Russian Revolution/Week 4

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Week 4[edit | edit source]

1905 Revolution[edit | edit source]

The Russian Revolution of 1905 was an empire-wide struggle of both anti-government and undirected violence. It was not controlled or managed, and it had no single cause or aim.

Background[edit | edit source]

Although unrest had been a regular part of the w:Russian Empire, serious disturbances had been rare in the decades prior to 1905. Nonetheless, political discontent had been building since the controversial w:1861 emancipation of the serfs by Alexander II. The emancipation was dangerously incomplete, with years of 'redemption' payments to the nobility, and only limited, technical freedom for the narod (common people). Rights for the people were still embedded in a range of duties and rules which were rigidly structured by social class.

The emancipation was only one part of a range of governmental, legal, social and economic changes began in the w:1860s as the country slowly moved from w:feudal absolutism towards market-driven w:capitalism. While these reforms had liberalized economic, social and cultural structures, the political system was left virtually unchanged. Attempts at reform were sternly resisted by the monarchy and the bureaucracy. Even agreed-upon development was limited; for example, less than forty provinces had w:zemstva (rural councils), fifty years after the legislation was introduced. The raising of expectations, offset by the limited implementation progress, produced frustration which eventually led to rebellion. The feeling among those who rebelled was that the demand for 'land and liberty' could only be truly met by revolution.

Active revolutionaries were drawn almost exclusively from the w:intelligentsia. The movement was called w:narodnichestvo, revolutionary populism. This was not a singular and unified group, but rather an enormous spectrum of radical splinter groups, each with its own agenda. The revolutionaries' early ideological roots stemmed from the pre-emancipation work of the noble w:Alexander Herzen and his synthesis of European w:socialism and Slavic peasant w:collectivism. Herzen held that Russian society was still pre-industrial, and espoused an idealised view which considered narod and the w:obshchina (peasant commune) as the base for revolutionary change; as, in his opinion, the country lacked a significant body of industrial w:proletariat at the time.

Other thinkers argued that the Russian peasantry was an extremely conservative force, loyal to their household, village, or commune, and no one else. These thinkers held that the peasants cared only for their land and were deeply opposed to democracy and western liberalism. Later Russian ideologues gravitated to the idea of a leading revolutionary 'elite' or w:New class, a concept that was later put into action in w:1917.

On w:March 1 (Old Style), w:1881, Alexander II was assassinated in a bomb-blast by w:Narodnaya volya, a splinter of the second w:Zemlya i volya party. He was succeeded by Alexander III, a deeply conservative man who was heavily influenced by w:Constantin Pobedonostsev, a devotee of autocratic government.

Under Alexander III the Russian police political service (the w:Okhrana) acted very effectively to suppress both revolutionaries and proto-democratic movements across the country. The Okhranka scattered the revolutionary groups through imprisonment and exile. Members of revolutionary organisations often emigrated to avoid persecution. It was this emigration into Western Europe that first brought Russian thinkers into contact with w:Marxism. The first Russian Marxist group was formed in w:1884, although it did not reach any significant size until w:1898.

In sharp contrast to the social stagnation of the w:1880s and w:1890s were the huge modernising leaps in w:industrialisation, relative to Russia's relatively low technological level at the time. This growth continued and intensified in the w:1890s, with the construction of the w:Trans-Siberian railway and the reforms brought about by the "Witte system". w:Sergei Witte, who became Minister of Finance in w:1892, had been faced with a constant budget deficit. He sought to increase revenues by boosting the economy and attracting foreign investment. In w:1897 he put the ruble on the gold standard. Economic growth was concentrated in a few regions, including w:Moscow, w:St Petersburg, w:Ukraine, and w:Baku. Roughly one third of all the capital invested was foreign, and foreign experts and entrepreneurs were vital.

Nicholas II came to power in w:1894. Like his predecessors, he stubbornly refused to allow any political change.

By 1905, revolutionary groups had recovered from the oppressive 1880s. The w:Marxist Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (w:RSDLP) was formed in 1898 and then split in w:1903, forming the w:Mensheviks and the w:Bolsheviks. Vladimir Ulyanov (w:Lenin) published his work What Is To Be Done? in 1902. The w:Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SRs) was founded in w:Kharkov in w:1900, and its 'Combat Organisation' (Boevaia Organizatsiia) assassinated many prominent political figures up to 1905 and beyond; this included two Ministers of the Interior, w:Dmitry Sergeyevich Sipyagin in w:1902 and his successor, the hated w:Vyacheslav von Plehve, in w:1904. These killings drove the government to grant more draconian powers to the police.

The war with Japan 1904-05, while initially popular, was now feeding discontentment, as military failures and unclear war aims alienated the people. The deep inequality of the emancipation was being re-examined, and the peasants were burning farms all across Russia. The boom of the 1890s had fallen into a slump and workers were expressing their grievances at their abysmal conditions. In 1903 one-third of the Russian army in western Russia had engaged in "repressive action".

Revolution[edit | edit source]

Protesters fleeing from tsarist soldiers on Bloody Sunday.

On January 22 [O.S. January 9] 1905, the day known as "Bloody Sunday", there was a protest march in w:St. Petersburg, led by Father Georgi Apollonovich Gapon, hoping to deliver a petition to the Tsar, urging him to improve workers' conditions and to hold democratic elections to establish a w:constituent assembly. The protest was put down by armed force outside the Tsar's w:Winter Palace without the Tsar's knowledge as he was not in St. Petersburg at the time. Estimates of the number of deaths vary, but it is generally accepted that around a thousand were killed or injured. This event was the spark to push many groups in Russian society into active protest. Each group had its own aims, and even within similar classes, there was no overall direction. The main protestors were the peasants (economic), the workers (economic and anti-industrialism), w:intelligentsia and liberals (civil rights), the armed forces (economic), and minority national groups (political and cultural freedom).

Peasant unrest[edit | edit source]

The economic situation of the peasants was appalling, but without organization, each splinter sought its own objectives. Unrest was spread across the year, reaching peaks in early summer and autumn, culminating in November. Tenant farmers wanted lower rents; hired workers wanted better wages; and land-holders wanted bigger plots of land. The protestors' actions included land-seizures, sometimes followed by violence and burning; looting of the larger estates; and illegal hunting and logging in the forests. In the Samara area peasants formed their own republic, illegally logging and distributing land until put down by government troops. The level of animosity displayed had a direct link to the condition of the peasants — the landless of w:Livland and w:Kurland attacked and burned, while the better-off in the neighbouring w:Grodno, w:Kovno and w:Minsk took little destructive action. In total, 3,228 disturbances required military intervention to restore order, and land-holders suffered around 29 million roubles worth of damage.

The radical political parties of Russia were quick to intervene in the peasant revolt. There was some attempt to create a council which would organise and coordinate peasant action, leading to the formation of the All-Russian Peasant Union in May. The council was formed by regional delegates, and had close affiliations with the w:Socialist-Revolutionary Party, but failed to put forwards realistic and coherent demands.

After the events of w:1905, peasant unrest returned in w:1906 and lasted until w:1908. The government concessions were seen as support for the redistribution of land, so there were attacks to force landlords and 'non-peasant' land-holders to flee. Believing a country-wide redistribution was imminent, the peasants took the opportunity to 'pre-empt' the decision-makers. They were strongly suppressed.

Strikes[edit | edit source]

The workers' act of resistance was the strike. There were massive strikes in St. Petersburg immediately after Bloody Sunday; over 400,000 workers were involved by the end of January. The action quickly spread to other industrial centres in w:Poland, in w:Finland and the Baltic coast. In w:Riga 80 protestors were killed on January 13 O.S., and in w:Warsaw a few days later over 100 strikers were shot on the streets. By February there were strikes in the w:Caucasus and by April in the w:Urals and beyond. In March all higher academic institutions were forcibly closed for the remainder of the year, adding radical students to the striking workers. A strike by railway workers on October 8 >w:O.S. quickly developed into a general strike in St. Petersburg and Moscow. This prompted the setting up of the short-lived w:St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies, a largely w:Menshevik group, which organized strike action in over 200 factories. By October 13 w:O.S., over 2 million workers were on strike and there were almost no active railways.

Assassinations[edit | edit source]

From w:1901 to w:1911 revolutionaries killed 17 thousand people (9 thousand in 1905-1907).[1]

According to police statistics, from February 1905 to May 1906, the list of killed officials included:

Assassinations were carried out by armed groups of RSDLP, w:Socialist-Revolutionary Party, anarchists and by lone-wolf terrorists. The 'Combat Organisation' (Boevaia Organizatsiia) of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party assassinated many prominent political figures up to 1905 and beyond; this included two Ministers of the Interior, Dmitry Sergeyevich Sipyagin in w:1902 and his successor, w:Vyacheslav von Plehve in w:1904.

Outcome[edit | edit source]

The government responded fairly quickly. The Tsar had hoped to resist any major change, and dismissed Minister of the Interior Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirskii on w:January 18, w:1905 w:O.S.. Following the assassination of his relative, Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich on w:February 4 w:O.S. he agreed to certain concessions. On w:February 18 w:O.S. he published the Bulygin Rescript, which promised the formation of a 'consultative' assembly, religious tolerance, language rights for the Polish minority and a reduction in the peasants' redemption payments. These concessions failed to restore order, and on w:August 6 w:O.S. he agreed to the creation of a consultative state duma. When the slight powers of the Duma and the limits to the electorate were revealed, unrest redoubled, culminating in a general strike in October.

w:Ilya Repin, 17 October 1905

On w:October 14 w:O.S., the w:October Manifesto was written by Witte and Alexis Obolenskii and presented to the Tsar. It closely followed the demands of the w:Zemstvo Congress in September, granting basic w:civil rights, allowing the formation of political parties, extending the franchise towards w:universal suffrage, and establishing the Duma as the central legislative body. The Tsar waited and argued for three days, but finally signed the manifesto on October 30 [O.S. October 17] 1905), owing to his desire to avoid a massacre, and a realization that there was insufficient military force available to do otherwise. He regretted signing the document, saying that he felt "sick with shame at this betrayal of the dynasty".

When the manifesto was proclaimed there were spontaneous demonstrations of support in all the major cities. The strikes in St Petersburg and elsewhere either officially ended or quickly collapsed. A political amnesty was also offered. The concessions came hand-in-hand with renewed, and brutal, action against the unrest. There was also a backlash from the conservative elements of society, notably in spasmodic anti-Jewish attacks—around five hundred were killed in a single day in w:Odessa. The Tsar himself claimed that 90% of revolutionaries were Jews.

The uprisings ended in December with a final spasm in Moscow. Between December 5 and 7 w:O.S. there was a general strike by the Russian worker class. The government sent in troops on December 7, and a bitter street-by-street fight began. A week later the Semenovskii Regiment was deployed, and used artillery to break-up demonstrations and shell workers' districts. On December 18 w:O.S., with around a thousand people dead and parts of the city in ruins, the Bolsheviks surrendered. In the subsequent reprisals the number beaten or killed is unknown.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

Among the political parties formed, or made legal, was the liberal-intelligentsia w:Constitutional Democratic party (the Kadets), the peasant leaders' Labour Group (w:Trudoviks), the less liberal Union of October 17 (the w:Octobrists), and the positively reactionary Union of Land-Owners.

The electoral laws were promulgated in December 1905—franchise to citizens over 25 years of age, electing through four electoral colleges. The first elections to the Duma took place in March 1906 and were boycotted by the socialists, the SRs and the Bolsheviks. In the First Duma there were 170 Kadets, 90 Trudoviks, 100 non-aligned peasant representatives, 63 nationalists of various hues, and 16 Octobrists.

In April 1906 the government issued the Fundamental Law, setting the limits of this new political order. The Tsar was confirmed as absolute leader, with complete control of the executive, foreign policy, church, and the armed forces. The Duma was shifted, becoming a lower chamber below the tsar-appointed State Council. Legislation had to be approved by the Duma, the Council and the Tsar to become law and in "exceptional conditions" the government could bypass the Duma.

Also in April, after having negotiated a loan of almost 900 million roubles to repair Russian finances, Sergei Witte resigned. Apparently the Tsar had "lost confidence" in him. Later known as "late Imperial Russia's most outstanding politician", Witte was replaced by w:Ivan Goremykin, an Imperial lackey.

Demanding further liberalization and acting as a platform for "agitators", the First Duma was dissolved by the Tsar in July 1906. Despite the hopes of the Kadets and the fears of the government, there was no widespread popular reaction. However, an assassination attempt on w:Pyotr Stolypin led to the establishment of field trials for terrorists, and over the next eight months over a thousand people were hanged—the hangman's noose earning the nickname "Stolypin's necktie".

In essence the country was unchanged, political power remained with the tsar, wealth and land with the nobility. The introduction of the Duma and the clamp-down did, however, successfully disrupt the revolutionary groups. Leaders were imprisoned or exiled and the groups were confused and uncertain of whether they should join the Duma or stay outside. The resulting splits and internal divisions kept the radicals disorganized until the stimulus of w:World War I.

Finland[edit | edit source]

In the w:Grand Duchy of Finland the Social Democrats organized the w:general strike of 1905 (w:October 30w:November 6). First w:Red Guards were formed, led by captain w:Johan Kock. During the general strike the Red Declaration, written by w:Yrjö Mäkelin, was given in w:Tampere, demanding dissolution of the w:Senate of Finland and universal suffrage, political freedoms, and abolition of censorship. Leader of the constitutionalists, w:Leo Mechelin crafted the w:November Manifesto, that led to the abolition of the w:Diet of Finland of the four estates and to the creation of the modern w:Parliament of Finland. It also resulted in a temporary halt to the russification policy started in 1899.

On w:July 30 w:1906, Russian sailors rose to rebellion in the fortress of Viapori (later called w:Suomenlinna), Helsinki. The Finnish Red Guards supported rebellion with a general strike, but it was quelled by the w:Baltic Fleet in sixty hours.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. An Epidemic Of Terrorism Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 29.04.2001 (in Russian)

The Great War (World War 1)[edit | edit source]

The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during w:World War I in Central and, primarily, w:Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theaters strongly influenced each other.

The geography of Eastern Europe in general has played a key role in how both World Wars' Eastern Front conflicts played out. Eastern Europe is, for the most part, physically similar to Western Europe as both belong to the same European plain. The key difference was the level of economic development. While Belgium and Northern France were among the most industrially advanced areas in the world, Eastern Europe was undeveloped in comparison.

Furthermore, the length of the front in the East was much longer than in the West. The theatre of war was roughly delimited by the w:Baltic Sea in the West and w:Moscow in the East, a distance of 1,200 kilometers, and w:Saint Petersburg in the North and the w:Black Sea in the South, a distance of more than 1,600 kilometers. This had a drastic effect on the nature of the warfare. While World War I on the Western Front developed into w:trench warfare, the battle lines on the Eastern Front were much more fluid and trenches never truly developed. This was because the greater length of the front ensured that the density of soldiers in the line was lower so the line was easier to break. Once broken, the sparse communication networks made it difficult for the defender to rush reinforcements to the rupture in the line to mount a rapid counteroffensive and seal off a breakthrough. In short, on the Eastern front the side defending did not have the overwhelming advantages it had on the Western front.

Because of this, front lines in the East kept on shifting throughout the conflict, and not just near the beginning and end of the fighting, as was the case in the West. In fact the greatest advance of the whole war was made in the East by the German army in the summer of w:1915.

Chronology[edit | edit source]

The Eastern Front, as it was in 1914

At the outbreak of the war, w:Czar Nikolay II appointed his cousin, Grand Duke Nikolay as commander in chief. Although not without ability, the Grand Duke had no part in formulating the war plans. This led to disaster.

The war in the East began with the Russian Army attempting to invade Germany’s w:East Prussian province and the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. The first effort quickly turned to a disaster following the Battle of Tannenberg in August w:1914. However, the second incursion was completely successful, with the Russians controlling almost all of Galicia by the end of w:1914. Under the command of Nikolay Ivanov and Aleksey Brusilov, the Russians won the Battle of Lemberg in September and began the w:Siege of Przemysl, the next fortress on the road towards w:Kraków and the Austro-Hungarian border.

This early Russian success in 1914 on the Austro-Russian border was a reason for concern to the Central Powers and caused considerable German forces to be transferred to the East to take pressure off the Austrians, leading to the creation of the new German 9th Army. At the end of w:1914 the main focus of the fighting shifted to Central Poland, west of the river Vistula. The October w:Battle of the Vistula River and the November Battle of Łódź brought little advancement for the Germans, but at least kept the Russians at a safe distance.

The Russian and Austro-Hungarian armies continued to clash in and near the Carpathian Mountains throughout the winter of 1914–1915. Przemysl fortress managed to hold out deep behind enemy lines throughout this period, with the Russians bypassing it in order to attack the Austro-Hungarian troops further to the west. They made some progress, crossing the Carpathians in February and March w:1915, but then the Germans sent relief and stopped further Russian advance. In the meantime, Przemysl was almost entirely destroyed and the w:Siege of Przemysl ended in a defeat for the Austrians.

The Eastern Front, as of 1917

Despite these successes, the effectiveness of the w:Russian Army at the same time rapidly declined as the underdeveloped Russian arms industry proved unable to meet the demands of the front. Furthermore, as the situation on the Western Front stabilized, the German command decided to make its main effort on the Eastern Front in w:1915, and accordingly transferred considerable forces there.

To eliminate the Russian threat the Central Powers began the campaign season of w:1915 with a successful w:Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive in Galicia in May of w:1915. After the w:Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes, the German and Austro-Hungarian troops in the Eastern Front functioned under a unified command. The offensive soon turned into a general advance and then a strategic retreat by the Russian army. By mid-1915, the Russians had been expelled from Russian Poland and hence pushed hundreds of kilometers away from the borders of the Central Powers, removing any threat of Russian invasion of Germany or Austria-Hungary. At the end of w:1915 the main part of the front reached a line which in general outline did not change until the Russian collapse in w:1917.

In w:1916 the Russians attempted a large counteroffensive under the leadership of General Aleksey Brusilov (the w:Brusilov Offensive). The attack, aimed against the part of the front held by Austro-Hungarians, was initially a spectacular success. However, a successful w:counterattack by German units halted the Russian assault. Also during w:1916, Romania entered the war on the side of the Entente, but was rapidly conquered by German-Austrian-Bulgarian-Ottoman forces.

Territory lost under the w:Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

By w:1917, the Russian economy finally neared collapse under the strain of the war effort. While the equipment of the Russian armies actually improved due to the expansion of the war industry, the food shortages in the major urban centres brought about civil unrest which led to the abdication of the Czar and the w:February Revolution. The large war casualties also created disaffection and mutinous attitudes in the army, which was fueled by w:Bolshevik agitators and the w:Russian Provisional Government’s new liberalization policies towards the army (stripping officers of their mandate by giving wide sweeping powers to “soldier committees”, the abolition of the death penalty). The very last offensive undertaken by the Russian Army in the war was the brief and unsuccessful w:Kerensky Offensive in July of 1917.

In November of 1917, the Communist w:Bolsheviks took power under their leader w:Vladimir Lenin. Lenin’s new Bolshevik government tried to end to the war but the Germans demanded enormous concessions. Finally, in March, w:1918, the w:Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed and the Eastern Front ceased to be a war zone. The Germans were able to transfer some of their divisions to the West, in order to mount an offensive in France in w:1918. However, by then the arrival of American units in Europe was sufficient to offset the German advantage. Even after the Russian collapse, about a million German soldiers remained tied up in the East until the end of the war, attempting to run a short-lived addition to the w:German Empire in Europe. In the end, Germany and Austria would lose all their captured lands, and more, under the w:Treaty of Versailles.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


Questions[edit | edit source]

Week 4 Questions

Next week's materials[edit | edit source]

Week 5