Russian Empire, 1894-1905 Russian Empire, 1914-1917






The Russian Empire, 1905-1914

Revolution of 1905 . Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Culture



A.) The Revolution of 1905

The defeat in the Russo-Japanese War was regarded as a national disgrace, as it came at the hands of a non-European nation. The economic situation for large segments of society was desperate, many peasants demanding land, as much of the land still belonged to the gentry. The conditions in which industrial workers lived were equally depressing. The defeat of 1905 provided the spark which ignited social unrest.
Strikes paralized factories in several parts of the Empire, and a Peasants' Union was established to voice the demands of the peasants. In large areas, the peasants took up arms and occupied the land they demanded.
The crew of Battleship Potemkin mutinied; however, army and navy overall remained loyal to the Czar.
On January 9th 1905, a peaceful demonstration lead by Father Gapon, marched on the Winter Palais, in order to hand a petition to the Czar. It was fired upon, an event which turned civil unrest into an outright revolution. In December 1905 the revolutionaries attempted to take control of St. Petersburg, but failed.

In October, the first Soviet was established in St. Petersburg, soon to be followed by Soviets in other cities all over Russia. Yet these organizations operated on the local level; the revolution failed to create a national organization. In his October Manifesto (Oct. 17th to 30th 1905) the Czar established the Duma, granted freedom of speech, association, the press, of conscience, otlawed arbitrary arrest, granted almost universal adult manhood suffrage. The government, as before, was to be appointed by the Czar and to represent him.
Violence had turned on feudal estates, but especially on the Jews, Pogroms now intensifying, causing a stream of refugees; the mob violence, tolerated by police, was also directed against democrats; two Duma members were murdered. Simultaneously, numerous peasant rebellions broke out in Russia. Force was used to suppress the rebellions; rebel leaders were tried and executed.


B.) Russia 1905-1914 : Administration

Czar 1896-1917 : Nicholas II. Prime Ministers : 1906-1911 Pyotr Stolypin, 1911-1914 Vladimir Kokovtsov, 1914-1917 Ivan Goremykin. In 1905 the State Duma was createdb (Zemstvo Dumas existed since 1865); elections for the State Duma were held in 1905, 1906, 1907 and 1912.


C.) Russia 1905-1914 : Domestric Policies

Until 1905, political parties had been prohibited; some parties had been founded illegally before the revolution, others emerged now :the Liberal Party of Constitutional Democrats (Cadets); the Bolzheviks, Menzheviks and Socialist Revolutionary Parties were fractions of the defunct Socialist Party. Then there was the conservative Union of the Russian People, organized by state offficials, nobles and priests loyal to the autocratic state.
The Russian franchise of 1905 can be compared to Prussia's Dreiklassenwahlrecht (Three Class Franchise); Russians voted according to their wealth, i.e. the few rich tax payers of the countryside elected just as many representatives to the Duma as the great mass of poor peasants. The State Council was established as an upper house to the Duma, its members being appointed by the Czar (from universities, the nobility etc.). The Czar was determined to preserve his autocratic rule.
The Fundamental Laws were passed early in 1906, defining the rights of the Duma; it had the right to approve/disapprove budgets and legislation. While many democrats were discontented with the limitation of the political influence of the Duma, and many parties had widely different ideas of the political future, the Czar believed that the reform of 1905 had gone too far. In part, the government circumvented the Duma by ruling by decree; leaders of the revolution of 1905 were arrested. The first Duma was dissolved by force in 1907. The government then changed election laws in order to engineer the composition of further Dumas.
While the government was determined to return to autocratic policy, political organizations of all shades (respresenting national minorities, political ideologies etc.) longed for a democratic constitution; strikes, demonstrations, troops refusing to obey orders occurred frequently. Assassinations, many of them committed by members of the Socialist Revolutionaries, numbered in the thousands.
Prime Minister Stolypin (1906- ) tried to reduce tension by pursuing a policy of having the Peasants' Bank buy up land from nobles and sell portions of it off to peasants, a policy which was only partially successful. Trade unions were permitted in 1906, but strikes forbidden. This did not prevent them from happening - though officially not under the leadership of the legitimate trade unions.
One reason why Czar Nicholas was ready to enter in a major European war in 1914 was that he hoped a war would rally the Russian masses behind the national cause and so would distract from domestic problems.
The Policy of Russification (1880-1905), which had alienated ethnic minorities, was, at least temorarily, discontinued following the Revolution of 1905. In 1911 the Zemstvo Constitution was introduced in the western gubernias (Podolia, Kiev, Volhynia, Mogilev, Minsk, Grodno, Vitebsk, Vilna and Kovno Gubernia).


D.) Russia 1905-1914 : Foreign Policy

The acquisition of Port Arthur in 1898 by the Russian Empire intensified the rivalry between Britain and Russia. Britain and Japan in 1902 concluded the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, directed against Russia; with construction of the Transiberian railroad nearing completion, Japan in 1904 attacked the Russian fleet in the Far East (before declaring war), thus launching the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) in which the Japanese enjoyed the sympathies of formally neutral Britain, the Russians those of their ally France. Following Japanese victory, in the Treaty of Portsmouth 1905, Russia ceded Port Arthur, her sphere of influence in Southern Manchuria, and the southern half of Sakhalin (Karafuto) to Japan. With Russia no longer controlling a year-long ice free port on the Pacific, tensions between Britain and Russia decreased; in 1907 Britain and Russia signed the Anglo-Russian Entente, in which Afghanistan was declared a buffer state, and in which Persia was partitioned into a Russian zone of influence, a British zone of influence and a central neutral zone.
Since 1891-1892, Russia and France were engaged in a defensive alliance; Russia had a similar defensive alliance with Serbia. Political upheaval on the Balkans Peninsula (Young Turk Rebellion of 1908, Annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina 1908, Italo-Ottoman War 1911-1912, First Balkan War 1912-1913, Second Balkan War 1913 raised tension as Russian and Austrian interests were regarded conflicting, and Russia backed Serbia. When the latter, after conquering most of Albania in the course of the First Balkan War, in 1913 was forced to give away her conquest and permit the establishment of an independent Kingdom of Albania (in part due to British pressure), this was seen as a diplomatic defeat of Russia.


E.) Russia 1905-1914 : Demography

The population of the European provinces of the Russian Empire was estimated at 141,600,000 in 1904, 152,500,000 in 1908, 160,700,000 in 1910, 175,100,000 in 1914.


F.) Russia 1905-1914 : Economy

The defeat in the Russo-Japanese War was regarded as a national disgrace, as it came at the hands of a non-European nation. The economic situation for large segments of society was desperate, many peasants, burdened to the limit by taxation, demanding land, as much of the land still belonged to the gentry. The conditions in which industrial workers lived were equally depressing. The defeat of 1905 provided the spark which ignited social unrest.
Demonstrations of desperate people demanding food, harshly dealt with by the authorities, triggered the revolution of 1905; it brought strikes, labour conflict, a failed attempt by the government to suppress it, more anti-Semitic pogroms. To make matters worse, 1906 saw significantly reduced harvests, wheat figures falling from 12.8 million metric tons in 1905 to 9.9 million in 1906, oats from 12.0 million to 8.8 million, potatoes from 27.6 million to 25.1 million. The revolution brought only a fraction of the fundamental changes the individual peasant or worker might have hoped for, but had cost Russia's industry dearly in matters of lost production.

Prime Minister Stolypin (1906- ) tried to reduce tension by pursuing a policy of having the Peasants' Bank buy up land from nobles and sell portions of it off to peasants, a policy which was only partially successful. An Agrarian Reform dissolved the Obshchina (land commune); hitherto the peasant, although liberated from serfdom since 1861, could not leave his village without permission of the obshchina, had to work at the place the obshchina assigned to him. Freedom to act on his own also meant that he had to take responsibility for his own fortune. Many peasants, with little or no savings, rather waited for the revolution to grant them land freely, than to take on Stolypin's offer to buy land.
Trade unions were permitted in 1906, but strikes forbidden. This did not prevent them from happening - though officially not under the leadership of the legitimate trade unions.

Russian Government Revenue and Expenditure, 1905-1913
Source : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988, pp.801, 823
figures in Russian Paper Roubles
Year

1900
1905
1906
1907
1908
Revenue

1,704,000,000
2,025,000,000
2,272,000,000
2,342,000,000
2,418,000,000
Expenditure

1,883,000,000
3,205,000,000
3,213,000,000
2,583,000,000
2,661,000,000
Year

1909
1910
1911
1912
1913
Revenue

2,526,000,000
2,781,000,000
2,952,000,000
3,106,000,000
3,417,000,000
Expenditure

2,608,000,000
2,597,000,000
2,846,000,000
3,171,000,000
3,383,000,000







G.) Russia 1905-1914 : Culture

In 1909, Saratov University was established.





EXTERNAL
FILES
The Russian Revolution of 1905, from The Corner
Alexander Palaca, a site cultivating the memory of the court of the late Romanovs, numerous subfiles including documents
Article Russia from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907-1914 edition
Biography : Father George Gapon, from History of Espionage
Biography : Sergey Yulevich Witte, from Liki Rossii
Articles Franco-Russian Alliance, Russo-Japanese War, Anglo-Russian Entente, Pyotr Stolypin, Vladimir Kokovtsov, Ivan Goremykin, Russian Revolution (1905), George Gapon, Bloody Sunday (1905), Grigori Rasputin, State Duma in the Russian Empire, Russian Constitution of 1906, October Manifesto, Nicholas II., Stolypin Reform, from Wikipedia
Russian Monetary System. Historical Overview : Nicholas II. (1894-1917), by Andrey D. Ukhrov
Article State Duma, from Spartacus Schoolnet
DOCUMENTS October Manifesto of 1905, from Univ. of Durham
Programme of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1905, from Univ. of Durham
Donald MacKenzie Wallace, Russia, from World Wide School, very detailed travelogue, date of publication not given (c. 1905)
Historical maps featuring Russia, from FEEFHS
Russian Prime Ministers etc., from World Rulers by Ben Cahoon
V.I. Lenin, Revolutionary Days (1905), from From Marx to Mao
Leon Trotsky, The Events in Petersburg (1905), from marxists.org
Tariff helped build our industry, Memoirs of Count Witte, Book Review, has excerpt of 1911
The Stolypin Agrarian Reform, Nov. 9th 1906, on peasants leaving the land commune, from Univ. of Durham
The Anglo-Russian Entente - 1907, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School, and from World War I Document Archive
1906 Constitution, in Russian
REFERENCE Constitutional Monarchy, pp.331-352, in : Melvin C. Wren, The Course of Russian History, Prospect Heights 1994
Article : Russia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1913 pp.1125-1134 on events of 1912) [G]
Article : Russia, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1910 pp.1141-1184, 1100-1193 [G]
Article : Russia, in : New International Year Book 1907 pp.694-701, 1908 pp.623-632, 1909 pp.626-634, 1913 pp.607-615 [G]
Dorothy Atkinson, The End of the Russian Land Commune 1905-1930, Stanford : UP 1983
Foreign Affairs 1894-1914, pp.352-355 in : Melvin C. Wren, The Course of Russian History
Paul Kennedy, The Position of the Powers, 1885-1918 : Russia, pp.232-242 in : Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, NY : Vintage (1987) 1989


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First posted in 2000, last revised on March 22nd 2008

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