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Russian Revolution 1905 - Bloody Sunday in Saint Petersburg, Russia - January 22, 1905
Russian History 1905

How to Take Power From a Tsar

The Russian Revolution of 1905 is sometimes called the First Russian Revolution.

In this case, the term Second Russian Revolution refers to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Then again, the term First Russian Revolution can also refer to the Russian March (February) Revolution of 1917.

In that case, the term Second Russian Revolution refers to the Russian November (October) Revolution of 1917.

Was the Russian Revolution of 1905 a success?


Impact of the Russian Revolution of 1905

From the viewpoint of a revolutionary, the Russian Revolution of 1905 was rather a disappointment because it didn't seem to have changed anything of great consequence.

However, the Russian Revolution of 1905 paved the way for the  Russian Revolution of 1917, the one that really made a difference.

What were the background issues of the Russian Revolution of 1905?

Causes of the Russian Revolution of 1905
The citizens of the Russian Empire were not satisfied with their social and political situation.

The Facts:

  • The zemstvos had been created back in 1864 to assist the government in case of emergencies. However, these institutions couldn't improve the general situation on a larger scale. Instead, they became breeding grounds for organized discontent.


  • In 1861, and under Alexander II, the serfs had been liberated.
    What is a serf?

    Although this had changed their legal status, it left the people in poverty and despair. Alexander couldn't keep the country out of repression and he himself ended up a victim. He was assassinated in 1881.


  • Russia then suffered the Great Famine of 1891-1892. People had nothing to lose anymore, the essential ingredient for any revolution.


  • Nicholas II, Russia's Czar since 1894, didn't bring about any notable changes. Moreover, to concerned citizens he didn't appear to be overly troubled by the people's grievances.

    Therefore, many subjects thought Czar Nicholas II to be an incompetent head of state. But there was nothing anybody could do about it because he ruled Russia as an autocrat. Nicholas was the Emperor, the absolute ruler.

By the way, is it Czar, Tsar, or Tzar?

  • The entire arrangement became more and more intolerable for the people. Getting their ears slapped by the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 didn't help.

What was the objective of the Russian Revolution of 1905?


The Goal of the Russian Revolution of 1905

The initial aim of the Russian Revolution was to get rid of Nicholas II, not necessarily to get rid of the monarchy altogether.

What were the highlights of the Russian Revolution of 1905?


The Russian Revolution of 1905 - Timeline of Major Events

January 22, 1905 (January 9, 1905 Old Style)
A peaceful mass demonstration composed of approx. 150,000 workers in
St. Petersburg, led by priest Georgy Apollonovich Gapon, turns slaughter fest when police open fire, killing about 130 people in the crowd and wounding hundreds.

What had happened?

The workers shuffled down the streets of Saint Petersburg direction Winter Palace, the Czar's home address, to protest in front of his residence against low wages and poor working conditions. Armed troops blocked their way and ordered the crowd to disperse. The crowd did not break up. Shortly after it hailed bullets on the demonstrators who, by the way, were unarmed and carried portraits of  Czar Nicholas II and religious icons. At their next rally, they left these items at home.

This day became known as Bloody Sunday or Кровавое воскресенье, which, for the linguistically inclined, can be pronounced Krovavoye Voskresenye.

The Impact of Bloody Sunday

Naturally, the workers were outraged after this massacre. The Liberals wanted the Czar to sign constitutional reforms, the armed forces wanted something worth fighting for (and worth shooting at, for that matter.) The ethnic minorities were ready for their respective independences, the peasants demanded redistribution of land, and of course, the students thought the situation blew.

More strikes and more riots were in the air, and not only in St. Petersburg.

In short, Bloody Sunday encouraged strikes and uprisings all across the Empire. The Russian Revolution of 1905 had begun.


June 27, 1905 (June 14, 1905 Old Style)
Mutiny on the battleship Potemkin in the Black Sea. The revolution had spread to the navy and Sergei Eisenstein will get inspired to make a movie out of this in 1925.

Photo taken in 1906. By then the ship was renamed to Saint Panteleimon.


June 28, 1905 (June 15, 1905 Old Style)
The battleship Potemkin arrives in the port of Odessa. The people of Odessa wait for the sailors to lead them in their revolt, but the sailors drag their feet.


September 1, 1905 (August 19, 1905 Old Style)
Seeing that the unrest spreads with remarkable speed,
Nicholas has to come up with something to restore order. Nicholas issues his August Manifesto.

Here is the text of the August Manifesto.

The empire of Russia is formed and strengthened by the indestructible union of the Tsar with the people and the people with the Tsar. This concord and union of the Tsar and the people is the great moral force which has created Russia in the course of centuries by protecting her from all misfortunes and all attacks, and has constituted up to the present time a pledge of unity, independence, integrity, material well-being, and intellectual development in the present and in the future.

In our manifesto of February 26, 1903, we summoned all faithful sons of the fatherland in order to perfect, through mutual understanding, the organization of the State, founding it securely on public order and private welfare.

We devoted ourselves to the task of coordinating local elective bodies (zemstvos) with the central authorities, and removing the disagreements existing between them, which so disturbed the normal course of the national life. Autocratic Tsars, our ancestors, have had this aim constantly in view, and the time has now come to follow out their good intentions and to summon elected representatives from the whole of Russia to take a constant and active part in the elaboration of laws, adding for this purpose to the higher State institutions a special consultative body entrusted with the preliminary elaboration and discussion of measures and with the examination of the State Budget.

It is for this reason that, while preserving the fundamental law regarding autocratic power, we have deemed it well to form a Gosoudarstvefinaia Duma (i.e. State Council) and to approve regulations for elections to this Duma, extending these laws to the whole territory of the empire, with such exceptions only as may be considered necessary in the case of some regions in which special conditions obtain. . . .

We have ordered the Minister of the Interior to submit immediately for our approbation regulations for election to the Duma, so that deputies from fifty governments, and the military province of the Don, may be able to assemble not later than the middle of January, 1906.

We reserve to ourselves exclusively the care of perfecting the organization of the Gosoudarstvenriaia Duma, and when the course of events has demonstrated the necessity of changes corresponding to the needs of the times and the welfare of the empire, we shall not fail to give the matter our attention at the proper moment.

We are convinced that those who are elected by the confidence of the whole people, and who are called upon to take part in the legislative work of the  government, will show themselves in the eyes of all Russia worthy of the imperial trust in virtue of which they have been invited to cooperate in this great work; and that in perfect harmony with the other institutions and authorities of the State, established by us, they will contribute profitably and zealously to our labors for the well-being of our common mother, Russia, and for the strengthening of the unity, security, and greatness of the empire, as well as for the tranquility and prosperity of the people. . . .

Given at Peterhof on the nineteenth day of August, in the year of grace 1905, and the eleventh year of our reign.



September 5, 1905 (August 23, 1905 Old Style)
Russia signs the
Treaty of Portsmouth and the Russo-Japanese War is officially over. However, the troops can't get back home right away because the railway workers are on strike.

The Treaty of Portsmouth was a masterstroke by the former Minister of Finances Sergei Witte who was made Count for his diplomatic victory.


October 30, 1905 (October 17, 1905 Old Style)
A general strike put Russia's main cities in a deadlock.

Pressured by the mass movement, following the advice of Count Sergey Yulyevich Witte, and convinced by his cousin Nikolai Nikolayevich,  Nicholas II issues his October Manifesto this evening.

In this manifesto he promises civil liberties, such as the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. He also promises the right to vote for a parliament whose approval would be necessary to pass laws, the Duma.

Here is the text of the October Manifesto.

We, Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russians, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc. etc., declare to all our loyal subjects:

The disturbances and unrest in St Petersburg, Moscow and in many other parts of our Empire have filled Our heart with great and profound sorrow. The welfare of the Russian Sovereign is inseparable from the welfare of His people, and national sorrow is His sorrow. The present disturbances could give rise to profound disaffection among the masses, presenting a threat to the unity and integrity of Our State.

The oath which We took as Tsar compels Us to use all Our strength, intelligence and authority to put a speedy end to this unrest which is so dangerous for the State. The relevant authorities have been ordered to take measures to deal with direct outbreaks of disorder and violence and to protect people who only want to go about their daily business in peace. However, view of the needed for successful implementation of earlier measures aimed at pacifying the country, we have decided that the work of the agencies of government must be coordinated. We have therefore ordered the government to take the following steps in fulfillment of our unbending will:

  • Fundamental civil freedoms will be granted to the population, including real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association.

  • Without halting the elections that have already been scheduled, participation in the Duma will be granted to those classes of the population which are at present deprived of voting powers (insofar as is possible in the short period before its convocation.)

    Further development of a universal franchise will be left to the newly established legislature (i.e. according to the law of August 6, 1905, to the Duma and Council of State.)

  • It is established as an unshakeable rule that no law can come into force without its approval by the State Duma and representatives of the people will be given the opportunity to take real part in the supervision of the legality of authorities appointed by Us.

We call on all true sons of Russia to remember their duty to the homeland, to help put a stop to this unprecedented unrest and, together with this, to devote all their strength to the restoration of peace and quiet in our native land.

Issued at Peterhof on the 17th of October in the year of Our Lord 1905, in the eleventh year of Our reign.

Nicholas II


This manifesto was too specific to reverse. The people who weren't stunned stiff by Nicholas' sensational concessions were busy preparing for the new Duma elections.

Even though there were some revolutionists who drew attention to the fact that a promise is just a promise and not yet the real thing, the moment had passed. The manifesto had taken the oomph out of the revolution.


November 1, 1905 (October 19, 1905 Old Style)
Witte becomes Russia's first President of the Council of Ministers, aka Prime Minister. However, this post did not really include the authority that would be normally associated with a prime minister. Witte will resign on April 27, 1906. His resignation will be accepted on May 5, 1906.


What happened after October / November 1905?


Russia After the Revolution of 1905

Some fighting continued but most people returned to their jobs while the Tsar was busy sifting out, tracking down, and arresting the leaders of the revolution,  Leon Trotsky being one of them.

Although the revolution was more or less over by the end of 1905, unrest continued until 1907, especially in rural areas.

Did the October Manifesto really change anything?


The Effects of the October Manifesto

After his 1905 promise to let the people have a say in the country's lawmaking,  Nicholas II followed up by issuing the Fundamental Laws in April 1906.

Officially, these laws were drafted to restore order. Unofficially, it was Nicholas' damage control tool for the trouble his October Manifesto had caused him. By means of the Fundamental Laws of 1906, Nicholas cut the power of the Duma.


Terminology Introduced by the Russian Revolution of 1905

What is a Soviet?

The Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Soviet

The Revolution of 1905 introduced the Soviet, which was the revolution's panel of leaders. The term later applied to elected councils in the USSR.

The word soviet stems from the Russian word sovet, meaning governing council.

Who were the Black Hundred?

The Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Black Hundreds

Various groups of counter-revolutionaries with the anti-Semitic twist. The Black Hundreds popped on the map during the Revolution of 1905 and harassed wholeheartedly in the name of God, Tsar, and the extreme right-wing until 1914.


What is a Duma?

The Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Duma

Duma is the Russian word for deliberation. When used in the context of an organization, the word duma refers to a group of people in Russian history, who acted as advisers to ruling princes or later, after Catherine the Great had reorganized local administration, as a town's council. These municipal councils were in effect until 1917.

If spelled with a capital D and referred to as the Duma the word is short for the Russian term Gosudárstvennaya Dúma, which means State Assembly. This Duma is the one that was promised by Nicholas II in his October 1905 Manifesto.

What exactly is The Duma?
The elected lower house of the Russian parliament. Also called the State Duma (as opposed to the City Duma - see above), the Duma was in operation from 1906 until March 1917. The upper house of the parliament was the State Council.

The Duma was elected for five years. All in all, four dumas came together.

First Duma
May 10 - July 21, 1906 (Dissolved by Nicholas II)
Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov was elected to this Duma. In 1917, Lvov will become the first Prime Minister of the Provisional Government.

When the First Duma was dissolved by the imperial government, about 200 of its former members traveled across the border to meet in Vyborg, Finland, where many of them signed the Vyborg Manifesto.

Second Duma
March 5 - June 16, 1907 (Dissolved by Nicholas II)

Third Duma
November 14, 1907 - June 22, 1912 (Normal term)

Fourth Duma
November 28, 1912 - March 11, 1917 (This Duma demanded Nicholas' abdication and became the Provisional Government in 1917)


In 1993, by the way, the Russian Federation went back to the roots and decided to call their lower house of parliament again State Duma. The things you wanna write Nicholas a postcard about...


What else?

Russian Revolution of 1905 - Trivia

The U.S. ambassador to Russia from 1905 until 1907 was George V.L. Meyer.

U.S. Department of State



U.S. President at the time was Theodore Roosevelt, in office from 1901-1909.








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