The Tsar was not in serious Jeopardy in 1905
Throughout his time as Tsar, Nicholas II was faced with constant threats due to terrorist groups such as the peoples will. Many of these groups were oppressed by ‘The reaction’ that began under the reign of Alexander III, however not all opposition was destroyed. This meant that Nicholas was in constant Jeopardy. This essay will discuss whether or not Tsar Nicholas II was truly in serious Jeopardy during the events of 1905. The Russian revolution which began in 1905 was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian empire.
Factors such as industrialisation, urbanisation, bouts of economic depression and a rapidly increasing population all contributed to undermine the order and stability of the regime. In light of the opposition he received, Nicholas created a Duma as a result of the October Manifesto in order to appease the masses. Before the creation of the Duma in 1905 however, political parties were illegal in Russia because Nicholas was a strict autocrat.
There were three main groups which opposed tsardom during the period 1881-1905: the Populists, the Social revolutionaries and the Social Democrats.
This essay will discuss whether these three groups were of any consequence to the government of Nicholas II before 1905. Populism began in the 1870’s. It was a revolutionary movement that thought the future of Russia was in the hands of the peasantry. The Populist’s were not peasants themselves, but members of the middle and upper classes. The Populist’s began to try and teach the peasantry about how they were going to lead the revolution by beginning a scheme called “going to the people”, however this did not work as well as they thought as many of the peasants did not understand or accept the revolutionary message being preached to them. This caused, in desperation, some members of the populist’s to turn to terrorism. In 1879 members of the Populist’s broke off and formed a separate group “the peoples will” with intention of killing members of the ruling class. This group, with little over 400 members, was responsible for the assassination of Alexander III in 1881; however this act of violence weakened, rather than strengthened the movement. The Populist’s were of little consequence for the government of Nicholas II during his reign, however by the late 19th century most other revolutionary groups were inspired by Populist theories and methods as well as their challenge to tsardom, which would have posed a problem for Nicholas.
The second group that opposed tsardom were the social revolutionaries (SR’s). The SR’s grew directly out of the Populist movement. It extended the idea of the ‘people’ beyond the peasantry, to incorporate a growing urban workforce. However, as with most revolutionary groups in Russia, The SR’s were torn apart by disagreements with themselves, and soon emerged a right and left wing element to the party. One side wanted to follow on with the violent methods of the people’s will, and the other saw revolution as their primary goal and used peaceful methods such as working with other parties in order to achieve their goals. Between the years 1901-1905 the SR’s were responsible for over 2000 assassinations, including the Tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke Sergei. This suggests that the SR’s were of some consequence for the government of Nicholas II as the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei as well as many other important people, without any retribution from the Tsar, would have portrayed him as weak and therefore the citizens of Russia may have lost respect for him. The final group to oppose Nicholas II’s government were the Social Democrats. The All-Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was formed in 1898. It was a Marxist party, which meant that it accepted the theories of German revolutionary Karl Marx. Marx believed history was an on-going class struggle and that two classes existed, the working class and the proletariat.
Marx said that the workers were exploited by the proletariat in order to make them wealthy. They worked long hours for poor pay and would never be in a position to own anything. A deep divide soon occurred within the party however, this became known as the Bolshevik/Menshevik split. The Bolshevik’s and the Menshevik’s soon became two opposing Marxist parties. The Social Democrats, or the Bolshevik’s and Menshevik’s had little consequence for the Government of Nicholas II prior to the 1917 revolution and played a very little party in anything before 1905. In Conclusion the opposition to Nicholas II’s government prior to 1905 was of some consequence however it was not enough to instigate any major change. This lasted until 1917 when the Bolshevik’s eventually took power and turned autocratic rule into communist rule.