During the reign of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, the 1905 Revolution occurred. This revolution was the first ever in Russia and contradicted everything the Russian people were taught about loyalty to the Tsar. It therefore was the first time Russian monarchy had faced so much opposition from so many different social groups. It may’ve been the first revolution Nicholas and indeed Russia had faced, but it wasn’t the last. Nicholas also experienced a second revolution in 1917 and as a result was forced to abdicate.
This essay will explore causes of the 1905 revolution and seek to discover why Nicholas survived the events of this year, yet abdicated during the events of 1917. There are various factors that lead to the 1905 revolution; some long term and some short term. The earliest event I believe helped cause the revolution was dissatisfaction towards the policy of emancipation. This policy was introduced in 1861 by Nicholas’ grandfather: Alexander II. The emancipation meant serfs were allowed personal freedom and in time were allowed to purchase land.
These were known as redemption payments and were paid over 19 years. Although Alexander wanted reform, it appeared he would have to try harder to satisfy his people. Peasants didn’t like terms of emancipation as they ended up with poor land that nobility were forced to sell them. The land was less fertile and very overpriced. Nobles also resented terms of emancipation. They had to give up a third of their land, meaning they struggled to make agricultural payments and had to sell up. It also lead to an educated middle class being created who could later on turn against the government.
Overall, the emancipation caused a big lack of devotion from nobility, peasants and the middle class towards the Tsar. As the political cartoon “The Release” implies, it also gave serfs a “taste” of freedom which once issued, would be extremely challenging to take away without protest. Another long term cause of the 1905 revolution was the repressive reign of Alexander III. Alexander II, Nicholas’ grandfather, was assassinated in front of Alexander III, Nicholas’ father and Nicholas himself. This deeply affected Alexander as a ruler; he believed that the introduction of reform or indeed change of any kind would be the downfall of a ruler.
He promised himself that he wouldn’t make the same mistake that his father made and therefore ruled in a completely contrasting manner, fighting extremely hard to return autocracy to its original, feared state. This new strict regime included the press being censored and public meetings being controlled, opposition was dealt with by being sent to prison or exile and it resulted in the people of Russia having next to no human rights. They lost the power of free speech, free will and even the right to choose who to marry.
They did as landowners told them. There were no permanent laws to protect the people. As Tolstoy said Russia lives “without lawful guarantees. ” This meant that the people of Russia had no constitutional laws to protect them and no laws were “set in stone”. Tolstoy also spoke of a general dissatisfaction of the classes towards the government and their open hostility against it. This was the start of growth in opposition towards the Tsar. One law however that Alexander did introduce was The Statues on Measures to Preserve National Order.
This law turned Russia into a police state, and included Alexander employing a special police section called the “Okhrana”. It was their job to crush any opposing political party. During Alexander’s reign, there were no constraints to the Tsar’s powers. Indeed, his powers were absolute. Another factor I believe contributed to the first revolution was the weakness of Nicholas II as a ruler. Nicholas II became Tsar, Grand-Duke of Poland and Finland in 1894 at the age of twenty-six; and so immediately had unbelievable amounts of responsibility forced upon him.
He was ill-equipped and unprepared for such a position and found it extremely pressurised business obtaining his father’s hard work in returning autocracy to its original, humble state. When Nicholas first took the throne, it appeared that Russia was in a state of tranquility and peace However, beneath the veneer of industrial growth, the 20th Century was slowly but surely leading the Tsarist Regime into a state of crisis. Nicholas, an inexperienced and unfortunately timed leader, was oblivious to the fact that reform was desperately needed socially, economically and indeed politically to avoid a major crisis.
The final long term cause that encouraged revolution was the economic problems facing Russia at this time. As industry continued to grow, serious problems faced Russia. Working conditions were horrendous: textile factories were poorly lit and fast moving machinery had no guards. Employers offered accommodation to workers but houses were simply too over-crowded and unsanitary. Working and living conditions were even worse in the country-side that in the towns. Farming was primitive in the country and yet investment was virtually non existent.
In 1899, 97,000 workers went on strike due to poor working conditions. This was the start of the people of Russia becoming more politically aware and more determined to gain rights. The major grievances among peasants were the lack of land and the lack of food. Despite peasantry making eighty percent of the Russian population, they were living in famine and were constantly ignored. Less than a third of the population could read and write. The first short term affect I’m going to discuss is the failure of the war with Japan.