Essay Question: Underlying causes of 1905 revolution in Russia were not political. Whatever else the revolutionaries wanted it was not to overthrow the Tsar. How far do you agree with this claim? I agree that the underlying causes of the 1905 revolution were not only political there were also economic, social and military factors that lead to this revolution. Firstly the social causes of this event. Even though in 1861 the Emancipation of the Serfs had occurred by the early 20th century nothing really had changed for the lower class of Russia society.
They were not called Serfs anymore and no longer were a part of a feudal system however the still experienced a low standard of living, had to work long hard hours in menial jobs and poor harvests and famine havocked their lives. The massive gap between the rich and the poor continued to widen as the Tsar and the royal family lived in extravagant luxury and the peasants that made up 85 percent of the people were left to starve and fend for themselves. Another social factor than increased the peasants growing discontent with their ruler was the process of urbanization that led to overcrowding in the cities and horrible living conditions.
Overall all these factors and more led to the popular belief among the Russian peasantry that change was needed, that change didn’t need to be the removal of the Tsar. In fact they were happy to work with him to achieve more equality and better living and working conditions for themselves. Next there were the economic causes of this revolution. In the 1900s the world was struck by a recession, Russia in particular was heavily affected. They were so affected because Russia relies so much on its exports especially of grain for its revenue and strength of its economy.
So when the worldwide price of grain dropped during the recession mass unemployment results due to the fact that 85% of Russia populations are farmers that grow grain and other foodstuffs. Moreover due the recession the value of the Russia currency (the ruble) drops and therefore Russia exports of grain drops due to farmers not wanting to sell their grain due to an unstable market price. Widespread poverty among the masses grows leading to even more discontent and want for change. This leads on to my next point.
The military cause of the revolution is simple and that is the Russo-Japan War. Tsar Nicholas II fearing the growing discontent among the people. So he comes up with an idea of a distraction to make the peasants forget about the horrible situation they are facing. At first his plan works well and the people forget about their troubles and support the war effort. That is until Russia starts losing. This idea needs to be put into context as Russia is the largest country in the world and should simply steamroll a tiny insignificant country like Japan.
Defeats on land and at sea shocked the Russian public and if that wasn’t bad enough the war instead of making people forget about their struggles with poverty and starvation causes shortages of fuel and food, high prices and unemployment. As Russia suffered defeat after defeat they were forced to sign a treaty with Japan and became the laughing stock of European powers such as Germany and Great Britain. This shocking defeat also forced the Russia people to consider how incompetent the Tsar and his ruling party were.
That they can’t even defeat a tiny island nation like Japan. However there were also political causes to the 1905 revolution such as the harsh Tsarist regime and the three main groups of opposition to the Tsar reign. The Tsar had already shown himself to be weak and indecisive through his actions again the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese war form 1900-1904. He had also made his views clear on the idea of a democratic/constitutional government calling them ‘senseless dreams’ and basically ignoring the pleas of his people for basic reform.
The Social Revolutionaries tried to create a peasant revolution based around socialism and were a real ‘party for the youth’ but failed epically. The liberals appealed to the Tsar in a reforming manner but as I previously stated the Tsar refused to back down and give up any of his powers. However political causes amounted a minor role in the 1905 revolution as the other above factors were more important. Overall the underlying causes of the 1905 were not really political and while there was some political influence to the revolution. There were social factors such as urbanization and poor living standards.
Furthermore economic factors such as poverty and unemployment ultimately led to dissatisfaction with the ruling class and change was required by the peasants. What the revolutionaries wanted was basic freedom e. g. freedom to form political parties, basic rights as human beings and fundament government reforms. Their main aim was for the people to have an interactive government system that sought the best for Russia. While it was true the peasantry of Russia was tired of autocratic rule they didn’t really want to overthrow the Tsar. All they really desired were some basic reforms to improve their lives.