The Causes of the 1905 Russian Revolution


The Causes of the 1905 Russian Revolution


  • Economic Hardship
  • Political Opposition
  • Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War
  • Bloody Sunday 1905


  • Over three-quarters of the Russian population were unhappy with their position in the Empire.Peasants and workers alike suffered horrendous living and working conditions and hence posed a threat to the Tsarist regime. Discontent increased in the years before 1905 in the form of riots, illegal strikes and protests.Russia had no form of income tax. The Tsar taxed the produce of the peasant farmers to raise money to maintain his regime. The burden of taxation was so great that periodic riots broke out.
  • With industrialisation, under the guidance of Tsarist advisers Vyshnegradsky and Witte, came increased urbanisation. The population of Russia’s towns and cities multiplied by four.Working conditions were terrible and trade unionism was banned. There was little to protect the pay or safety of workers. Laws protecting workers brought in under Alexander III and Nicholas II did little to improve the situation as the working day remained at 11.5 hours.
  • There was limited sanitation and running water in the cities and the mortality rate was high.There was an economic downturn in the early 1900s, leading to a lack of jobs and regular income. This was disastrous for those migrating to the cities looking for work.
  • Many were unhappy with the political conditions in Russia:                 - Ethnic minorities were greatly oppressed by the policies of Russification.                                                                                                    -Jewish people were persecuted by state-sanctioned pogroms          -The influence of Zemstvas (provincial governing bodies) was reduced.                                                                                                            -In 1900 officials criticising the government were purged                    -Middle class industrialists were unhappy that they had no say in how the country was governed.                                                                   -Increased industrialisation and urbanisation had led to major social and economic problems for workers and peasants.
  • Tsar Nicholas II was advised by Plehve, the Minister of the Interior, that a national victory would lessen the growing opposition to Tsarist rule. It was an opportunity to heighten patriotic fervour and national pride.Japan was also a threat to Russian interests in Asia. Russia benefited from economic expansion into the Far East and increased access to the Pacific coastline. Japan had become concerned that Russian expansion of the Trans-Siberian Railway into Chinese Manchuria could threaten Korea. China was weak and Japan had an interest in acquiring land for herself. Japanese negotiations to avoid war were ignored by Tsarist officials and hence the war began.
  • The embarrassment of defeat to an Asiatic power added to the view that Tsarist government was incompetent. The Tsar had to agree to a humiliating peace treaty with the Japanese after the destruction of the Baltic Fleet. Defeat in the war led to a mutiny on board the Potemkin battleship in June 1905. Resources diverted to the war lessened the already limited supply of grain and fuel.In 1904 Plehve was assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack.
  • Father Gapon organised a petition complaining about working conditions in the city and calling for change. It was signed by over 150 thousand people.On 22 January 1905, Father Gapon led a march to deliver a petition to the Tsar. Thousands of workers took part in this peaceful protest. The workers were not trying to overthrow the Tsar. They believed that the Tsar did not know of their plight. Instead they blamed the Tsarist ministers and officials. This demonstration of factory workers was brutally put down by Russian soldiers. Up to 200 people were killed by rifle fire and Cossack charges. This event became known as Bloody Sunday and is seen as one of the key causes of the 1905 Revolution.

Overall summary

The aftermath brought about a short-lived revolution in which the Tsar lost control of large areas of Russia. The revolution failed but it served as a serious warning of what might happen in the future.


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