Russia during the 19th century was considered to be the mystical land of the Great Tsars and Tsarina’s. It long held the imagination of visitors and storytellers alike from its grand courts and palaces to its superb Caviar, Vodka and Faberge eggs. Russia was also the land of magic and superstition due to the powerful presence of the Russian Orthodox Church. But life for the most of Russia was not as starry and glamorous as described above.
In fact the oppressive autocratic system was still living in the medieval age with poor peasant and serfs slaving for whatever little their rich masters would allow them. Most Russians lived in abject poverty and oppression and had little chance to advance. Russia was also the last to start its rise as an industrial power and relied mainly on the agrarian industry. Russia previously famed military now laid idle and ill trained to fight modern battles. Unknown to the Tsar and Russia the world has long left Russia in the rotten medieval age and had moved on.
During the first half of the 20th century witnessed some repercussion in the mindset of the Russian bourgeois towards the oppressive Tsardom. The first strike came in 1905 through a revolution. Several factors contributed towards this revolution among them special mention is to be given for the Russo Japanese war. Through this essay I am attempting to dig out the possible connection between the war and the Revolution of 1905. The Russo-Japanese War was from 1904-1905, it was caused due to Japans and Russia’s desire for expansion and dominance in Korea and Manchuria.
Russia suffered many defeats in this war, against a nation that was considered inferior and was not one of the Great Powers. This humiliated the people of Russia who were a proud group of people who always believed to fight to the last man and never give up. This loss caused them to lose confidence in Tsar Nicholas II and created great military, economic, and political problems for Russia. This caused the Russo-Japanese War to be partly responsible for the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905.
Huge military defeats in the Russo-Japanese War, which outlined the weakness of the military once famed for its excellent discipline and technologically weapons such as the moisan nagant resulted in national humiliation, thus contributing to the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution. An example of such a defeat was in January 1905 when the Army surrendered Port Arthur even though they had enough food and ammunition for 3 more months, this is was a great dishonor for Russia as surrender is against Russia military doctrine till date. This is believed to be because of the divide in the commanders of Port Arthur.
They had taken Port Arthur at start of the war due to a treaty made with China. Another example of the failure of the military was at the Battle of Tsushima. The Russian Baltic fleet had sailed from Northern Europe to the Far East to help the Defenders of Port Arthur only to be defeated by the Japanese navy. The brutal destruction of Russian’s military added to the Revolution of 1905, as it made the people of Russia aware of the weakness of their military and made them ashamed to be Russian as Russia was the first European nation to lose a battle to any Asian country.
They were losing to a nation very few had heard of and though to be inferior. However, many of the defeats to the Russian military occurred after the Revolution had started, not causing its outbreak, but added to the opposition to autocratic rule by the Tsar. The Russo-Japanese War also brought about significant economic problems to Russia, and this therefore meant there was a significant lack of funds to solve any other problems, which were present Russia, hence partly being responsible for the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905. The war cost a huge amount of money.
As it resulted in failure no money could be gained from the invaded territories. Russia had already had economic problems, and its economy was still far behind that of other European Nations. Further more the lack of funds meant that Tsar could not do anything about the living and working conditions in Russia, or the problems in the rural areas of Russia. Also the economic problems brought about shame for all Russians and by Russia’s being unable to solve any of its other problems due to financial constraints were also responsible for the 1905 revolution.
The political implications of the Russo-Japanese War perhaps were the most important reason as to why this war is considered to be responsible for the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905. The war was fought in the very far eastern reaches of the country, far away from where the majority of the population lived, and they must have felt removed from it, especially as news was still slow to travel, as Russia did not use modern methods of communication. There was therefore little public enthusiasm for the war. Many people felt there was little justification for it: public opinion was not on the side of the war.
Moreover, the military was very ill equipped for the war and was malnourished and did not have the appropriate technology. This showed to the people of Russia the government’s failings, and caused people to turn away from the Tsar as a leader and move onto political groups who were prepared to take any means necessary action to their aims. The political implications of the Russo-Japanese War helped cause the Revolution of 1905 because the public did not support it and people therefore lost faith in the Tsar and looked in other places to groups that could possibly rule instead of the Tsar.
Another reason for the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905 was the growth of opposition groups to the Tsar. These groups gradually became more organized. The four main groups were the Populists, Social Democrats, Social Revolutionaries and the Liberals. These groups were slowly providing more opposition, in particular the Social Revolutionaries. Between 1901 and 1905 this group was responsible for a wave of political assassinations such as that of Plehve, the Minister of the Interior and Grand Duke Sergei.
These opposition groups were becoming more widely known and provided an alternative to rule to autocratic rule by the Tsar. Their cause was furthered by the dissatisfactions with the Tsar’s methods of ruling especially since the news of his wife controlling him and Rasputin controlling her and having sexual relations with her. Another reason for the Revolution of 1905 was the lack of constitutional reform. It was only through extreme measures that the population of Russia could make their views known to the Tsar.
There were no elected parliament and since Alexander III had passed the Statute of State Security Act and the Zemstva Act barely any percent of the population had any say in the war Russia was governed. Therefore their growing dissent caused by events such as the Russo-Japanese War and expressed through opposition groups could only be shown by violence towards the Tsar and his government. The lack of constitutional reform pushed something as extreme as a revolution to occur, as there was no other way for the people to influence the government other than using force.
The personality of Nicholas II also added to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905. Nicholas II did not have the personal qualities necessary to lead Russia. He was said to be quiet, and easily led. He was not at all charismatic and this did nothing to be loved by the people of Russia. This lead to the hatred towards the Tsar. Nicholas II had a very narrow, conservative view, partly due to his tutor having been Konstantin who was Slavophil. This meant that he was unable to empathize with the groups that made liberal demands for equality and justice.
He did not understand them. Those around him also easily influenced him and he had harbored deep hatred for the Japanese due to an assassination attempt, which eventually lead to the Russo-Japanese War furthered by economic and strategic advantages for Russia. The economic problems in most of Russia were another reason for the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905. Both peasants and the landowners were suffering. Agriculture systems were very backward when compared to that of other countries, as under the Witte system nothing was done to improve it.
Therefore the land was not cultivated properly, and famines occurred quite regularly. The peasants were free after the Emancipation of Serfs Act in 1861, but they were bound to Mirs and could not leave without permission. Also the redemption payments for the land were very high and still enslaved them. The landowners were also suffering: they had lost free labor, and with the selling of the land to the government, many of them were in deep debt. They too were dissatisfied with the Tsar.
Nicholas II was unable to help neither the peasants nor the landowners: after the Russo-Japanese War money was an issue. The discontent, resulting from these economic issues, in rural areas partly contributed to the event of the Revolution. Another main cause of the Revolution of 1905 was industrializations when factories were made people flocked to the cities: Moscow, for example, doubled in population but Living and working conditions were extremely bad and because of this huge population growth it lead to overpopulation and crime. This caused the peasants to hate the Tsar.
Industrialization therefore caused deep resentment for the Tsar, and added to the resentment caused by the Russo-Japanese War and the economic problems. Bloody Sunday was a short-term cause of Revolution. It happened when a large group of peaceful protestors under Father Gapon marched to outside the winter palace in St. Petersburg with a petition that would improve their working conditions. Father Gapon, who is believed to be a double agent working for the Okhrana, led the crowd and the Tsar feared he might have switched sides to the Liberals.
The Tsar therefore ordered the Cossacks who were the Tsars Personal Guard to open fire upon these demonstrators, and about 300 protestors were killed, including women and children. It was a massacre. It led to wide public outrage, not just from revolutionaries and radical that a peaceful demonstration had led to such an event. After Bloody Sunday, many of the surviving demonstrators were exiled from St. Petersburg. This furthered public outrage, and damaged the Tsar’s popularity.
He was no longer trusted and the Bloody Sunday was the spark that ignited the 1905 Revolution. In conclusion, the Russo-Japanese War was certainly a main factor responsible for the outbreak of the Revolution. It caused military, political and severe economic problems that contributed to the Revolution. However, many of the events of it such as the defeats, occurred after the Revolution had started. The greatest effects therefore of the Russo-Japanese War occurred after the Revolution had started, prolonging and worsening it, rather than causing it.
There were also many other factors that caused the Revolution, the most important of these being industrialization and the economic trouble. These contributed more to the start of the Revolution than any other factors including the Russo-Japanese War because it exposed a problem that was present in Russia, and by that itself it would have eventually caused the revolution. By itself the Russo-Japanese War would have not been able to be the main cause of the Revolution of 1905. Therefore the Russo-Japanese War was somewhat responsible for the Revolution but not as important as other factors discussed above.