Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Russian Revolution of 1905 (Part 2)

Marx (Left) and Engels (Right)
Russia’s course in the last 50 years of the 19th century saw changes in policies, society, and economy. The situations created new challenges and aspirations. With infusion of new ideologies, it led to the creation of political movements and parties. Explore what were the ideologies that spread and political parties that emerged, which played key roles in the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Political Ideologies

The 19th century ushered the development of new ideologies – various philosophies ending with –isms – both in Europe and Russia. Much of it developed from the Age of Enlightenment and by the Industrial Revolution. Most of it became widely used in politics, leading to revolutions and reforms that altered the history of many country’s as well as dictate the creation of new ones. And in the case of Russia and Revolution of 1905, towards reforms.

Liberalism flourished in Russia during the age of Catherine the Great and her benevolent despotism. It took root from the ideas of the Enlightenment, like freedom of discussion, of assembly, of worship, of the press, etc., preached by various writers in Europe like Voltaire and Diderot. It became the foundation for political reform movements, such as the creation of a constitution and a legislature. These ideas propelled Europe to turbulence, and Russia also had a share. In 1825, ideas of the Enlightenment and Liberalism urged the Decembrist Revolt. But other than revolts, it also inspired the reign of Tsar Alexander II. It also inspired many moderates in the court of Tsar Nicholas II as well as during the Revolution of 1905.

Populism, on the other hand, developed in Russia during the middle of the 19th century and especially after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Known for its Russian name Narodnik, it supported the cause of the masses, and in Russia’s case, the peasants. Populism took a socialist stand in the political spectrum, providing programs that embodied the aspirations of the peasantry, like land, better social services, and voice in the government.
Nihilism also grew in Russia during mid-19th century. It advocated the destruction of the establishment through a revolution no matter the cost – even morality itself. Some writers of this morbid movement advocated the creation of a political revolutionary elite to rule the state. Eventually, this served as the foundation of Vladimir Lenin’s philosophy in government.
Nihilism and Populism took some of its beliefs from Marxism. Conceived by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it suggested that materialism and class struggle shadowed mankind’s history. Since the start of social stratification, civilization transformed through various stages, from slavery to feudalism then capitalism thanks to greater need of profits. As the economic stage progressed, so too the intensification of differences in wealth and what Marx called the class struggle between the privilege and not. And in the stage of capitalism, the fight between the capitalist and the working class or the proletariat would result to a revolution, where the proletariat would rule and lead to the stage of communism. The last stage of communism promised equality and everlasting prosperity to the proletariat, making Marxism enticing and desirable to many.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the motto Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality, summarized the tenants of conservatives. It originated from Tsar Nicholas I and had ever since been the slogan for Tsarist and conservatism. It meant that Russia’s identity was rooted to the Russian Orthodox Church, the autocratic power of the Russian Tsar, and Russian culture and tradition. Extreme believers of this motto incited pogroms against Jews and the intensification of Russification of minorities in the peripheries of the Russian Empire during the 19th century and the early 20th century.

Meanwhile, nationalism also grew out in many parts of the Empire. These areas included the Baltic regions, Poland, the Caucasus Mountains, and Central Asia. Many of the non-Russian minorities became aware of their own culture with the rise of nationalism in Europe, especially in Italy and Germany, as well as the growth of the Intelligentsias. The Intelligentsias in the peripheries spurred discovery of their own people’s identity and urged them to study and to protect it against the policies of Russification by St. Petersburg. Because of nationalism and opposition to Russification, movements for autonomy or even independence grew.

Jadidism, or the New Method, in Central Asia, on the other hand, emerged as a new way to keep Islam alive in the midst of Russia’s assimilation policies. Once again, the Intelligentsias in the region drove the rise of Jadidism. It changed traditional Islamic education of Madrassas to something broader in substance and appearances. From mere memorization of verses in the Koran, it promoted analysis, critical thinking, and pursuit of new sciences, such as geography, philosophy, and technology. It also used local language to prevent its disappearance under Russian rule. They also introduced new materials such as desk, chairs, and boards in schools. Jadidism was a moderate stand against the Russification of Russia.

While nationalism grew, so as for internationalism. Various groups and ideas of internationalism developed in Russia alongside other political ideologies. Social Democrats who adhered to Marxist ideologies believed in the unity of various labor groups across Europe and the Russian Empire. In Central Asia and the Caucasus, the idea of Pan-Turkism meant the unification of all Turkic people from Anatolia to Western China. This idea, however, promoted bloody event in the Caucasian region, which claimed the lives of thousands of non-Turks.

The spread of these ideas provided the core of many political parties that emerged in the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 1900’s. Each ideology provided answers and means to different groups. These development in Russian politics allowed the diversity of ways as well as the aim for the reforms demanded in 1905.

Political Parties/Groups

As each classes in society had their own aspirations and with the spread of different political ideologies, numerous political parties emerged in the late 19th century to embody particular objectives and specific ideology to follow. While there were parties emphasizing on the interest of the peasants, there were also for the working class. There were parties who took moderate and liberal stand but there were those who were radical and revolutionary Conservative, Socialist, and Marxist groups. But the growth of political parties wasn’t limited to the Russia heartland. It also boomed in the peripheries of the Empire. These parties became the instrument of struggle for many to achieve reforms for the benefit of different groups based on the goals depending on the ideology they followed.

The Social Revolutionary Party of Russia (SR) was one of the earliest political party to be founded in Russia. Established in 1901, the party took its roots after peasants suffered from 1891 and 1892 famine exacerbated by falling earnings from exports caused by the introduction of the gold standards. The SR’s followed Marxist ideology and also populism. They showed a great deal on the plight of the peasantry. They believed that the Bourgeoisie exploited the peasants for profits. The party then promoted the socialization of lands and placing production on communes. Besides populism and Marxism, nihilism also influenced the party. It used terrorist tactics to show their discontent and to gain attention for their cause. They orchestrated assassinations of high ranking officials, such as Interior Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve. Along with the Bolsheviks, they formed the most radical of the left wing parties.

Another party, the Social Democratic Labor Party followed Marxist beliefs. They adhere more purely to the ideas of Marx than the SR’s as they had the proletariat as their concern. They also coordinated with other Social Democratic Parties within the Empire and outside to fulfill the idea of internationalist unity of all the proletariats without any regards to nationality. The founders of the party supposedly planned to establish the party in 1898. However, the Okhrana disrupted planned conference by arresting the participants. Only in 1903 when a Second Congress convened initially in Brussels but later to London - a city filled with liberality and away from the influence and surveillance of the Okhrana and the Tsar. The Second Congress founded the Social Democratic Labor Party. But during the Second Congress, a split emerged between the Bolsheviks or Minority and the Menshiviks or Majority.

The Menshivik and the Bolshevik differed in the process of reaching communism as well as in methods in achieving the party’s agenda. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, wanted to skip capitalism and proceed immediately to the stage of Communism. Lenin also fell under the influence of Nihilism when he promoted terrorism and criminal activities. He also took the idea of creating a government ruled by a revolutionary elite. The Menshiviks disagreed with Lenin. Led by Julius Martov and included the prominent writer and orator Leon Trotsky, the Menshivik took a moderate Marxist stand. They wanted to go to capitalism first before proceeding to capitalism. They also differed in the form government. As Lenin believed in a revolutionary committee and elite, the Menshiviks wanted to establish a democratic form of government with elections based on universal suffrage. Bolshevik and Menshivik split went serious as years passed and by 1912, the Bolsheviks formally left the Social Democratic Labor Party to form Russia’s Communist Party.

The Constitutional Democratic Party, with its members known as Kadets, emerged in 1905 after the issuing of the October Manifesto. It encompassed moderate liberals from the Intelligentsia class. Its foundation came as a result of the unity of two different liberal reformist groups: the Union of Unions founded in 1903 by Paul Miliukov and the Union of Liberation established in 1904 by Peter Struve. The Kadets aspired for the creation of a constitutional monarchy. However, they differed from other moderate liberals as they wanted a complete takeover of all lands and redistributing them to the peasants.

On the other side of the political spectrum, in the extreme right or hardline conservatives, the Union of the Russian People better known for one of its arm groups the Black Hundreds. The Union of the Russian People appeared in 1905 but the Black Hundreds appeared earlier during first years of the 20th century. The Union and the Black Hundreds believed strongly to the motto Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. The Black Hundreds and the Union included powerful officials and supporters. The following of the group came from the landowners as well as nobles. Their strong nationalism and loyalty to the Tsar led them to support Russification of minorities and to commit pogroms or other kinds of violence against Jews and other non-Russian minorities.

Along the Russian heartland, political parties also saw a rise in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Like those in Russia, they embodied different agendas and aspiration. The rise of these parties in other parts of the Empire contributed to the spread of turbulence during the Revolution of 1905.

Explore also:



Balkelis, Tomas. The Making of Modern Lithuania. New York, New York: Routledge, 2009.

Bolukbasi, Suha. Azerbaijan: A Political History. New York, New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2011.

Croissant, Michael. The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Euchensehr, Kristen and Michael Reisman (Eds.). Stopping Wars and Making Peace: Studies in International Intervention. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 2009.

Kassow, Samuel. Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1989.

Kasekamp, Andres. A History of the Baltic States. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Kokovtsov, Vladimir. H.H. Fisher (Ed.). Laura Matveev (Trans.). Out of My Past: The Memoirs of Count Kokovtsov. Standford University, California: Stanford University Press, 1935.

Leslie, R.F. (ed.). The History of Poland since 1863. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

O'Connor, Kevin. The History of the Baltic States. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Papazian, K.S. Patriotism Perverted: A Discussion of the Deeds and the Misdeeds of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the So-called Dashnagtzoutune. Boston, Massachusetts: Baikar Press, 1934.

Pipes, Richard. A Concise History of the Russian Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995.

___________. Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, 1917 - 1923. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Palmer, Robert. A History of the Modern World. Boston, Massachusettes: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Plakans, Andrejs. The Latvians: A Short History. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1995.

Prazmowska, Anita. Poland: A Modern History. New York, New York: IB Tauris, 2010.

Raun, Toivo. Estonia and the Estonians. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1995.

Witte, Sergei. Abraham Yarmolinsky (Trans.). The Memoirs of Count Sergei Witte. Garden City, New York: Dobleday, Page & Company, 1921.

General References:

"Jadidism," Historical Dictionary of Kazakhstan. Edited by Didar Kassymova et. al. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2012.

"Revolution of 1905-1906." In the Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966 - 1945. Edited by Jerzy Jan Lerski. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996.

"Russian Revolution (1905)." In the Historical Dictionary of Marxism. Edited by Elliott Johnson et. al. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Corfield, Justin. "Russian Revolution (1905)." In The Encyclopedia of the Industrial Revolution in World History. Edited by Kenneth E. Hendrikson, III. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Frame, Arthur. Russia, "Revolution of 1905." In The Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2005.

Gough, Jana trans. History of Civilizations of Central Asia V. 6. Paris: UNESCO, 2005.

Mikaberidze, Alexander. Historical Dictionary of Georgia. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Suny, Ronald Grigor. "Russian Revolution of 1905." in The Encyclopedia of Political Revolutions. Edited by Jack A. Goldstone. New York, New York: Routledge, 1998.

Suziedelis, Saulius. Historical Dictionary of Lithuania. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2011.

Online Newspaper Articles:

A Russian Correspondent of The New York Times. "Russian Tells Story of Sunday's Massacre." New York Times (January 25 1905). URL:

"Troops Overawe St. Petersburg." New York Times (January 24, 1905). URL:

"Iron Ruler for St. Petersburg." New York Times (January 25, 1905). URL:


Ascher, Abraham. "Revolution of 1905." Encyclopedia of Russian History. 2004. 1 Feb. 2016.

Trotsky, Leon. “1905.” Marxist Internet Archives. March 12, 2016.

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