Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Russian Revolution of 1905 (Part 4)

Vyacheslav von Plehve
Sentiments towards reforms and nationalism as embodied by parties and nourished by new political ideologies. Various parties then took root and nourish to various institution where Russians meet, talk, and see the wrongs in Russia. But the government continued to be oblivious to change and continued to repress signs of them. Explore how various institutions played a role in spreading the spirit of reforms amongst Russian and how the government acted to subdue them before the Revolution of 1905.

Role of Assemblies, Industries, and Universities

Places of convergence allowed people to talk and socialize with others. Places like local assemblies, factories and mills, and universities allowed people to come together to discuss, work, and study. But most importantly, it gave the people to know the situation of others and Russia herself as a whole. As important venues in society, it became a recruitment ground for various political parties.

On the highest echelons of local administration, local assemblies (Mirs, Zemstvos, and Dumas) provided place where the local elites discussed the state of their community, politics, and their own class’s interest. Through these assemblies, they choose whether they wanted reforms or the status quo. Calls for increase in autonomy also began to be heard within the Zemstvos, Dumas, and Mirs. This aspiration for greater power over local affairs led to the formation of the Union of Zemstvos and Town Assemblies in 1904, contributing to the pressure on the Tsar during the Revolution of 1905.

The working class on the other hand gathered in factories and mills for their livelihood. However, the factories offered little comfort in terms of working conditions. Workers suffered abuses and received low wages. The workers had no voice to sound their concern as the government banned unions and strikes. Nevertheless, the factories remained a place where workers talked about social reforms and justice and improvements in their conditions and living standard. The Socialist, especially the Social Democrats lingered and infiltrated factories to gain support. Socialist agitators promised equality of all men, prosperity, social justice, and the rule and dictatorship of their class – the dictatorship of the proletariat. With these promises the socialist thrived within factories and began organizing illegal strikes. Some strikes turned radical resulting violence, which the government worried.

Universities also saw a great upsurge in political activities and call for reforms. Student activism and intellectual critics flourished within university grounds. Universities produced the Intelligentsias that became the backbone of many political parties. Under Alexander III and Nicholas II revoked the autonomy of universities to centralize and control education. Centralization failed, however, to subdue political activities that continued secretly. Revolutionaries such as the Social Democrats infiltrated universities resulting to further increase in student activism.

Violent clashes between the government and students had started during the last years of the 1890’s. Students of the University of St. Petersburg had the tradition of partying in the nearby streets and plazas during the foundation day celebration on February 8 (Old Style). But in 1899, the government decided to prohibit the partying due to the growing ruckus and fear of sudden political turns. When students refused to follow the rules, clashes between the police and students turned violent. As a result of the clash, 25,000 to 35,000 students boycotted their classes as a sign of protest against police brutality and government intrusion to their freedom. Only after the government decided to allow a commission to investigate the event and lay a ground work for clear police procedures did the tensions eased between the students and the authorities.

As a repercussion, the government issued the Temporary Rules, orchestrated by Sergei Witte. The Temporary Rules allowed the immediate enlistment for years of students involved in hooliganism. The Temporary Rules went on the spotlight in December 1900, when authorities implemented the Temporary Rules by sending two students in Kiev to the military. Students protested as response to the enlistment of the students. Protest against the Temporary Rule grew. Radicals took one step further by assassinating Education Minister Nikolay Bogolepov. Crackdown on protest came harsh leading to arrests and expulsions. Government reactionary policy strengthen in the following year to quell protest alongside with strikes growing in industrial cities.

Interior Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve

Opposition towards the Tsar and the autocratic regime strengthen in 1901, but soon enough, a new Interior Minister managed to weaken the growing wave. During the first years of the 20th century, Russia faced serious disturbances from students, workers, peasants, and Revolutionaries. With the assassination of Interior Minister Dmitry Sipyagin by a socialist terrorist, Tsar Nicholas II appointed Vyacheslav von Plehve as the new Minister of Interior.

Chaos grew over the midst of Russia upon Plehve’s appointment. Student protests against the Temporary Rules and arbitrariness caused protest and sometimes violence with the police. Factory workers also started to defy government ban on strikes as the numbers increased from only 68 in 1895 to 550 strikes by 1903. Strikes occurred in major industrial cities of Batumi, Tiflis, Rostov, Kiev, and Baku. Most of these strikes had been orchestrated and urged by local communist committees from the Bolsheviks of the Social Democratic Party. Among the famous local communist leaders was Joseph Dughashvili, later known as Joseph Stalin. Moreover, peasants also rumbled with landlords and local police demanding agrarian reforms. Agrarian violence rose in Tambov, Saratov, and Georgia. With the growing violence and descent, terrorist took the opportunity to exacerbate the condition by assassinating Interior Minister Dmitry Sipyagin, only to see a strong, reactionary, and conservative noble to replace the demised minister.

Minister Plehve made a name for himself as a strong supporter of the establishment. A hardline conservative, he went at odds with liberal ministers such as Sergei Witte. He also supported extreme right groups such as the Black Hundreds. As Interior Minister he strengthen government control ordering countless arrest, surveillance of liberals and revolutionaries, exile of many opponent of the government, and of course execution of the worst criminals against the Tsar.

Plehve also took a step to separate factory workers from revolutionaries. He supported and implemented a proposal made by a certain police officer Sergei Zubatov. It involved the establishment of government-sponsored unions where workers would join and voice their concerns with moderation. With this way, the government could control the workers action and offer more peaceful, legal, and safer way to have unions and their complaints heard. As Plehve started the establishment of these groups dubbed by many as Zubatovshchina, it drained the support out of revolutionary groups.

Throughout Phleve’s tenure, his iron fist maintained the motto Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. Revolutionary groups weakened and opposition and call for reforms subsided. But this made him target of assassination and became a victim when on July 28, 1904 a revolutionary terrorist assassinated Plehve, leaving Nicholas to appoint a more moderate Interior Minister Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky.

With the appointment of Sviatopolk-Mirksy, liberals hailed his moderate stand as an opportunity to revive their desires of reforms. Better yet, the government fell weakened as it attempted to expand its borders in the east. The absence of substantial military forces in Western Russia gave reformist the perfect chance to rose up and demand an end to Russian autocracy.

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: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9505E0D6173AE733A25756C2A9679C946497D6CF

"Troops Overawe St. Petersburg." New York Times (January 24, 1905). URL: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9C07EFDF1F3BE631A25757C2A9679C946497D6CF

"Iron Ruler for St. Petersburg." New York Times (January 25, 1905). URL: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9907E0D6173AE733A25756C2A9679C946497D6CF


Ascher, Abraham. "Revolution of 1905." Encyclopedia of Russian History. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 1 Feb. 2016. http://www.encyclopedia.com.

Trotsky, Leon. “1905.” Marxist Internet Archives. March 12, 2016. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1907/1905/

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