Monday, March 14, 2016

The Russian Revolution of 1905 (Part 3)

Jonas Basanavicius
The Russian heartland saw the rise of various political parties embodying different ideologies and aspirations of the people. But besides the Russian, non-Russian minorities under the Empire also forged their own political parties. Explore these political parties in the satellite territories of the Russian Empire.

Political Parties in the Peripheries of the Empire

Alongside the Russian heartland, political parties developed in other parts of the Russian Empire. This included the Baltic States and extremely volatile territory of Poland. The region of the Caucasus also had its share as parties grew within various ethnic groups. And in Central Asia, intelligentsias especially those who had education based from Jadidism formed their own parties as well.

Political situations in the peripheries of the Russian Empire differed from each other. In some parts of the Empire, such as Finland and the Armenians, wielded local autonomy or favor of the Russian government, while the rest, like Transcaucasia and Central Asia had governor generals to rule them under repressive conditions. In the 1880’s the policy of Russification created tensions between the authorities and non-Russian nationalist intelligentsias. This sense of nationalism within the peripheries resulted to the rise of movements calling for autonomy, civil rights, and in extreme cases, total independence.

In the Baltic Regions, the modern countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, belonged to the Russian Empire. Mostly, the Intelligentsias from these countries who had the privilege to study in universities, such as those in St. Petersburg and Moscow galvanized the political scene of their respective homes. They all struggled to define who they were as a people and moved towards developing their respective national identities. Along with this struggle, the infusion of new ideas such as socialism and Marxism, gave rise to new political organizations.

In Lithuania, the urban Intelligentsias led the struggle for nationalism and civil rights. In 1883, Jonas Basanvicius published the newspaper Ausra or Dawn that discussed Lithuanian history and culture. Following the Ausra, interest rose towards the peasantry whom the Intelligentsias saw as a window to the true Lithuanian identity. Eventually, interest towards Lithuanian culture, history, and language sparked movements against Russification. In 1901, the Lithuanians succeeded to allow the use of Lithuanian language in church masses. Alongside the quest for Lithuanian identity, political ideas followed creating new political parties. In 1896, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Worker’s Party was founded. It included prominent members such as Vincas Kapsukas (founder of the Lithuanian Communist Party) and Steponas Kairys (A Signatory in the Declaration of Independence of Lithuania. It initially concentrated on the working class, but later in 1903, it expanded to represent the aspirations of the peasantry. It soon became the largest party in Lithuania by the time of the Revolution of 1905. In 1902, another party emerged, the Lithuanian Democratic Party. It operated the newspaper Varpas promoting the Lithuanian language, identity, and right for autonomy. Among its members included Kazys Grinius (Later President of Lithuania).

In Latvia, the search for Latvian identity grew alongside tensions with the ruling and influential Baltic German landowners. In the 1860’s Latvians in St. Petersburg, mostly studying in the universities there, published a newspaper in Latvian language – Peterburgas Avises. The newspaper reported the situation in Latvia and criticized the Baltic Germans for their claim of superiority throughout the Baltics. From that point, knowing Latvian language and identity became a struggle for the Latvian intelligentsias. But besides nationalism, the ideology of social democrats followed. In June 1904, Janis Jansons-Brauns and Peteris Stucka established the Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party. It had collaboration with other Social Democratic Parties such as those in Russia and Lithuania. They also adhered to internationalism, even seeing nationalism as a hindrance to the unity of the proletariats. The Latvian Social Democrats became influential in major cities such as Riga, helping to organize strikes during the Revolution of 1905.

Finland also had share of political developments. For about a century, Finland had a great deal of autonomy under the Russian Empire. It had its own laws and an Estate-General. Nevertheless, the policy of Russification and the strengthening of central rule under Tsar Nicholas II caused serious repercussions for Finland. In 1899, Nicholas made the acts of the Finnish Estate General advisory rather than law. Russian language began to be used in Finnish courts rather Finnish language. In 1900, St. Petersburg also ordered Russian to be the language of administration in Finland. This resulted to political activities in the country in opposition of the new policies. In March 1899, thousands of Finns signed what became known as the Great Address that requested the reversal of Russification policies and the return of Finnish autonomy. The Great Address arrived in St. Petersburg only to be rejected by the Emperor. The Finnish then discussed how to proceed, but in the end, it resulted to the creation of two factions: The Old Finns and Young Finns. The Old Finns led by Yrjo Sakari Yrjo-Koskinen and Johan Richard Danielson-Kalmari desired to maintain the status quo. The Young Finns on the other hand desired a constitution, which they saw as a prerequisite for a nation.

Other than consciousness over the intrusion of the Tsar to the tradition and culture of Finland, ideas of socialism and Marxism also began to take root. In 1899, the Finnish Workers’ Party later renamed as the Finnish Social Democratic Party began. It also believed in the unity of all proletariats and also in Socialist policies such as compulsory education and free health care. They also wanted universal suffrage as they unveiled their program in Forssa.

Poles continued to be politically active. For centuries, Poles fought for the resurrection of Poland, especially as their country had once been the superpower in Central Europe. But failed attempts, especially in 1868, resulted to ever more stringent and strong Russian rule. Although Poland also experienced industrialization, it only brought an increase in complaints against Russian rule. Poland’s political scene became a mixture of different movements: movements for better working conditions, movement of nationalism, and movement for agrarian reforms. With the rise of Polish Intelligentsias, political groups formed in the late 19th century. In 1887, Polish exiles founded the Liga Polska or the Polish League (later known as the National League) in Switzerland with the objective of safely coordinating various Polish organizations in Poland. Back in Poland, in 1889, the Polish workers founded the Zwiazek Robotnikow Polskich (ZRP) or the Union of Polish Workers with the role of giving a voice to the working class.

In 1892, the Socialist founded the Polska Partia Socialistyczna (PPS) or the Polish Socialist Party, which followed ideas of Socialism and Marxism. The PPS included smaller socialist groups from other areas, especially those who belonged to the late Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Among the prominent members of the PPS included the future leader of Post-World War I Poland – Jozef Pilsudski. It desired socialist vision of an independent Poland. It also had no qualms in using force to achieve its goals.

A great rival of the PPS, the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland or SDKP appeared in 1893. It also adhere to the idea of internationalism and even saw nationalism as an obstacle for its goal of unity of the proletariat. In addition, the Party disagreed with the methods of the PPS when it comes to the use of force. In 1899, it joined forces with other Social Democrats in Western Russia to form the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania or SDKPiL. Rosa Luxemburg took part in the SDKPiL.

In 1897, the National Democratic Party was established. It believed in an extreme sense of nationalism. They disregarded any other culture except the Polish culture that existed before 1772, the year of the first partition of Poland. Because of its extreme nationalist inclination, they had anti-Semitic sentiments and at odds with the Social Democrats for their internationalism stand. Among their prominent members included the Polish intellectual and writer Roman Dmowski.

The peasants also formed their own political group – the Polish Peasant Union. Founded in November 18, 1904, the PSS, the Union’s abbreviation, had a militant stand to achieve its desired agrarian reforms from Russian landlords.

With the rise of political organizations and intensification of desires for a free Poland, the country experienced tremendous fighting and violence throughout the Revolution of 1905.

On the other hand, in the region of Transcaucasia, ethnic tensions rose throughout the last decade of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. Tensions between the Armenian and the Tatars or later called Azeris simmered. Nationalistic and Pan-Turkic ideas made the divide even more apparent. The Armenians scattered people for centuries and they laid claim to Armenia situated with in the Russia-Ottoman Turk border. They were mostly Christians and highly favored by the Russia. They had freedoms such as freedom of worship in some degree. The Tatars, which became known as Azeris in 1917, were a Turkic people following Islam. Unlike the Armenians, the quest for a separate identity of the Azeris began later, specifically the 19th century. Much of the Azeris suffered discrimination in the hands of the Russians. Azeris viewed the Armenians, which the Russians favored and supported, with mistrust. The ethnic tensions further exacerbated by difference in wealth. In the middle and late 19th century, the region experience a boom in the oil industry centered in the cities of Baku, Batum, and Tiflis (T’blisi). With the Russian favors, much of the wealth of the oil industry went to the Armenians while much of the laborers came from the Azeris. Working conditions in the refineries and wells were horrible. This gave Azeris more reason to hate the Armenians.

The idea of Pan-Turkism and the events in Ottoman Turkey worsened the situation. With Pan-Turkism growing within the Azeri Intelligentsias, they began to view Armenians and Armenia as an obstacle to the unity of all Turkic people that transcend from Anatolia to western China. With Armenia, Trancaucasia would not be connected with Turkey. Alas, they viewed Armenians with prejudice. And the Armenians on the other hand, also viewed Azeris hostilely because of Pan-Turkism. In 1895, the Ottoman Turks massacred Armenians in Turkish Armenia. Identifying the Azeris with the Ottoman Turks, Armenians felt likewise and wanted vendetta towards the Azeris.

Armenians and Azeris founded their own political parties to represent their respective people. In 1887, Armenians in Geneva, Switzerland founded the Hunchak Partu or Bell Party. It aimed to free Armenia from the oppression of the Turks. It also believed in the Socialism and Marxism in building a new Armenia.

Other than the Hunchak Party, another party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation or Hai Heghaokhakan Dashnaktsutiun or simply Dashnaktsutiun took a share in fighting for the rights of the Armenians for freedom from oppression. The Dashnaktsutiun was formed through the unity of various nationalist and Marxist groups. They fought for freedom of Armenians from oppression but vaguely and even avoided the word independence. With the influence of Russian Nihilism, the Dashnaktsutiun utilized terrorist acts as a way for authorities to listen to their demands.

The Azeris also formed their own political parties. In 1904, a group of Azeri Intelligentsias, with some influenced by the education of Jadidisim created the Himmat or Toil/Endeavor Party. It began as a debating club a year before. It had close ties with the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party but never fully associated with them. They believed in education as well as the fostering of local Azeri culture and language. They became one of the significant players in Azerbaijan history.

With the rise of political parties came from the rise of political discussions. But discussion about Russian affairs did not just limit itself from intellectuals. It grew to various bodies where people converged to talk and to socialize. These places then became a recruiting ground for many of the said parties.

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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