First Russian Revolution
The First Russian Revolution was an empire-wide struggle of both anti-government and undirected violence which swept through vast areas of Russia in 1905. It was not controlled or managed, and it had no single cause or aim, but instead was the culmination of decades of unrest and dissatisfaction stemming from the autocratic rule of the Romanov dynasty and the slow pace of reform in Russian society. The direct cause was the abject failure of the Tsar's military forces in the initially-popular Russo-Japanese War, which set off a series of revolutionary activities, sometimes by mutinous soldiers and other times by revolutionary societies.
Although put down with a curious blend of accommodation and savagery, the Revolution did increase the pace of reform in Russia, but not enough to prevent the second revolution which overturned the Romanovs in 1917, and the Revolution of 1905 was often looked back on by the Bolsheviks as an initial popular antecedent to their own revolution.
The Tsars (or Czars, as it is spelt in English), Russia's monarchs (being the equivalents of chiefs, kings or pharaohs), governed with an iron fist -- just as the Bourbons, Louis' and Hapsburgs did in other countries. Both the state and the church were subordinate to this autocracy, which in 1905 was headed by Nicholas II, of the House of Romanov. Five percent of Russia's population consisted of the nobles, who owned most of the land (and had, until 1861, owned the peasants) . The peasants, with the small, but growing industrial working class (proletariat), made up the remaining 95 percent of the Russian populace. Their land, labour and goods were fiercely controlled at the aristocracy, and their socio-economic conditions were usually poor.
Although unrest had been a regular part of the Russian Empire, serious disturbances had been rare in the decades prior to 1905. Nonetheless, political discontent had been building since Tsar Alexander II's controversial 1861 decree, which saw the emancipation of the serfs. Prior to this, the serfs had been penniless slaves, living on borrowed land and paying rent to the landlords with cash and labour; now (having been given the right to own land and freed from compulsory service and obedience towards the nobility), they were merely penniless. The emancipation was dangerously incomplete, however, 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 beginning in the 1860s as the country slowly moved from feudal absolutism towards market-driven capitalism. The growth of liberal and socialist doctrines had given rise to discontent under the autocratic regime, and there was a strong demand for reform. While the aforementioned changes 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 administrative reform was limited; in less than forty provinces, for example, Alexander had introduced a system of elected local councils (or zemstva) - although this came about all of fifty years after the legislation had been passed. The raising of expectations, which had been 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 truly be met by revolution. In spite of the changes that had been made, there was still much that the liberals regarded as unacceptable: the Tsars and their policies were greedy, self-absorbed and wasteful; they had absolute power; there was almost no land available to the peasants, who desperately needed it; and taxation was very high, especially for those who could least afford it.
Active revolutionaries were drawn almost exclusively from the intelligentsia. The movement was called narodnichestvo, the term itself derives from the Russian expression "Хождение в народ" ("Going to the people"). This was not a singular and unified group, but rather an enormous spectrum of radical splinter groups, each with its own agenda. (The Nihilists, who rejected prevailing social and moral norms, and the Anarchists, who were more widely focused on eliminating governmental rule, were perhaps the most prominent of these. Led by Mikhail Bakunin, they engaged in a form of political terrorism.) The revolutionaries' early ideological roots stemmed from the pre-emancipation work of the noble Alexander Herzen and his synthesis of European socialism and Slavic peasant collectivism. Herzen held that Russian society was still pre-industrial, and he espoused an idealised view which considered narod and the obshchina ("commune") as the base for revolutionary change; as, in his opinion, the country lacked a significant body of industrial proletariat at the time.
Other thinkers argued that the Russian peasantry was an extremely conservative force; they were loyal to their households, villages, or communes, and nobody else. These thinkers held that the peasants cared only for their land and were deeply opposed to democracy and the liberal ideas of the West (as encouraged by a small group class of intellectuals and officers, who believed that these could bring about quicker reform). Russian ideologues later gravitated to the idea of a leading revolutionary "elite" or New class, a concept that was later put into action in 1917.
On March 1 (Old Style), 1881, Tsar Alexander was assassinated in his vehicle by a bomb-blast from Narodnaya volya, a splinter of the second Zemlya i volya party. There had already been a previous attempt on his life, resulting in increased censorship, the use of the secret police and the exile of liberals. Alexander II was succeeded by Alexander III, a deeply conservative and narrow-minded individual, heavily influenced by Constantin Pobedonostsev, a devotee of autocratic governance.
The new Tsar avenged his father's death with repression. Local government was restricted, and the operations of the Russian secret police political service (the Okhrana) intensified; the police acted very effectively to suppress both revolutionaries and proto-democratic movements across the country (although many of these simply took their activities underground). The Okhrana 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 Marxism. The first Russian Marxist group was formed in 1884, although it did not reach any significant size until 1898.
In sharp contrast to the social stagnation of the 1880s and 1890s, there were the huge modernising leaps in industrialisation, which was relative to Russia's rather low technological level at the time. The rise of urbanisation and the proletariat continued and intensified in the 1890s with the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway and the reforms brought about by the "Witte system". Sergei Witte, who became Minister of Finance in 1892, had been faced with a constant budget deficit. He sought to increase revenues by boosting the economy and attracting foreign investment. In 1897 he put the ruble on the gold standard. Economic growth was concentrated in a few regions, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ukraine, and Baku. Roughly one third of all the capital invested was foreign, and foreign experts and entrepreneurs were vital. There were, nevertheless, disadvantages that stemmed from this growth: the rich became richer, while the poor became poorer as cheap labour was exploited.
Nicholas II came to power in 1894. Like his predecessors, he stubbornly refused to allow any political change, eliminating unfavourable ideas, persecuting the Jewish minority, censoring the press and universities, and exiling political prisoners.
By 1905, revolutionary groups had recovered from the oppressive 1880s. The Marxist Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was formed in 1898 and then split in 1903, forming the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. Vladimir Illyich Ulyanov (Lenin) published his work What Is To Be Done? in 1902. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SRs) was founded in Kharkov in 1900, and its 'Combat Organisation' (Boevaia Organizatsiia) assassinated many prominent political figures up to 1905 and beyond; this included two Ministers of the Interior, Dmitry Sergeyevich Sipyagin in 1902 and his successor, the hated Vyacheslav von Plehve, in 1904. These killings drove the government to grant more draconian powers to the police.
The war with Japan in 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" upon the enemy.
 Bloody Sunday
At the beginning of the 20th century the Russian industrial employee worked on average an 11 hour day (10 hours on Saturday). Conditions in the factories were extremely harsh and little concern was shown for the workers' health and safety. Attempts by workers to form trade unions were resisted by the factory owners and in 1903, a priest, Father George Gapon, formed the Assembly of Russian Workers. Within a year it had over 9,000 members.
1904 was a bad year for Russian workers. Prices of essential goods rose so quickly that real wages declined by 20 per cent. When four members of the Assembly of Russian Workers were dismissed at the Putilov Iron Works, Gapon called for industrial action. Over the next few days over 110,000 workers in St. Petersburg went out on strike.
In an attempt to settle the dispute, George Gapon decided to make a personal appeal to Nicholas II. He drew up a petition outlining the workers' sufferings and demands. This included calling for a reduction in the working day to eight hours, an increase in wages and an improvement in working conditions. Gapon also called for the establishment of universal suffrage and an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
Over 150,000 people signed the petition and, on 22 January, 1905, Gapon led a large procession of workers to the Winter Palace in order to present the petition to Nicholas II. When the procession of workers reached the Winter Palace it was attacked by the police and the Cossacks. Over 100 workers were killed and some 300 wounded. The incident, known as Bloody Sunday, signalled the start of the 1905 Revolution.
 Outcome of Bloody Sunday
The government responded fairly quickly. The Tsar had hoped to resist any major change, and he dismissed the Minister of the Interior, Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirskii, on January 18, 1905 O.S.. Following the assassination of his relative, the Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich, on February 4 O.S. he agreed to certain concessions. On February 18 O.S. he published the Bulygin Rescript, which promised the formation of a 'consultative' assembly, religious tolerance, freedom of speech (in the form of language rights for the Polish minority) and a reduction in the peasants' redemption payments. These concessions failed to restore order, and on August 6 O.S. he agreed to the creation of a consultative state duma parliament. When the slight powers of this and the limits to the electorate were revealed, unrest redoubled and culminated in a general strike in October.
On October 14 O.S., the October Manifesto was written by Witte and Alexis Obolenskii and presented to the Tsar. It closely followed the demands of the Zemstvo Congress in September, granting basic civil rights, allowing the formation of political parties, extending the franchise towards 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 Template:OldStyleDate), 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 Odessa. The Tsar himself claimed that 90% of revolutionaries were Jews; they were, in fact, a minority in Russia. Still, Jews ended up playing an important revolutionary role due largely to their above average levels of education (or even literacy, per se) coupled with the pronounced persecution and anti-Semitism of the Tsarist State.
The uprisings ended in December with a final spasm in Moscow. Between December 5 and December 7 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 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.
Among the political parties formed, or made legal, was the liberal-intelligentsia Constitutional Democratic party (the Kadets), the peasant leaders' Labour Group (Trudoviks), the less liberal Union of October 17 (the 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 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 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 World War I.
In the Grand Duchy of Finland the Social Democrats organized the general strike of 1905 (October 30 – November 6). First Red Guards were formed, led by captain Johan Kock. During the general strike the Red Declaration, written by Yrjö Mäkelin, was given in Tampere, demanding dissolution of the Senate of Finland and universal suffrage, political freedoms, and abolition of censorship. Leader of the constitutionalists, Leo Mechelin crafted the November Manifesto, that led to the abolition of the Diet of Finland of the four estates and to the creation of the modern Parliament of Finland. It also resulted in a temporary halt to the russification policy started in 1899.
On July 30 1906, Russian sailors rose to rebellion in the fortress of Viapori (later called Suomenlinna), Helsinki. The Finnish Red Guards supported rebellion with a general strike, but it was quelled by the Baltic Fleet in sixty hours.