The Making of the Revolution 1881-1905

  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 28-03-14 15:38

problems facing Alexander III

  • keeping large multi-ethnic empire together
  • maintain supreme political power - difficult because Alex II started reforms which raised expectations of change (after emancipation of Serfs people expected more reform)
  • pressure to reform - like western powers - sharing power with gov
  • pressure from Slavophiles to remain autocratic and dominated by Russians
  • radicals wanted to end Tsarism - 'People's Will' was formed in 1879 for this purpose - many Tsarist officials were assassinated and many attempts to assassinate Tsar - one in 1887 - group of students - Alexander Ulyanov hanged (made bomb)
  • moderates wanted reform - including liberals - wanted to allow freedom of the Press and a national parliament elected by educated and wealthy
  • extremists wanted reform - inc. People's Will - others wanted political and economic power handed to the peasants
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Political Repression

  • those who wanted political reform were repressed - Tsar appointed Conservative reactionary ministers - Pobedonostev and Tolstoy
  • Pobedonostev was PM and persuaded Alex to govern with advice from small no. of conservative ministers - supported repression but wanted to turn Russia into a police state
  • Okhrana set up to deal with opposition
  • composition of Zemstva changed - reduced peasant representation and landowners dominated
  • people who could vote were restricted to those owning property above certain value
  • uni's supervised and liberal teachers dismissed
  • secondary schooling denied to working class and peasants
  • police used torture, execution and exile to siberia to reduce number of revolutionaries
  • strict policy of russification (c.55% of Russia were nationalities)
  • 'one Tsar, one church, one state'
  • Press freedom restricted

Alex III died naturally and throne passed to son Nicholas II

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Nicholas II 1894 - 1917

  • shy, indecisive, weak, uninterested in gov affairs, dominated by wife Tsarina Alexandra
  • tutored by Pobedonostev - therefore conservative by education - determined to maintain Tsarist autocracy
  • Alexandra urged Nicholas to be strong like his father

Agriculture problems:

  • low bread prices to help industry - difficult for peasants
  • bad harvests were frequent
  • gov tried to improve land problem by giving land bank funds and land reserves fro former state lands
  • gov exploited land reserves by encouraging settlement on virgin land in east
  • Russian land provided less food per acre than Brit or USA
  • traditional attitudes of Mirs counteracted gov initiative
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The Great Spurt - Witte 1892-1903

  • Witte = Finance Minister
  • Aim = make the Russian economy strong enough to maintain power
  • Russian economy --> no sufficient funds to invest in industrial development
  • 'Witte System' --> economic development = sponsored & directed by gov
  • extra taxes imposed on over-taxed peasantry = deep resentment
  • economic development financed from abroad - France, Belgium and Britain
  • Trans-Siberian Railway - 7000km across Empire from st Pet to Vladivostock --> provided communication systems to exploit the economic potential of Siberia


  • coal, iron and oil production rose
  • Trans Siberian railway helped development of Russian influence in Far East
  • large cities grew at large rate (population of st Pet doubled between 1890-1914 from 1 million to 2 million)
  • Russia exploited Siberias natural resources
  • military power developed
  • Russia still lagged behind other Great Powers
  • poor conditions for workers
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radicals: social revolutionary party (SR's)

  • largest and most dangerous socialist group - founded in 1901
  • 'the party of the peasants' agrarian reformers and populists
  • many policies that broadened membership which was partly urban
  • central belief = redistribution of agricultural land to the peasants on the basis of how much each could profitably use
  • leaders: Gershumi, Goetz, Breshko, Breskovsky and Chernov
  • robbed banks to fund terror campaigns
  • took orders from Central Committee

At 1st Party Congress meeting announced the following programme:

1) fall of monarchy would lead to socialism because Russian capitalism was so weak - party would cooperate with liberal middle class

2) peasants = most important class and land should be redistributed - taken from landowners and given to them

3) against centralisation and bureaucracy - wanted nothing to do with state socialism

4) believed in efficiency of political terror and propaganda

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radicals: social democrat party

  • looked west, to the radical ideas of Marxism
  • for marxism to succeed, industrial development was essential
  • socialist revolution not possible during social and economic conditions - still didn't have majority population industrial workers
  • wanted 'dictatorship of the proletariat' in which the bourgeoisie and all other classes would be destroyed
  • 'from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs'
  • believed urban proletariat would lead revolution as peasantry were unable
  • party leaders arrested by ohkrana but continued party in exile
  • split in opinion when discussing party membership: menshoviks and bolsheviks
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Mensheviks vs. Bolsheviks


  • 'majority men' - were actually a minority
  • regarded as most dangerous by the ohkrana
  • revolution - time wasn't right for revolution - not enough working class and economic conditions weren't right - wanted to prepare for future revolution
  • membership - open membership to as many as possible
  • decision making - democractically by members after open debate
  • role of party - educate workers for future role, work with other revolutionary groups

Bolsheviks: Lenin

  • revolution: a dedicated party of revolutionaries could lead small working class to power - proletariat and bourgeousie combined to hasten revolution
  • membership: wanted dedicated revolutionaries
  • decision making: leaders made decisions and members should accept them
  • role of party: party should be front line of the revolution, shouldn't work with other groups as they would undermine the revolution
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development of Russian Liberalism

Zemstva: beginnings of liberalism - 1st political organisation that contained elected officials - wanted a national organisation for the zemstva - Shipov (chairman of Moscow zemstva) in charge of this - he persuaded the Interior Minister to create zemstva across western Russia

Union of Liberation: some Russia liberal exiles created a newspaper called 'liberation' supporting constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament - these liberal exiles formed the 'Union of Liberation'

Octoberists: group of liberals who believed that the October Manifesto provided best settlement for Russia's constitutional development, and from 1905 they were supporters of Tsar Nicholas II

Kadets: (constitutional democrats) - radical group - saw the October Manifesto as a beginning rather than end of political reform - they believed a truly parliamentary system of gov based on a democatic franchise would help deal with social and economic problems facing Russia

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Causes of 1905 revolution


  • considerable resentment to the social, economic and political situation 

social and economic:

  • size of peasant landholdings fell as population increased - tried to get land for everyone
  • 1892, 1898, 1905 - harvest failures = famine
  • peasants attacked gov officials and documents that said they had to pay rents on land
  • Witte - industrialising too quickly - peasants moved to towns - poor living and working conditions


  • pressure from liberals to reform gov
  • SR's - willing to use violence to achieve aim of power to the peasants - assassinated many including Interior Minister Plehve and Tsar's uncle Grand Duke Sergei
  • SD's - most radical - many leaders came out of exile once bloody sunday occured - wanted to use widespread unrest to force political change
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immediate causes of 1905 revolution

Russo - Japanese War:

  • Russia wanted to expand empire to far east and came into direct conflict with expansionist power, Japan
  • Russia and Japan went to war over control of Northern China and Korea
  • Russia saw themself as far superior power but suffered humiliating defeat
  • 1905 - Russians forced to surrender their Port Arthur naval base in North China
  • following months - Japanese forces defeated Russian army in Manchuria
  • national humiliation - defeat at Battle of Tsushima - lost 25 out of 35 warships in defeat against Japanese navy

Bloody Sunday:

  • demonstration had been peaceful and led by Father Gapon
  • demonstrators who survived were expelled from st Pet - helped to spread news of massacre and spark sympathy strikes
  • destroyed many peoples trust in the Tsar - no longer 'Little Father'
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development of 1905 revolution

  • STRIKES: by feb 1905- 400,000 workers striking in response to bloody sunday, end of 1905 - 2.7 million workers striking, strikes organised by workers, strikers set up worker's soviets to organise striking (worker's councils) - most successful general strike in Russian history - whole country was paralysed - railway workers striked causing gov to be seriously threatened as railways were crucial for moving troops to cities to diffuse unrest
  • PEASANT UPRISINGS: (jacqueries) - faced with poor harvests and high taxes - most of european Russia had been affected by peasant uprisings by the end of the year
  • MUTINIES: battleship Potemkin - crew killed some officers, took control of ship, bombarded Black Sea port Odessa and then went to neutral country Romania - mutinies recieved publicity and helped undermine Tsar's authority - however the army didn't turn against Tsarist regime
  • ST PET SOVIET: assembly of workers - groups of workers elected representatives to the Soviet - had over 400 members representing 96 factories - leading figure = Leon Trotsky - most of its work included making sure strikers got food - soviet got closed down when leaders were arrested but showed workers what they were capable of organising
  • ARMED UPRISING: general strike turned into armed uprising against police and troops - many died and left city in ruins - Bolsheviks surrendered = revolution over
  • GOV REACTION: october manifesto - promised reforms - proposed elected national parliament - also proposed freedom of speech, religion and civil rights - split revolutionary groups (SR's and SD's wanted more social and economic reform)
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why did revolution fail?

Loyalty of armed forces:

  • army stayed loyal to Tsar and arrested many revolutionaries
  • most leaders were exiled or executed, Trotsky and Lenin fled the country
  • pro-gov terrorist groups - e.g. Black Hundreds - hunted down and executed thousands or known reformers

Lack of unity amongst revolutionaries:

  • spontenaity of revolutionary outbreaks meant that the armed forces, police and Black Hundreds could suppress them one at a time
  • revolutionaries had different aims - fought amongst themselves as well as opposing gov

Splitting the opposition:

  • october manifesto split opposition
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consequences of the 1905 revolution

The Fundamental Law 1906:

  • issued by Tsar
  • creation of national parliament with Lower House (Duma) being elected
  • Upper House - council of State - partly elected and partly nominated by Tsar
  • Tsar had the right to govern by decree, thereby ignoring parliament
  • Tsar still had considerable political power and his changes fell short of demands of most revolutionaries

The Dumas:

  • first duma elected 1906 - contained many reformers
  • only lasted 73 days before Tsar dissolved it
  • 2nd Duma - feb 1907 - also contained reformers - displeased Tsar and chief minister Stolypin
  • 3rd Duma - nov 1907 - much more restricted (only wealthy could vote - excluded most of reformers supporters) - Tsar faced little demand for reform by first national parliament 1907-1912
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