brought to subdue and punish them".
The years 1904 and 1907 saw a decline of mass movements, strikes and protests, and a rise of political terrorism. Combat groups such as the SR Combat Organization carried out many assassinations targeting civil servants and police, and robberies. Between 1906 and 1909, revolutionaries killed 7,293 people, of whom 2,640 were officials, and wounded 8,061.
In December 1904, a strike occurred at the Putilov plant (a railway and artillery supplier) in St. Petersburg. Sympathy strikes in other parts of the city raised the number of strikers to 150,000 workers in 382 factories.
On 13 December [O.S. 30 November] 1904, the Moscow City Duma passed a resolution demanding establishment of an elected national legislature, full freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Similar resolutions and appeals from other city dumas and zemstvo councils followed.
Tsar Nicholas II made a move to fulfil many of these demands, appointing liberal Pyotr Dmitrievich Sviatopolk-Mirsky Minister of the Interior after the assassination of Vyacheslav von Plehve. On 25 December [O.S. 12 December] 1904, the Tsar issued a manifesto promising the broadening of the Zemstvo and more authority local municipal councils, insurance for industrial workers, the emancipation of Inorodtsy and the abolition of censorship. The crucial demand of representative national legislature was missing in the manifesto.
The commission was headed by Senator NV Shidlovsky, a member of the State Council, and included officials, chiefs of government factories, and private factory owners. It was also meant to have included workers’ delegates elected according to a two-stage system.
Following the Revolution of 1905, the Tsar made last attempts to save his regime, and offered reforms similar to most rulers when pressured by a revolutionary movement. The military remained loyal throughout the Revolution of 1905, as shown by their shooting of revolutionaries when ordered by the Tsar, making overthrow difficult.
According to Sidney Harcave, author of The Russian Revolution of 1905 (1970), four problems in Russian society contributed to the revolution. Newly emancipated peasants earned too little and were not allowed to sell or mortgage their allotted land. Ethnic minorities resented the government because of its "Russification", discrimination and repression, such as banning them from voting, serving in the Imperial Guard or Navy, and limiting their attendance in schools. A nascent industrial working class resented the government for doing too little to protect them, as it banned strikes and labor unions. Finally, radical ideas fomented and spread after a relaxing of discipline in universities allowed a new consciousness to grow among students.
The events of 1905 were preceded by a Progressive and academic agitation for more political democracy and limits to Tsarist rule in Russia, and an increase in strikes by workers against employers for radical economic demands and union recognition, (especially in southern Russia). Many socialists view this as a period when the rising revolutionary movement was met with rising reactionary movements.
Controversial Orthodox priest Georgy Gapon, who headed a police-sponsored workers' association, led a huge workers' procession to the Winter Palace to deliver a petition to the Tsar on Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905.
One of the major contributing factors that changed Russia from a country in unrest to a country in revolt was "Bloody Sunday". Loyalty to the tsar Nicholas II was lost when his soldiers fired upon people led by Georgy Gapon on 22 January 1905, who were attempting to present a petition to the tsar.
On 18 February [O.S. 5 February] 1905, Tsar published the Bulygin Rescript, which promised the formation of a consultative assembly, religious tolerance, freedom of speech (in the form of language rights for the Polish minority) and a reduction in the peasants' redemption payments.
Elections of the workers delegates were, however, blocked by the socialists who wanted to divert the workers from the elections to the armed struggle. On 5 March [O.S. 20 February] 1905, the Commission was dissolved without having started work.
14 May: Workers' delegates are elected. Svirskii had suggested they do so, as he wanted people to negotiate with. A mass meeting is held in Administration Square. Svirskii tells them the mill owners will not meet their demands but will negotiate with elected mill delegates, who will be immune to prosecution, according to the governor.
15 May: Svirskii tells the strikers they can negotiate only about each factory in turn, but they can hold elections wherever. The strikers elect delegates to represent each mill while they are still out in the streets. Later the delegates elect a chairman.
On 24 and 25 May [O.S. 11 and 12 May] 1905, about 300 Zemstvo and municipal representatives held three meetings in Moscow, which passed a resolution, asking for popular representation at the national level.
Disturbances in the Russian-controlled Congress Poland culminated in June 1905 in the Łódź insurrection. Surprisingly, only one landlord was recorded as killed. Far more violence was inflicted on peasants outside the commune: 50 deaths were recorded.
On 6 June [O.S. 24 May] 1905, Nicholas II had received a Zemstvo deputation. Responding to speeches by Prince Sergei Trubetskoi and Mr Fyodrov, the Tsar confirmed his promise to convene an assembly of people's representatives.
The October Manifesto, written by Sergei Witte and Alexis Obolenskii, was presented to the Tsar on 14 October [O.S. 1 October]. It closely followed the demands of the Zemstvo Congress in September, granting basic civil rights, allowing the formation of political parties, extending the franchise towards universal suffrage, and establishing the Duma as the central legislative body.
By 26 October [O.S. 13 October] 1905, over 2 million workers were on strike and there were almost no active railways in all of Russia. Growing inter-ethnic confrontation throughout the Caucasus resulted in Armenian-Tatar massacres, heavily damaging the cities and the Baku oilfields.
In the Governorate of Estonia, Estonians called for freedom of the press and assembly, for universal suffrage, and for national autonomy. On 29 October [O.S. 16 October], the Russian army opened fire in a meeting on a street market in Tallinn in which about 8 000-10 000 people participated, killing 94 and injuring over 200. The October Manifesto was supported in Estonia and the Estonian flag was displayed publicly for the first time.
The Tsar waited and argued for three days, but finally signed the manifesto on 30 October [O.S. 17 October] 1905, citing his desire to avoid a massacre and his realisation that there was insufficient military force available to pursue alternative options. He regretted signing the document, saying that he felt "sick with shame at this betrayal of the dynasty ... the betrayal was complete".
While the Russian liberals were satisfied by the October Manifesto and prepared for upcoming Duma elections, radical socialists and revolutionaries denounced the elections and called for an armed uprising to destroy the Empire. Some of the November uprising of 1905 in Sevastopol, headed by retired naval Lieutenant Pyotr Schmidt, was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included terrorism, worker strikes, peasant unrest and military mutinies, and was only suppressed after a fierce battle. The Trans-Baikal railroad fell into the hands of striker committees and demobilised soldiers returning from Manchuria after the Russo–Japanese War. The Tsar had to send a special detachment of loyal troops along the Trans-Siberian Railway to restore order.
A week later, the Semyonovsky Regiment was deployed, and used artillery to break up demonstrations and to shell workers' districts. On 18 December [O.S. 5 December], with around a thousand people dead and parts of the city in ruins, the workers surrendered.
The Russian Constitution of 1906, Created 6 May [O.S. 23 April] 1906, also known as the Fundamental Laws, set up a multiparty system and a limited constitutional monarchy. The revolutionaries were quelled and satisfied with the reforms, but it was not enough to prevent the 1917 revolution that would later topple the Tsar's regime.
On 12 August [O.S. 30 July] 1906, Russian artillerymen and military engineers rose in revolt in the fortress of Sveaborg (later called Suomenlinna), Helsinki. The Finnish Red Guards supported the Sveaborg Rebellion with a general strike, but the mutiny was quelled within 60 hours by loyal troops and ships of the Baltic Fleet.