Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Russian Revolution of 1905 (Part 9)

Demonstration of October 17, 1905 by Ilya Repin
With the economy ceased and people rallied in streets against the Tsar and his autocratic powers, the Russian government faced paralysis and tougher challenges. In face of this, the Tsar ultimately conceded to reforms by signing the October Manifesto. Explore what were the contents of the October Manifesto and its effect to the Revolution of 1905.

The October Manifesto

With a growing socialist Soviet growing within the capital and chaos, violence, and overwhelming demands for reforms raging across the Empire, the government issued the October Manifesto. On October 5/17 (Old Style/New Style), 1905, official government newspapers published the Manifesto guaranteeing the creation of a Duma and the extension of widely demanded civil liberties. A night before the publication, Sergei Witte with the assistance of Prince Alexei Obolensky submitted the contents of the Manifesto for the Tsar to sign. The Tsar remained aversive towards giving political concessions. But surprisingly, even to Witte, the conservative Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich urged Tsar Nicholas into signing the Manifesto under the threat of he, the Grand Duke, would blow his brains with a revolver if the Tsar did not sign the document. Ultimately, the Tsar had no choice and signed the document.

The October Manifesto led to the creation of a constitutional monarchy or as others termed, constitutional autocracy, with a state Duma ruling alongside the Tsar and guaranteed the extension of civil liberties. The Manifesto guaranteed freedom of assembly and association, speech, worship and conscience. It called for the establishment of a State Duma with powers to confirm all laws before enactment. The election of the Duma representatives would be initially based on a broad suffrage composing the majority of Russian society.

The Manifesto created several implications. Besides the creation of a constitutional autocracy, it also created divisions within the opposition. It divided the people to the radicals and moderate. Radicals wanted the removal of the Tsar and saw the Manifesto as a trick. The Moderates, on the other hand, saw the manifesto enough guarantee of reforms. The radicals mostly Social Democrat Bolsheviks, however, choose not to end their fight and established more Soviets or Council of Workers in other major cities, such as Moscow, Baku, Tiflis, among others. Moderates, most tired of news of turbulence and sought stability, decided to give the Manifesto a chance. After all, reforms that gave representation and power to a Duma as well as civil liberties were recognized in the Manifesto. The October Manifesto brought some sigh of relief for the government as violence started to subside.

Following the October Manifesto

As the opposition decided on what to do after the proclamation of the October Manifesto, the government began to reestablish peace and order. Alongside the Manifesto, the ministers reorganized themselves to become the Council of Minister, theoretically to be led by the Tsar himself. However, the Tsar choose Sergei Witte to head the Council, equivocally making him the Prime Minister. As a result, the duty of returning stability to the empire fell to the statesman. Witte declared martial law in several provinces both in western Russia and the peripheries of the Empire and started a crackdown on violent rebels and hooligans.

With many groups choosing to cease militant activities, they began to concentrate in political meetings to define the faith of their respective people and party in the upcoming elections for the Duma. In the Baltics series of Congresses convened to discuss their stand over the October Manifesto and the path of their fellowmen. In Estonia, an All-Estonia Congress convened in November. Latvia also convened a congress within weeks. And in Lithuania, the Great Vilnius Diet convened with 2,000 representatives attending and elected the founder of the newspaper Ausra, Dr. Jonas Basanavicius, as chairman. Most of the Congresses agreed to participate in the election and hoped that autonomy would be granted to most of them.

In December, however, to the shock of the attendees of these congresses, the Russian Empire clamped down on opposition within the peripheries with brute force. As troops from the east poured back to the west, St. Petersburg sent punitive expeditions in the peripheries to punish those who instigated violence for the previous months. Executions stood in thousands along with those imprisoned and sent to exile in Siberia. Poland also saw the most violent repression as the Russian army returned with vengeance crushing Polish nationalist and socialist.

Back in St. Petersburg, the publication of the October Manifesto weakened the St. Petersburg Soviet. Many workers chose to be contented with the manifesto and began to return to their normal lives. It also mirrored that many had felt tired of the violence, weakened financially, and chose to settle down when promises had been made. By December 1905, Witte took the opportunity of weakening workers movement and had the members of the Soviet arrested.

While the level of violent incidents started to subside, a new struggle for seats in the Duma began. Revolutionaries such as Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Social Democrats choose to boycott the election of the Duma scheduled in March 1906. But many groups decided to participate in the elections. Various organizations of professionals came together to establish the Constitutional Democratic Party with its members widely called as Kadets. Also, conservatives also formed their own parties. The Black Hundred joined with other extreme right groups to form the Union of Russia and Union of the Russian People. Moderate conservatives who supported the October Manifesto established the Octoberist Party. The Union of the Russian People and the Octoberist became the Tsar’s allies in the Duma.

Although many accepted the October Manifesto and turned their fight into parliamentary rather than militant, some refused to give up in opposing and keeping a revolutionary spirit against the Tsar. Mutinies continued to spur up. By November the Russian navy had captured the mutinous battleship Potemkin. But mutinies rose up in the naval bases of Kronstadt and Sevastopol. Most sailors complained the abuses that they suffered from their officers.

Supporters of Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality, like the Black Hundreds also added in the number of continuing violence. They committed pogroms and riots targeting Jews, which they saw as the root of weakening the Tsar. The worst of the pogroms occurred in Kishinev in December 1905, which victimized and killed hundreds of Jews in the city.

Social Democrats refused to participate in the Duma election and saw the promises of the October Manifesto as a ruse. The Bolsheviks believed that they must take action against the Tsar by inciting an uprising, which they hope would escalate to another violent revolution as Lenin wanted. In December 1905, the Moscow Strike Committee, mostly composed of Bolsheviks, declared itself as the Moscow Soviet. They declared an uprising and erected barricades. Moscow governor cabled St. Petersburg for reinforcement, which Witte and the Tsar did. By the middle of December, the military crushed the Moscow Soviet’s uprising leaving 700 dead and 2,000 wounded. Other than the Russians, the Polish Social Democrats followed the example of Moscow and started an uprising that lasted for 2 years.

As some news of trouble continued to reach the government, most prepared for election for the First Duma. How Russia went as it traverse a path towards a constitutional 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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