World History 2 187 - 11.5.1 The 1905 Revolution

Long-standing problems in Russia such as a stagnant bureaucracy became exacerbated by the war. The Romanov tsars, in control since the 1600s, saw themselves as absolute rulers who governed without being questioned, but more liberal ideologies emerging in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s reached parts of Russian society, inspiring a desire for reform and reducing public tolerance for those in power. Socialist and Marxist ideologies, in particular, took hold among many young Russians, who felt the time had come to overthrow the tsarist state. In the early 1900s, a political faction known as the Bolsheviks appeared that followed these ideologies. Its members believed that violent revolution was necessary to oust the tsar and that the revolution needed a strong leader who could control the working class. Their push for reform and its accompanying violence eventually caused Russia to withdraw from the war.

On January 5, 1905, many workers gathered to protest peacefully outside Tsar Nicholas II’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. They were led by a local cleric and appealed to the tsar (who was not in residence) for improvements to their working conditions, as well as a government that would share power with a popularly elected assembly. They made this direct appeal because they saw the tsar as their “Little Father,” someone who would care for his people. Instead, military troops fired on the crowd. Around one thousand people were killed in the melee as blood spilled all over the snow, and the day came to be called “Bloody Sunday.”

The backlash against the tsar was brutal. Workers in numerous cities went on strike to protest the bloodshed as part of the Revolution of 1905. Many strikes turned violent as more troops were ordered to put them down. With no end in sight, Nicholas II was forced to concede that he would no longer rule autocratically, and that a national legislature would meet to create a new voice in the government. The legislature was called the Duma and first met in 1906. It was composed of middle-class men and peasants, but it had two houses. One was indirectly chosen by an electoral college whose members were selected by men over age twenty-five. The other house had members appointed by the tsar. This second house dominated the Duma, limiting the legislature’s ability to function as a true representative assembly. While it was a step forward in line with some revolutionary aims, it did not signal a true sharing of power by the tsar.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax