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Anna Petric

on 26 April 2015

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How far do you agree that the main cause of the 1905 revolution was the Russo-Japanese war?
Russian agriculture still remained backward in compared to rest of Europe and the surrounding countries. However, with the help of Sergei Witte over the past 15 years prior to 1905, economy grew. Infrastructure improved with the improvement of the railways; the Trans Siberian Railway. Despite the positives this brought to Russian economy, it also led to a growth in population in larger towns and city where industrial workers. As well as population in the country increasing, this also meant that it increased in major cities such as St Petersburg and Moscow. This draws in very closely to the social issues as this meant the development of slums and further poverty. This caused resentment which is what again led to the uprisings and the revolution. Industry and agriculture demanded workers without giving them the correct conditions to work and live.
The Russo-Japanese war, 1904-1905. One of the short term causes of the 1905 revolution
Tsar Nicholas ll, the autocratic leader in Russia 1905. 1913 marked the 300 year celebration of the Romanov dynasty, his ancestors, which had ruled Russia continuously without any form of democracy.
Before 1905 over 80% of the Russian population were made of Peasants living in the countryside. Their conditions were far from preferable due to the fact the majority lived in poverty. The population was growing rapidly from 98 million before 1905 to 125 million in that year. Peasants were loosing land as a result of this after an attempt to have individual plots for each family. When harvests were successful, they were able to survive. However, harvest failures meant that famine spread amongst the peasants throughout the country. This prompted attacks with violence on government officials, destroying records on the peasants. This was a long term cause of the 1905 revolution and one of the most important due to the large number of peasants in Russia at the time.
Another short term cause of the 1905 revolution was what became known as 'bloody Sunday'. It effected the Tsar and government disastrously. The event that created this disastrous cause was a peaceful demonstration led by Father Gapon. It was a protest march on the Winter Palace, simply asking for moderate change from the Tsar. The demonstrators held up images and symbols of the Tsar and Tsarina, indicating their support for their leaders. However, it led to widespread outrage from all of society, not just revolutionaries and radicals. Tsarist troops began to fire on the demonstrators. It began with striking workers and their families joining the demonstrations on the morning January 22 1905. More than 3000 people marched, unarmed. Despite their passive values and quiet nature, military forces began defending themselves against the harmless strikers. Around 10,000 troops from various units of the Tsar's, began shooting, killing around one hundred and injuring thousands more. After this barbaric event, Nicholas' reputation was never the same again. The news of the massacre spread around the country, prompting further strikes in other areas of the empire. It damaged the Tsar's popularity when he had before been considered the 'little father' of Russia. This event destroyed any trust for the Tsar, prompting the large scale revolution later in 1905.
One thing that had definitely not changed in Russia was its leader and political system. It was still an autocracy led by Tsar Nicholas ll who possessed complete political power. Unlike the rest of Europe, Russia didn't have any elected government except from the Zemstva, who had little power anyway. People wanted political change, but what change that was seemed uncertain and unforeseeable. They all had little in common in terms of what they wanted, and didn't always work together which probably caused even more of the unrest. Many moderates were those with high incomes (lawyers, doctors) who wanted the Tsar to share his power with a political party that he agreed on. However, they would only be elected by the wealthier members of society. Therefore, there had to be a contender for power, to this rather narrow view. A more extreme group called the 'Social revolutionaries' wanted to give more power to the peasants, willing to use violence as a means of achieving this. They were responsible for many assassinations including the Tsar's uncle, proving how dangerous they were to the Tsar himself. Other groups formed too, including the social democrats who later on went on to form the Soviet that became the communists. These political disagreements led to conflict, but not only for the Tsar. They also meant that the people would turn on each other in the fight for power that continued until 1917.
As well as these long term causes that had been brewing for a long time, a mistake of the Tsar and Russia's military served in causing some of the unrest that resulted in the revolution.
In 1904, Russia attempted to expand it's empire farther. Like all great powers Russia needed this power. Britain and France focused on Africa but Russia stayed nearer to home, by advancing on the far east. In doing so it came into conflict with Japan which caused the war lasting until 1905. The Russian military saw itself as superior to the forces of Japan but actually suffered a humiliating defeat. At the beginning of the year they were forced to surrender their naval base in North China. These were seen as national humiliation to many Russians who were so confident in their country. One of the greatest failures was at the Battle of tsushima in which Russia lost 25 out of the 35 warships.
All of these failings undermined support for the Tsar, prolonging the events of the 1905 revolution.
In conclusion, the Russo-Japanese war was a major cause of th 1905 revolution as it was a short term cause and catalysed the reaction which led to anger and eventually the revolution. However, there were many other reasons as to why the revolution began, some more important than the short two year war. The social complaints that had been rising for nearly 300 years were some of the main reasons for the revolution. This linked very closely with political causes as people wanted political change, which the 'Little father' could not bring the people of Russia. As well as this, Russian economy was not as it should have been when comparing it to other European countries around it, far from developed or as impressive as those of Germany or Britain. 'Bloody Sunday' primarily began what became known as the 1905 revolution, but I feel over all, the longer term social and political causes were the main reasons for the 1905 revolution as without them, 'Bloody Sunday' wouldn't have had that amount of strikers which led to the popularity of the Tsar falling and the incentive to fight to rise.
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