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How Did The Tsar Survive The 1905 Revolution?

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How did the Tsar survive the 1905 Revolution?


Controversy surrounds whether or not the revolution was a "dress rehearsal" for the 1917 revolution or a missed opportunity for Tsar Nicholas II to consolidate a constitutional monarchy.

This dissertation will focus on the survival of the Tsar, as it is ultimately an open question whether he would have saved the monarchy. The dissertation will also reveal that in the Tsar's heart was more in reaction than reform. This coursework will show that part of the key to the monarchy's survival was the division of the opponents of Tsarism. It took World War I to cause a major breakdown in relations that left the monarchy open to further revolution through total war.

The 1905 revolution was the result of the Russo-Japanese war which broke out in 1904. The war saw military and naval defeats for the Russian forces. There were food shortages in cities and the Soviets (assemblies of workers and soldiers' representatives) were formed in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The event which started the whole revolution in the Russian Empire was "Bloody Sunday"; the event of the massacre of armament workers by Cossacks in front of the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg. The leader, Father Gapon, wanted to present the Tsar a petition requesting an improvement of living conditions and more freedom of expression. Riots spread to Odessa, the Black Sea Port and to Moscow where the Soviets were formed and Trotsky became involved. The battleship Potemkin mutinied and tried to help the Odessa rebels. There was a film made by the director Eisenstein which implied that the 1905 rebellion gave the momentum to a new revolutionary movement. However, ultimately, the revolution of 1905 was suppressed in the short term.

Summer brought mutinies from both the navy and army. The loss against Japan at Port Arthur and defeat at Tsushima far from strengthened the position of the Tsar's government, in fact had weakened it. Autumn saw the transformation of industrial discontent give way to an all-out strike. It was then that the Soviets began to form-councils to demand improvements for the workers, led by Lev Trotsky.

Disturbances and riots such as Bloody Sunday clearly proved to be a challenge to the Tsarist system. There are key factors which allowed the Tsar to survive. We can isolate three factors which enhanced the Tsar's survival: the loyalty of the army; the economic transformations made by Witte and Stolypin; and the weakness and division of the opposition to the Tsar.

The loyal army was able to contain the "major threat" of mutiny and riots after the war with Japan, the economic reforms helped to buy off the peasantry and political parties were divided by aims, social class, and often poorly led. The provision of votes, the Tsar's promise of "participatory politics" and a chance at Parliament helped to "take out the fire" of the Kadets (Parliamentary Liberals).

Repression and Loyalty of the Forces

The armed forces were to apply the idea of, "to counter terror with terror" with Wheatcroft commenting, "in the end it was the methods of Ivan the Terrible, or at least Peter the Great, which provided the key to the situation." The army was able to arrest 260 of the Soviet (half its members). Desperate rebellions in Moscow (up to a thousand revolutionaries) were suppressed by regular troops. Mutinous soldiers along the Trans-Siberian railway were also executed, even with most of the army being in Japan. With the introduction of the Imperial Manifesto, military discipline was largely restored by the end of the year.

During the event of Bloody Sunday, troops successfully defended the Winter Palace. It was obvious that the Nicholas's paternal image and as the leader of their church was now severely weakened due to the numbers of deaths during a peaceful protest.

Peter Stolypin, the President of the Council of Ministers, was to ensure the safety of Russia after the 1905 revolution. He was dedicated to strengthen Tsardom after a time of crisis and made the restoration of order his immediate task. His coercive attitude was, "suppression first, and then, and only then - reform." He carried out this attitude in 1907 by arresting an estimated 1,231 officials. He created a field court martial under the Article 87 of the Fundamental laws which enabled military courts to deal with cases of disturbances without cause or difficulty. Six hundred unions were closed between 1906 to 1912 and all one thousand propaganda newspapers during this period banned.

Richard Pipes describes the "noose" as, "Stolypin's necktie." One could say this increase of executions of revolutionaries helped in the consolidation of the Tsar's position. The agitators were hung, or sent into exile in Siberia. Trotsky who had played a leading part in the St. Petersburg Soviet was arrested. Striking workers had to stop and start to work again or face starvation. Alexander Guchkov compliments, "If we are witnessing the last convulsions of the revolution and it is undoubtedly coming to an end, then this is the man that we owe it to." Leo Tolstoy believes that "it is impossible to maintain this form of government except by violence."

Economic and Social Reforms

Some historians regard Sergei Witte as the most significant in saving the government due to his economic reforms as Minister of Finance from 1893 to 1903. His task was modernising the Russian economy up to the standard of Western countries. He encouraged the inflow of foreign capital, the protection of tariffs and Russia's currency to be put on the gold standard. The growth of railway between 1900 and 1913 increased 10,680 miles in track and helped Russian economic production increase significantly. This stopped opposition parties from using the Russian economy as an issue to overthrow the Tsar.

Witte negotiated the Treaty of Portsmouth in August 1905. Russia did not have to pay any reparations to Japan and very little land was lost to Japan. At home people would have been happier, thinking the defeat had not been so humiliating. This would have improved the Tsar's image slightly. Also the railway network had been freed up so food and supplies were now reaching towns and cities in larger quantities. Making peace with Japan brought the Tsar's best troops back into Western Russia to crush the revolution. However, the Tsar sacked Witte and appointed Stolypin as chief minister.

Stolypin was also to concentrate on the agrarian reforms of Russia, as Witte had achieved on industry. He was aware of a rural crisis in Russia's


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