Causes of the Russian Revolution
Politically the Tsar's rule was very weak. Russia fought a war with Japan in 1904-05. Small Asian Country Japan defeated the mighty European country Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. This lowered the international and domestic prestige of Russia.
The Tsars believed in the divine right theory of kingship. Tsar Nicholas II was autocratic in his administration. The people had many grievances. The members of zemstoves and Dumas wanted liberal reforms from the Tsar. But Tsar was not prepared to sanction any reforms. Meantime, the working class of St. Petersburg went on strike. The striking workers went on a procession to Tsar's place to present a petition to redress their grievances. They were led by father Gapon. When the workers reached Tsar's palace the guards fired on the unarmed crowed. This event is known as 'Bloody Sunday' as it took place on a Sunday, 22nd January 1905. This is also known as 1905 Revolution. This event was indeed a prelude to the October Revolution of 1917.
The Tsarist court was under the evil influence of Rusputin. The Tsarina was strongly under his influence and at times the administration was affected by his influence. Hence, the nobles poisoned Rusputin to death.
The economic causes of the Russian Revolution largely originated in Russia's slightly outdated economy. Russia's agriculture was largely based on independent peasants. They did not own modern machinery. Russian agriculture suffered from cold climate. Russia's agriculture season was only 4-6 months. The famine of 1891 had left many peasants in poverty. The rapid industrialization of Russia also resulted in urban overcrowding and poor conditions for urban industrial workers. Between 1890 and 1910, the population of the capital of St Petersburg increased from 1,033,600 to 1,905,600, with Moscow experiencing similar growth. In one 1904 survey, it was found that an average of sixteen people shared each apartment in St Petersburg, with six people per room. There was also no running water, and piles of human waste were a threat to the health of the workers. Hence, the workers in general were in a discontented situation.
One of the most important events in the history of socialist movement was the formation in 1864 of the International Working Men's Association or the First International. During the short period of its existence, the International exercised a tremendous influence on workers' movements in Europe.
To unite the socialist parties in various countries into an international organisation, a Congress was held in Paris on 14th July 1889, the centenary of the French Revolution of 1789. The result of this Congress was what has come to be known as the Second International. The formation of the Second International marked a new stage in the history of socialism.
On the first of May 1890, millions of workers all over Europe and America struck work and held massive demonstrations. Since then the first of May is observed as the international working class day all over the world.
In Russia when the workers' organizations were set up they were dominated by Marx's ideas on socialism. In 1883, the Russian Social Democratic Party was formed by George Plekhanov, a follower of Marx. This party along with many other socialist groups was united into the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1898. However, the party was soon split over questions of organization and policies. One group which was in a minority called the Mensheviks [Russian it means minority]. The majority party was called as theBolsheviks.
The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, popularly known as Lenin. He is regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the socialist movement after Marx and Engels. He devoted himself to the task of organizing the Bolshevik Party as an instrument for bringing about revolution. His name has become inseparable from the revolution of 1917. The Russian socialists, including Plekhanov and Lenin, had played an important part in the Second International.
Besides the Menshevik and the Bolshevik parties, which were the political parties of industrial workers, there was the Socialist Revolutionary Party which voiced the demands of the peasantry.
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