Why Did Revolution Break Out in Russia in 1905?

Topics: Russian Empire, Russia, Saint Petersburg Pages: 11 (4215 words) Published: November 7, 2011
Why did Revolution break out in Russia in 1905? In 1905, thousands of people gathered outside the Winter Palace, demanding change and immediate reform. Although their revolt was ultimately unsuccessful, it is important to wonder why many people were disgruntled with the Tsarist regime. It can be argued that 1905 revolution resulted in both long-term and crucial short term factors: the long-term factors which will be discussed are peasant land-hunger, the declining economy and the exploitation of Jews. For the first factor, I will begin by discussing the reign of Alexander II to Nicholas II; this will allow us to show the developments in time of peasant outrage. Secondly, the essay will discuss the reign of Alexander III who began terrible pogroms towards Jews and continued by Nicholas II, specifically the great pogroms of the early 1900’s. For the third area, the deteriorating economy created high unemployment and instability within the country. The key short term areas to discuss are: the disgruntlement of the working classes, Russo-Japanese war affected the social classes; it made people realise that Russia was possibly still a backward country because she lost the war; the trigger factor was Bloody Sunday which was the limit for many Russians because the protesters were shot dead by the Red Guard. It is also important to understand why each Tsar introduced certain policies, for a larger context. Thus, there are a variety of long-term and short-term factors to discuss. Let us firstly consider the long-term problem of peasant land hunger which led to the 1905 revolution. To understand this fully, it is crucial we look at the reign of Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II which will allow us to analyse the changes and developments in time. The historian Maureen Perrie argues that the origins of the 1905 revolution can be traced back to the reign of Alexander II; she specifically points to the role of the peasantry arguing the involvement of the peasantry during 1905 was a culmination of a feeling of neglect and anger from decades before the reign of Nicholas II.[1] This argument is very possibly correct because, as shall be explained in this section, the problem of land became an issue which plagued Russia. It is important to understand the motives of Alexander II: following the Crimean War Alexander II decided that serfdom needed to be abolished. He had heard of the travesty that the war had caused peasants and believed that freeing them would give them an opportunity to cultivate produce easier to help improve Russia’s economy. However peasants lives became worse rather than being improved with redemption payments; many were influenced by the ‘to the people’ campaign began by the nihilists. Many of these nihilists were students who aimed to overthrow Tsardom; they looked at the global context to other countries who had further developing societies compared to Russia’s backwardness. They believed in bringing Russia forward from her backwardness following the Crimean War defeat; for example in 1856 more than 45% of peasants had links with the nihilists.[2] This statistic is crucial because it proves that revolutionary fervour by peasants originated many years before the 1905 revolution. Peasants hoped that following war they would have been given more land but the landowners still owned the rights to land and they reduced the amount of land available for lease; this meant that peasants still suffered from the ongoing problem of ‘land hunger.’ Land was crucial for peasants because they needed it to grow yield and sell it on the market to feed their family; peasants relied on it to provide a decent living. Following the assassination of Alexander II, Alexander III came to power and he continued to repress the peasants which again heralded the rise of peasants joining underground revolutionary groups. He was a repressive tsar who wished to centralise the Russian society; believing that there was a conspiracy against the...
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