Imperial Government victory
Nicholas II retains the throne
Establishment of the State Duma
Imperial Government Supported by:
Revolutionaries Supported by:
Saint Petersburg Soviet
Moscow City Duma
Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses
1 battleship surrendered to Romania
The 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
including the establishment of the State Duma, the multi-party system,
and the Russian Constitution of 1906.
1.1 Agrarian problem
1.2 Nationality problem
1.3 Labour problem
1.4 Educated class as a problem
2 Rise of the opposition
3 Start of the revolution
3.1 Government response
4 Height of the Revolution
5.1 Creation of Duma and Stolypin
5.2 October Manifesto
5.3 Russian Constitution of 1906
6 Rise of terrorism
13 See also
15 External links
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 and serving in the
Imperial Guard or Navy and limited attendance in schools. A nascent
industrial working class resented the government for doing too little
to protect them, banning 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.
Vladimir Lenin was a political theorist who also contributed his own
ideology of how a revolution would be caused. In his book Imperialism,
the Highest Stage of Capitalism, he claimed that imperialism and
dependence on overseas markets would be a contributing factor to
revolution. This would cause a rivalry between the major powers,
leading to war.
Taken individually, these issues might not have affected the course of
Russian history but together they created the conditions for a
potential revolution. "At the turn of the century, discontent with
the Tsar’s dictatorship was manifested not only through the growth
of political parties dedicated to the overthrow of the monarchy but
also through industrial strikes for better wages and working
conditions, protests and riots among peasants, university
demonstrations, and the assassination of government officials, often
done by Socialist Revolutionaries."
Because the Russian economy was tied to European finances, the Western
money markets' contraction in 1899–1900 plunged Russian industry
into a deep and prolonged crisis which outlasted the dip in European
industrial production. This setback aggravated social unrest during
the five years preceding the revolution of 1905.
The government finally recognized these problems, albeit in a
shortsighted and narrow-minded way. The minister of interior Plehve
stated in 1903 that, after the agrarian problem, the most serious ones
plaguing the country were those of the Jews, the schools, and the
workers, in that order.
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 instalments over
The land, known as "allotment land", would not be owned by individual
peasants, but by the community of peasants; individual peasants would
have rights to strips of land that were assigned to them under the
open field system. Unfortunately, a peasant could not sell or mortgage
his land, so in practice he could not renounce his rights to his land
and thus he would be required to pay his share of redemption dues to
the village commune. This plan was meant to prevent
proletarianisation of the peasants. However, the peasants were not
given enough land to provide for their needs. "Their earnings were
often so small that they could neither buy the food they needed nor
keep up the payment of taxes and redemption dues they owed the
government for their land allotments. By the tenth year of Nicholas
II's reign, their total arrears in payments of taxes and dues was 118
million rubles." The situation became worse. Masses of hungry
peasants roamed the countryside looking for work and sometimes walked
hundreds of kilometres to find it. Desperate peasants proved capable
of violence. "In the provinces of
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
These violent outbreaks caught the attention of the government, so it
created many committees to investigate their causes. The committees
concluded that no part of the countryside was prosperous; some parts,
especially the fertile areas known as "black-soil region", were in
decline. Although cultivated acreage had increased in the last half
century, the increase had not been proportionate to the growth of
peasant populations, which had doubled. "There was general
agreement at the turn of the century that Russia faced a grave and
intensifying agrarian crisis due mainly to rural overpopulation with
an annual excess of fifteen to eighteen live births over deaths per
1,000 inhabitants." The investigations revealed many difficulties
but could not find solution that were both sensible and "acceptable"
to the government.
Russia was a multi-ethnic empire. Nineteenth-century Russians saw
cultures and religions in a clear hierarchy. Non-Russian cultures were
tolerated in the empire but were not necessarily respected.
"European civilization was valued over Asian culture, and Christianity
was on the whole considered more progressive and 'true' than other
For generations, Russian Jews had been considered a special
problem. Jews constituted only about 6 percent of the population,
but were concentrated in the western borderlands. Like other
minorities in Russia, the Jews lived in "miserable and circumscribed
lives, forbidden to settle or acquire land outside the cities and
towns, legally limited in attendance at secondary school and higher
schools, virtually barred from legal professions, denied the right to
vote for municipal councilors, and excluded from services in the Navy
or the Guards".
The government's treatment of Jews, although considered its own issue,
was similar to the government's policies in dealing with all national
and religious minorities. "Russian administrators, who never
succeeded in coming up with a legal definition of "Pole", despite the
decades of restrictions on that ethnic group, regularly spoke of
individuals 'of Polish descent' or, alternatively, 'of Russian
descent', making identity a function of birth."[attribution
needed] This policy only succeeded in producing or aggravating
feelings of disloyalty. There was growing impatience with their
inferior status and resentment against "Russification".
Russification is cultural assimilation definable as "a process
culminating in the disappearance of a given group as a recognisably
distinct element within a larger society".
Besides the imposition of a uniform Russian culture throughout the
empire, the government's pursuit of Russification, especially during
the second half of the nineteenth century, had political motives.
After the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, the Russian state was
compelled to take into account public opinion, but the government
failed to gain the public's support. Another motive for
Russification policies was the Polish uprising of 1863. Unlike other
minority nationalities, the Poles, in the eyes of the Tsar, were a
direct threat to the empire's stability. After the rebellion was
crushed, the government implemented policies to reduce Polish cultural
influences. In the 1870s the government began to distrust German
elements on the western border. The Russian government felt that the
unification of Germany would upset the power balance among the great
powers of Europe and that Germany would use its strength against
Russia. The government thought that the borders would be defended
better if the borderland were more "Russian" in character. The
culmination of cultural heterogeneity created a cumbersome nationality
problem that plagued the Russian government in the years before
leading to the revolution.
The economic situation in Russia before the revolution presented a
grim picture. The government had experimented with laissez-faire
capitalist policies, but this strategy largely failed to gain traction
within the Russian economy until the 1890s. Meanwhile, "agricultural
productivity stagnated, while international prices for grain dropped,
and Russia’s foreign debt and need for imports grew. War and
military preparations continued to consume government revenues. At the
same time, the peasant taxpayers' ability to pay was strained to the
utmost, leading to widespread famine in 1891."
In the 1890s, under Finance Minister Sergei Witte, a crash
governmental programme was proposed to promote industrialization. His
policies included heavy government expenditures for railroad building
and operations, subsidies and supporting services for private
industrialists, high protective tariffs for Russian industries
(especially heavy industry), an increase in exports, currency
stabilization, and encouragement of foreign investments. His plan
was successful and during the 1890s "Russian industrial growth
averaged 8 percent per year. Railroad mileage grew from a very
substantial base by 40 percent between 1892 and 1902."[attribution
needed] Ironically, Witte's success in implementing this program
helped spur the 1905 revolution and eventually the 1917 revolution
because it exacerbated social tensions. "Besides dangerously
concentrating a proletariat, a professional and a rebellious student
body in centers of political power, industrialization infuriated both
these new forces and the traditional rural classes."[attribution
needed] The government policy of financing industrialization
through taxing peasants forced millions of peasants to work in towns.
The "peasant worker" saw his labour in the factory as the means to
consolidate his family's economic position in the village and played a
role in determining the social consciousness of the urban proletariat.
The new concentrations and flows of peasants spread urban ideas to the
countryside, breaking down isolation of peasants on communes.
Industrial workers began to feel dissatisfaction with the Tsarist
government despite the protective labour laws the government decreed.
Some of those laws included the prohibition of children under 12 from
working, with the exception of night work in glass factories.
Employment of children aged 12 to 15 was prohibited on Sundays and
holidays. Workers had to be paid in cash at least once a month, and
limits were placed on the size and bases of fines for workers who were
tardy. Employers were prohibited from charging workers for the cost of
lighting of the shops and plants. Despite these labor protections,
the workers believed that the laws were not enough to free them from
unfair and inhumane practices. At the start of the 20th century,
Russian industrial workers worked on average an 11-hour day (10 hours
on Saturday), factory conditions were perceived as grueling and often
unsafe, and attempts at independent unions were often not
accepted. Many workers were forced to work beyond the maximum of
11 and a half hours per day. Others were still subject to arbitrary
and excessive fines for tardiness, mistakes in their work, or
absence. Russian industrial workers were also the lowest
wage-workers in Europe. Although the cost of living in Russia was low,
"the average worker's 16 rubles per month could not buy the equal of
what the French worker's 110 francs would buy for him."[attribution
needed] Furthermore, the same labour laws prohibited organization
of trade unions and strikes. Dissatisfaction turned into despair for
many impoverished workers, which made them more sympathetic to radical
ideas. These discontented, radicalized workers became key to the
revolution by participating in illegal strikes and revolutionary
The government responded by arresting labour agitators and enacting
more "paternalistic" legislation. Introduced in 1900 by Sergei
Zubatov, head of the Moscow security department, "police socialism"
planned to have workers form workers' societies with police approval
to "provide healthful, fraternal activities and opportunities for
cooperative self-help together with 'protection' against influences
that might have inimical effect on loyalty to job or
country".[attribution needed] Some of these groups organized in
Moscow, Odessa, Kiev, Nikolayev (Ukraine), and Kharkov, but these
groups and the idea of police socialism failed.
In 1900–1903, the period of industrial depression caused many firm
bankruptcies and a reduction in the employment rate. Employees were
restive: they would join legal organizations but turn the
organizations toward an end that the organizations' sponsors did not
intend. Workers used legitimate means to organize strikes or to draw
support for striking workers outside these groups. A strike that
began in 1902 by workers in the railroad shops in
Rostov-on-Don created such a response that by the next summer, 225,000
in various industries in southern Russia and
Transcaucasia were on
strike. These were not the first illegal strikes in the country's
history but their aims, and the political awareness and support among
workers and non-workers, made them more troubling to the government
than earlier strikes. The government responded by closing all legal
organizations by the end of 1903.
Educated class as a problem
Troops in St. Petersburg
The Minister of the Interior, Plehve, designated schools as a pressing
problem for the government, but he did not realize it was only a
symptom of antigovernment feelings among the educated class. Students
of universities, other schools of higher learning, and occasionally of
secondary schools and theological seminaries were part of this
Student radicalism began around the time
Tsar Alexander II
Tsar Alexander II came to
power. Alexander abolished serfdom and enacted fundamental reforms in
the legal and administrative structure of the Russian empire, which
were revolutionary for their time. He lifted many restrictions on
universities and abolished obligatory uniforms and military
discipline. This ushered in a new freedom in the content and reading
lists of academic courses. In turn, that created student
subcultures, as youth were willing to live in poverty in order to
receive an education. As universities expanded, there was a rapid
growth of newspapers, journals, and an organization of public lectures
and professional societies. The 1860s was a time when the emergence of
a new public sphere was created in social life and professional
groups. This created the idea of their right to have an independent
The government was alarmed by these communities, and in 1861 tightened
restrictions on admission and prohibited student organizations; these
restrictions resulted in the first ever student demonstration, held in
St. Petersburg, which led to a two-year closure of the university.
The consequent conflict with the state was an important factor in the
chronic student protests over subsequent decades. The atmosphere of
the early 1860s gave rise to political engagement by students outside
universities that became a tenet of student radicalism by the 1870s.
Student radicals described "the special duty and mission of the
student as such to spread the new word of liberty. Students were
called upon to extend their freedoms into society, to repay the
privilege of learning by serving the people, and to become in Nikolai
Ogarev's phrase 'apostles of knowledge'."[attribution needed]
During the next two decades, universities produced a significant share
of Russia's revolutionaries. Prosecution records from the 1860s and
1870s show that more than half of all political offences were
committed by students despite being a minute proportion of the
population. "The tactics of the left-wing students proved to be
remarkably effective, far beyond anyone's dreams. Sensing that neither
the university administrations nor the government any longer possessed
the will or authority to enforce regulations, radicals simply went
ahead with their plans to turn the schools into centres of political
activity for students and non students alike."[attribution needed]
They took up problems that were unrelated to their "proper
employment", and displayed defiance and radicalism by boycotting
examinations, rioting, arranging marches in sympathy with strikers and
political prisoners, circulating petitions, and writing
This disturbed the government, but it believed the cause was lack of
training in patriotism and religion. Therefore, the curriculum was
"toughened up" to emphasize classical language and mathematics in
secondary schools, but defiance continued. Expulsion, exile, and
forced military service also did not stop students. "In fact, when the
official decision to overhaul the whole educational system was finally
made, in 1904, and to that end Vladimir Glazov, head of General Staff
Academy, was selected as Minister of Education, the students had grown
bolder and more resistant than ever."[attribution needed]
Rise of the opposition
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
Rosa Luxemburg stated in The Mass Strike, when
collective strike activity was met with what is perceived as
repression from an autocratic state, economic and political demands
grew into and reinforced each other.
Russian progressives formed the Union of
Zemstvo Constitutionalists in
1903 and the Union of Liberation in 1904, which called for a
constitutional monarchy. Russian socialists formed two major groups:
Revolutionary Party, following the Russian populist
tradition, and the
Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
In the autumn of 1904, liberals started a series of banquets
celebrating the 40th anniversary of the liberal court statutes and
calling for political reforms and a constitution. 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
Nicholas II made a move to fulfill many of these demands,
Pyotr Dmitrievich Sviatopolk-Mirskii
Pyotr Dmitrievich Sviatopolk-Mirskii 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 local municipal
councils' authority, insurance for industrial workers, the
emancipation of Inorodtsy, and the abolition of censorship. However,
the crucial demand of representative national legislature was missing
in the manifesto.
In 1902, worker strikes in the
Caucasus broke out in March, and
strikes on the Railway originating from pay disputes took on other
issues, and drew in other industries, culminating in a general strike
Rostov-on-Don in November. Daily meetings of 15,000 to 20,000 heard
openly revolutionary appeals for the first time, before a massacre
defeated the strikes. But reaction to the massacres brought political
demands to purely economic ones. Luxemburg described the situation in
1903 by saying: "the whole of South Russia in May, June and July was
aflame", including Baku where separate wage struggles culminated
in a citywide general strike, and Tiflis, where commercial workers
gained a reduction in the working day, and were joined by factory
workers. In 1904, massive strike waves broke out in Odessa in the
spring, Kiev in July, and Baku in December. This all set the stage for
the strikes in
St. Petersburg in December 1904 to January 1905 seen as
the first step in the 1905 revolution.
Average annual strikes
Start of the revolution
Artistic impression of Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg
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. By 21 January [O.S. 8 January] 1905, the
city had no electricity and newspaper distribution was halted. All
public areas were declared closed.
Controversial Orthodox priest Georgy Gapon, who headed a
police-sponsored workers' association, led a huge workers' procession
Winter Palace to deliver a petition to the Tsar on Sunday,
22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905. The troops guarding the
Palace were ordered to tell the demonstrators not to pass a certain
point, according to Sergei Witte, and at some point, troops opened
fire on the demonstrators, causing between 200 (according to Witte)
and 1000 deaths. The event became known as Bloody Sunday, and is
considered by many scholars as the start of the active phase of the
The events in
St. Petersburg provoked public indignation and a series
of massive strikes that spread quickly throughout the industrial
centers of the Russian Empire. Polish socialists—both the PPS and
the SDKPiL—called for a general strike. By the end of January 1905,
over 400,000 workers in Russian Poland were on strike (see Revolution
in the Kingdom of Poland (1905–1907)). Half of European Russia's
industrial workers went on strike in 1905, and 93.2% in Poland.
There were also strikes in
Finland and the Baltic coast. In Riga, 130
protesters were killed on 26 January [O.S. 13 January] 1905,
Warsaw a few days later over 100 strikers were shot on the
streets. By February, there were strikes in the Caucasus, and by
April, in the Urals and beyond. In March, all higher academic
institutions were forcibly closed for the remainder of the year,
adding radical students to the striking workers. A strike by railway
workers on 21 October [O.S. 8 October] 1905 quickly
developed into a general strike in
Saint Petersburg and Moscow. This
prompted the setting up of the short-lived
Saint Petersburg Soviet of
Workers' Delegates, an admixture of
by Khrustalev-Nossar and despite the Iskra split would see the likes
Julius Martov and
Georgi Plekhanov spar with Lenin. Leon Trotsky,
who felt a strong connection to the Bolsheviki, had not given up a
compromise but spearheaded strike action in over 200 factories. 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.
Artistic impression of the mutiny by the crew of the battleship
Potemkin against the ship's officers on 14 June 1905
With the unsuccessful and bloody
Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905)
there was unrest in army reserve units. On 2 January 1905, Port Arthur
was lost; in February 1905, the Russian army was defeated at Mukden,
losing almost 80,000 men. On 27–28 May 1905, the Russian Baltic
Fleet was defeated at Tsushima. Witte was dispatched to make peace,
Treaty of Portsmouth
Treaty of Portsmouth (signed 5 September [O.S. 23
August] 1905). In 1905, there were naval mutinies at Sevastopol
Sevastopol Uprising), Vladivostok, and Kronstadt, peaking in June
with the mutiny aboard the battleship Potemkin. The mutineers
eventually surrendered the battleship to Romanian authorities on 8
July in exchange for asylum, then the Romanians returned her to
Imperial Russian authorities on the following day. Some sources
claim over 2,000 sailors died in the suppression. The mutinies
were disorganised and quickly crushed. Despite these mutinies, the
armed forces were largely apolitical and remained mostly loyal, if
dissatisfied — and were widely used by the government to
control the 1905 unrest.
A barricade erected by revolutionaries in Moscow
Nationalist groups had been angered by the
since Alexander II. The Poles, Finns, and the Baltic provinces all
sought autonomy, and also freedom to use their national languages and
promote their own culture. Muslim groups were also active —
the First Congress of the Muslim Union took place in August 1905.
Certain groups took the opportunity to settle differences with each
other rather than the government. Some nationalists undertook
anti-Jewish pogroms, possibly with government aid, and in total over
3,000 Jews were killed.
The number of prisoners throughout the Russian Empire, which had
peaked at 116,376 in 1893, fell by over a third to a record low of
75,009 in January 1905, chiefly because of several mass amnesties
granted by the Tsar; the historian S G Wheatcroft has wondered
what role these released criminals played in the 1905–06 social
On 12 January, the Tsar appointed
Dmitri Feodorovich Trepov
Dmitri Feodorovich Trepov as
governor in St Petersburg and dismissed the Minister of the Interior,
Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirskii, on 18 February [O.S. 5
February] 1905. He appointed a government commission "to enquire
without delay into the causes of discontent among the workers in the
city of St Petersburg and its suburbs"[attribution needed] in view of
the strike movement. 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. 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. Following the assassination of his uncle,
the Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, on 17 February [O.S. 4
February] 1905, the Tsar made new concessions. On 18
February [O.S. 5 February] 1905 he 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. On 24 and 25 May [O.S. 11 and 12 May] 1905, about
Zemstvo and municipal representatives held three meetings in
Moscow, which passed a resolution, asking for popular representation
at the national level. On 6 June [O.S. 24 May] 1905,
Nicholas II had received a
Zemstvo deputation. Responding to speeches
Sergei Trubetskoi and Mr Fyodrov, the Tsar confirmed his
promise to convene an assembly of people's representatives.
Height of the Revolution
Ilya Repin, 17 October 1905
Nicholas II agreed on 18 February [O.S. 5 February] to
the creation of a State Duma of the
Russian Empire but with
consultative powers only. When its slight powers and limits on the
electorate were revealed, unrest redoubled. The Saint Petersburg
Soviet was formed and called for a general strike in October, refusal
to pay taxes, and the withdrawal of bank deposits.
In June and July 1905, there were many peasant uprisings in which
peasants seized land and tools. Disturbances in the
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.
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. 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".
When the manifesto was proclaimed, there were spontaneous
demonstrations of support in all the major cities. The strikes in
Saint Petersburg and elsewhere officially ended or quickly collapsed.
A political amnesty was also offered. The concessions came
hand-in-hand with renewed, and brutal, action against the unrest.
There was also a backlash from the conservative elements of society,
with right-wing attacks on strikers, left-wingers, and Jews.
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
A locomotive overturned by striking workers at the main railway depot
Tiflis in 1905
Between 5 and 7 December [O.S. 22 and 24 November], there was a
general strike by Russian workers. The government sent troops on 7
December, and a bitter street-by-street fight began. 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. After a final
spasm in Moscow, the uprisings ended in December 1905. According to
figures presented in the Duma by Professor Maksim Kovalevsky, by April
1906, more than 14,000 people had been executed and 75,000
imprisoned. Historian Brian Taylor states the number of deaths in
the 1905 Revolution was in the "thousands", and notes one source that
puts the figure at over 13,000 deaths.
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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. These reforms
were outlined in a precursor to the Constitution of 1906 known as the
October Manifesto which created the Imperial Duma. The Russian
Constitution of 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.
Creation of Duma and Stolypin
There had been earlier attempts in establishing a Russian Duma before
the October Manifesto, but these attempts faced dogged resistance. One
attempt in July 1905, called the Bulygin Duma, tried to reduce the
assembly into a consultative body. It also proposed limiting voting
rights to those with a higher property qualification, excluding
industrial workers. Both sides- the opposition and the conservatives-
were not pleased with the results. Another attempt in August 1905
was almost successful, but that too died when Nicholas insisted on the
Duma’s functions be relegated to an advisory position. The
October Manifesto, aside from granting the population the freedom of
speech and assembly, proclaimed that no law would be passed without
examination and approval by the Imperial Duma. The Manifesto also
extended the suffrage to universal proportions, allowing for greater
participation in the Duma, though the electoral law in December 11
still excluded women. Nevertheless, the tsar retained the power to
Of course, propositions for restrictions to the Duma’s legislative
powers remained persistent. A decree on February 20, 1906 transformed
the State Council, the advisory body, into a second chamber with
legislative powers “equal to those of the Duma.” Not only did
this transformation violate the Manifesto, but the Council became a
buffer zone between the tsar and Duma, slowing whatever progress the
latter could achieve. Even three days before the Duma’s first
session, on April 24, 1906, the Fundamental Laws further limited the
assembly's movement by proclaiming the tsar as the sole authority to
appoint/dismiss ministers. Adding insult was the indication that
the tsar alone had control over many facets of political reins- all
without the Duma’s expressed permission. The trap seemed perfectly
set for the unsuspecting Duma: by the time the assembly convened in
April 27, it quickly found itself unable to do much without violating
the Fundamental Laws. Defeated and frustrated, the majority of the
assembly voted no confidence and handed in their resignations after a
few weeks on May 13.
The attacks on the Duma were not confined to its legislative powers.
By the time the Duma opened, it was missing the crucial support from
its populace, thanks in no small part to the government’s return to
Pre-Manifesto levels of suppression. The
Soviets were forced to lay
low for a long time, while the zemstvos turned against the Duma when
the issue of land appropriation came up. The issue of land
appropriation was the most contentious of the Duma’s appeals. The
Duma proposed that the government distribute its treasury, “monastic
and imperial lands,” and seize private estates as well. The
Duma, in fact, was preparing to alienate some of its more affable
supporters, a decision that left the assembly without the necessary
political power to be efficient.
Nicholas II remained wary of having to share power with
reform-minded bureaucrats. When the pendulum in 1906 elections swung
to the left, Nicholas immediately ordered the Duma’s dissolution
just after 73 days. Hoping to further squeeze the life out of the
assembly, he appointed a tougher prime minister in
Petr Stolypin as
the liberal Witte’s replacement. Much to Nicholas’s chagrin,
Stolypin attempted to bring about acts of reform (land reform), while
retaining measures favorable to the regime (stepping up the number of
executions of revolutionaries). After the revolution subsided, he was
able to bring economic growth back to Russia’s industries, a period
which lasted until 1914. But Stolypin's efforts did nothing to prevent
the collapse of the monarchy, nor seemed to satisfy the conservatives.
Stolypin died from a bullet wound by a revolutionary, Dmitry Bogrov,
on September 5, 1911.
Even after Bloody Sunday and defeat in the Russo-Japanese War,
Nicholas II had been slow to offer a meaningful solution to the social
and political crisis. At this point, he became more concerned with his
personal affairs such as the illness of his son, whose struggle with
haemophilia was overseen by Rasputin. Nicholas also refused to believe
that the population was demanding changes in the autocratic regime,
seeing "public opinion" as mainly the "intelligentsia" and
believing himself to be the patronly 'father figure' to the Russian
people. Sergei Witte, the minister of Russia, frustratingly argued
with the Tsar that an immediate implementation of reforms was needed
to retain order in the country. It was only after the Revolution
started picking up steam that Nicholas was forced to make concessions
by writing the October Manifesto.
Issued on 17 October 1905, the Manifesto stated that the government
would grant the population reforms such as the right to vote and to
convene in assemblies. Its main provisions were:
The granting of the population "inviolable personal rights" including
freedom of conscience, speech, and assemblage
Giving the population who were previously cut off from doing so
participation in the newly formed Duma
Ensuring that no law would be passed without the consent of the
Of course, despite what seemed to be a moment for celebration for
Russia’s population and the reformists, the Manifesto was rife with
problems. Aside from the absence of the word "constitution", one issue
with the manifesto was its timing. By October 1905, Nicholas was
already dealing with a revolution. Another problem surfaced in the
conscience of Nicholas himself: Witte said in 1911 that the manifesto
was written only to get the pressure off the monarch's back, that it
was not a "voluntary act". In fact, the writers hoped that the
Manifesto would sow discord into "the camp of the autocracy’s
enemies" and bring order back to Russia.
One immediate effect it did have, for a while, was the start of the
Days of Freedom, a six-week period from 17 October to early December.
This period witnessed an unprecedented level of freedom on all
publications—revolutionary papers, brochures, etc.—even though the
tsar officially retained the power to censor provocative material.
This opportunity allowed the press to address the tsar, and government
officials, in a harsh, critical tone previously unheard of. The
freedom of speech also opened the floodgates for meetings and
organized political parties. In Moscow alone, over 400 meetings took
place in the first four weeks. Some of the political parties that came
out of these meetings were the
Constitutional Democrats (Kadets),
Social Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, Octobrists, and the
far-rightist Union of Russian People.
Among all the groups that benefited most from the Days of Freedoms
were the labor unions. In fact, the Days of Freedom witnessed
unionization in the history of the
Russian Empire at its apex. At
least 67 unions were established in Moscow, as well as 58 in St.
Petersburg; the majority of both combined were formed in November 1905
alone. For the Soviets, it was a watershed period of time: nearly 50
of the unions in
St. Petersburg came under Soviet control, while in
Soviets had around 80000 members. This large sector of
power allowed the
Soviets enough clout to form their own militias. In
St. Petersburg alone, the
Soviets claimed around 6,000 armed members
with the purpose of protecting the meetings.
Perhaps greatly washed up in their newfound window of opportunity, the
St. Petersburg soviets, along with other socialist parties, called for
armed struggles against the Tsarist government, a war call that no
doubt alarmed the government. Not only were the workers charged up,
but the Days of Freedom also had an earthquake-like effect on the
peasant collective as well. Seeing an opening in the autocracy's
waning authority thanks to the Manifesto, the peasants, with a
political organization, took to the streets in revolt. In response,
the government exerted its forces in campaigns to subdue and repress
both the peasants and the workers. Consequences were now in full
force: with a pretext in their hands, the government spent the month
of December 1905 regaining the level of authority once lost to Bloody
Ironically, the writers of the
October Manifesto were caught off guard
by the surge in revolts. One of the main reasons for writing the
October Manifesto bordered on the government's "fear of the
revolutionary movement". In fact, many officials believed this
fear was practically the sole reason for the Manifesto’s creation in
the first place. Among those more scared was Dmitri Feodorovich
Trepov, governor general of
St. Petersburg and deputy minister of the
interior. Trepov urged
Nicholas II to stick to the principles in the
Manifesto, for "every retreat ... would be hazardous to the
Russian Constitution of 1906
Russian Constitution of 1906
Russian Constitution of 1906 was published on the eve of the
convocation of the First Duma. The new Fundamental Law was enacted to
institute promises of the
October Manifesto as well as add new
reforms. The Tsar was confirmed as absolute leader, with complete
control of the executive, foreign policy, church, and the armed
forces. The structure of the Duma was changed, becoming a lower
chamber below the Council of Ministers, and was half-elected,
half-appointed by the Tsar. Legislation had to be approved by the
Duma, the Council, and the Tsar to become law. The Fundamental State
Laws were the "culmination of the whole sequence of events set in
motion in October 1905 and which consolidated the new status quo". The
introduction of The
Russian Constitution of 1906
Russian Constitution of 1906 was not simply an
institution of the October Manifesto. The introduction of the
constitution states (and thus emphasizes) the following:
The Russian State is one and indivisible.
The Grand Duchy of Finland, while comprising as inseparable part of
the Russian State, is governed in its internal affairs by special
decrees based on special legislation.
The Russian language is the common language of the state, and its use
is compulsory in the army, the navy and all state and public
institutions. The use of local (regional) languages and dialects in
state and public institutions are determined by special legislation.
The Constitution did not mention any of the provisions of the October
Manifesto. While it did enact the provisions laid out previously, its
sole purpose seems again to be the propaganda for the monarchy and to
simply not fall back on prior promises. The provisions and the new
constitutional monarchy did not satisfy Russians and Lenin. The
Constitution lasted until the fall of the empire in 1917.
Rise of terrorism
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. Notable victims included:
Dmitry Sipyagin – Minister of Interior. Killed 15
April [O.S. 2 April] 1902 in Saint Petersburg.
Nikolai Bobrikov – Governor-General of Finland. Killed 30
June [O.S. 17 June] 1904 in Helsinki.
Vyacheslav von Plehve – Minister of Interior. Killed 10
August [O.S. 28 July] 1904 in Saint Petersburg.
Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia – Killed 17
February [O.S. 4 February] 1905 in Moscow.
Eliel Soisalon-Soininen – Procurator of Justice of Finland.
Killed 19 February [O.S. 6 February] 1905 in Helsinki.
Viktor Sakharov – former war minister. Killed 5
December [O.S. 22 November] 1905.
Admiral Chukhnin – the commander of the Black Sea Fleet. Killed
24 July [O.S. 11 July] 1906.
Aleksey Ignatyev – Killed 22 December [O.S. 9
The years of revolution were marked by a dramatic rise in the numbers
of death sentences and executions. Different figures on the number of
executions were compared by Senator Nikolai Tagantsev, and are
listed in the table.
Number of executions by different accounts
Report by Ministry of Internal Affairs Police Department to the State
Duma on 19 February [O.S. 6 February] 1909
Report by Ministry of War Military Justice department
By Oscar Gruzenberg
Report by Mikhail Borovitinov, assistant head of Ministry of Justice
Chief Prison Administration, at the International Prison Congress in
1,435 + 683 = 2,118
Number of executions
These numbers reflect only executions of civilians, and do not
include a large number of summary executions by punitive army
detachments and executions of military mutineers. The Anarchist,
Peter Kropotkin, also noted that official statistics excluded
executions during punitive expeditions, especially in Siberia,
Caucasus and the Baltic provinces. By 1906 there were 4,509
political prisoners in Russian Poland, 20 percent of the empire's
Ivanovo Voznesensk was known as the 'Russian Manchester' for its
textile mills. In 1905, its local revolutionaries were overwhelmingly
Bolshevik. It was the first
Bolshevik branch in which workers
11 May 1905: The 'Group', the revolutionary leadership, called for all
the textile mills to strike.
12 May: The strike begins. Strike leaders meet in the local woods.
13 May: 40,000 workers assemble before the Administration Building to
give Svirskii, the regional factory inspector, a list of demands.
14 May: Workers' delegates are elected. This was done at the
suggestion of Svirskii who 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
15 May: Svirskii tells the strikers they can only negotiate over each
factory in turn but they can hold elections wherever. The strikers
elect delegates by mill right there in the surrounding boulevards.
Later the delegates elect a chairman.
17 May: The meetings are moved to the bank of the Talka river, on
suggestion by the police chief.
27 May: The delegates' meeting house is closed.
Cossacks break up a workers meeting, arresting over 20.
Workers start sabotaging telephone wires and burn down a mill.
9 June: The police chief resigns.
12 June: All prisoners are released. Mill owners mostly flee to
Moscow. Neither side gives in.
27 June: Workers agree to stop striking 1 July.
Main article: Revolution in the Kingdom of Poland (1905–07)
Demonstrators in Jakobstad
In the Grand Duchy of Finland, the
Social Democrats organised the
general strike of 1905 (12–19 November [O.S. 30
October – 6 November]). The Red Guards were formed, led by
captain Johan Kock. During the general strike, the Red Declaration,
written by Finnish politician and journalist Yrjö Mäkelin, was
published in Tampere, demanding dissolution of the Senate of Finland,
universal suffrage, political freedoms, and abolition of censorship.
Leader of the constitutionalists,
Leo Mechelin crafted the November
Manifesto that led to the abolition of the Diet of
Finland and of the
four Estates, and to the creation of the modern Parliament of Finland.
It also resulted in a temporary halt to the
started in 1899.
On 12 August [O.S. 30 July] 1906, Russian artillerymen and
military engineers rose to rebellion in the fortress of Sveaborg
(later called Suomenlinna), Helsinki. The Finnish Red Guards supported
Sveaborg Rebellion with a general strike, but the mutiny was
quelled by loyal troops and ships of the
Baltic Fleet within 60 hours.
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.
Jaan Tõnisson used the new political
freedoms to widen the rights of Estonians by establishing the first
Estonian political party - National Progress Party.
Another, more radical political organisation, the Estonian Social
Democratic Workers' Union was founded as well. The moderate supporters
of Tõnisson and the more radical supporters of
Jaan Teemant could not
agree about how to continue with the revolution, and only agreed that
both wanted to limit the rights of
Baltic Germans and to end
Russification. The radical views were publicly welcomed and in
December 1905, martial law was declared in Tallinn. A total of 160
manors were looted, resulting in ca. 400 workers and peasants being
killed by the army. Estonian gains from the revolution were minimal,
but the tense stability that prevailed between 1905 and 1917 allowed
Estonians to advance the aspiration of national statehood.
Bloody Sunday Monument in
Riga on the Daugava
Following the shooting of demonstrators in St. Petersburg, a
wide-scale general strike began in Riga. On 26 January [O.S. 13
January], Russian army troops opened fire on demonstrators killing 73
and injuring 200 people. During the middle of 1905, the focus of
revolutionary events moved to the countryside with mass meetings and
demonstrations. 470 new parish administrative bodies were elected in
94% of the parishes in Latvia. The Congress of Parish Representatives
was held in
Riga in November. In autumn 1905, armed conflict between
the Baltic German nobility and the Latvian peasants began in the rural
areas of Livland and Courland. In Courland, the peasants seized or
surrounded several towns. In Livland, the fighters controlled the
Rūjiena-Pärnu railway line. Martial law was declared in Courland
in August 1905, and in Livland in late November.
expeditions were dispatched in mid-December to suppress the movement.
They executed 1170 people without trial or investigation and burned
300 peasant homes. Thousands were exiled to Siberia. Many Latvian
intellectuals only escaped by fleeing to Western Europe or USA. In
1906, the revolutionary movement gradually subsided.
Sergei Eisenstein originally intended this film
to be a pro-
Bolshevik narrative of the 1905 Russian
Doctor Zhivago, which takes place between the Revolution of 1905 and
World War I
Łódź insurrection (1905)
Symphony No. 11 (Shostakovich), subtitled The Year 1905
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