Opposition to the Tsarist regime increased due to a number of reasons many of which could have been helped and others that were more natural. The key aspects of the opposition of the Tsars was Wittes programme of industrialisation, which while vital to Russia, exchanged the loyalist peasants into the disgruntled working class. While there were problems that the Tsar could not control such as the great amounts of other nationalities wanting independence and resisting Russification, such as the Poles and Jews. In 1881 opposition started due to ordinary people having little to no rights, as it was a criminal offence to question the Tsar and with no parliament to try and change the course of their country they would have to rely on the rich autocratic Tsar to decide to make changes to help the common people. As the government had strict censorship on books and journals when information did get through it would usually be made even more powerful as the government had attempted to ban it.
To what extent was the lack of political representation the most significant cause of the 1905 revolution? There were a number of different causes that contributed to the start of the 1905 Russian revolution however some were more significant than others. One of the contributing factors was the lack of political representation due to the existence of an autocratic regime. Whilst this was an important factor, the most significant factors were the social and economical issues that caused unrest amongst the Russian population. The long-term policies of Russification imposed by the Tsar in the 1880s, caused a lot of political unrest within Russia and these contributed to the 1905 revolution.
More over, the tsar was out of touch with his people and the changes that were occurring through out the empire. The First World War acted as a catalyst and a cause for social change and revolution because Russia’s many underlying military, economic, social and political problems were brutally exposed and meant it was unable to cope with the enormous challenges posed by the War. The lack of proper military administration and war readiness led to massive military defeats, low morale and a subsequent loss of confidence in the Tsar. While the Russians had the largest military force in Europe during the war, they were predominantly peasants who were not prepared for war As the historian D. Thompson said “Russian soldiers were ill-clothed and ill-trained, and always under-equipped”(D.Thomson, 1957, p.564), with up to 25% of Russian soldiers sent unarmed to the front unarmed. The soldiers also had to fight in atrocious, unsanitary conditions.
Hence, though peasant life was at its best in its history, all these reforms did for the majority was ignite the hope that more liberating reforms were to come. Unfortunately the untimely assassination of Tsar Liberator by the extremist group, ‘The Peoples Will’ led to the rise in power of Alexander 3rd, who’s views towards the ruling of Russia differed greatly from his fathers. Many of the liberties granted through the reforms were stripped by Alexander 3rd’s own reforms. Peasants control over courts was restricted as courts for government opponents became government controlled. Many government opponents would have been protesting about how unfair the Russian system was towards peasants and hence through trial by jury, they would have been sympathised with.
However, the Russo Japanese was not the only factor leading to Bloody Sunday, the start of the Revolution, other factors such as the Great Spurt and Alexander III’s manifesto – ‘the reaction’ also led to the start of the revolution. Short term causes of the war are that people wanted change. There was a growing population in Russia, but conditions were only getting worse. The proletariats (urban workers) had to endure harsh working conditions as well as appalling hygiene standards. Another cause of the war was that Russia wanted to continue its expansion into the Far East and obtain a free port.
All Russian governments in this period faced strong opposition to their regime with the period as a whole punctuated by riots, disturbances and revolutions. Political change was expected in Russia during this period, particularly during the Tsarist regime where the growth of the revolutionary intelligentsia, ironically an effect of the Great Reforms, led many to question the need for a Tsar or a royal family at all. The first main success of political opposition is widely considered to be the assassination of Alexander II at the hands of the People’s Will in 1881. Although they assassinated their Tsar, it is very likely this did not actually lead to their desired outcome, it being greater political freedom/democracy. Many historians have said Alexander II was considering the formation of a parliament in Russia.
A recurring theme throughout the period is the regime’s desire to maintain autocracy, which Lenin’s disregard for democracy in any area and opposition shows. This point is further emphasized by Alexander III’s belief that change was a risk and not necessary, as he argued by criticizing his father and also practically demonstrated by reducing the powers of the Zemstva. Repression was increased substantially to deal with opposition and apart from Nicholas II under whom it was briefly paused, this set the basis for Russian rule in the rest of the period. Despite Khrushchev’s easing of repression, the damage had been done under his predecessors Lenin and Stalin in removing any threat posed by opposition and ensuring that their rule remained untouched, in a further demonstration of their opposition to change.
Divisions of opposing groups of the Tsar were important to the survival of Tsarist rule in 1881-1905 as the political opponents of the Tsar were clearly divided in their aims and methods. However, other factors such as the church and the power the Tsar held over it; the conservative culture of the Russian people; lack of education especially amongst the peasants and workers; the retributions from opposing the Tsar and the Okhrana were also effective in keeping the Tsar in a state of power. The different political parties all had a similar aim for change and most of wanted to remove the Tsar from power. However they all had different approaches and different plans on how to run the Russia after the Tsars removal. Firstly, the opposition groups of the Tsar were known as the Populists, the Liberals and the Marxists.
It is also suggested that the Russian society in the beginning of the 20th century provided the working class people yet another reason for revolution as the gap between the aristocracy and the peasants was vast in terms of wealth. By 1905 there was a considerable amount of public anger against the war and arguably led to revolution, however the Tsars response to the revolution of 1905 showed weakness and provided more motivation to the revolutionaries. An overall significant factor to Russia being ripe for revolution was that the Tsarist regime between 1906- 14 showed the stresses and strains and provided mixed feelings towards revolution. The weakness of Tsar Nicholas II was an important factor in the Russian desire for revolution. When Nicholas’ father, Alexander III died unexpectedly, Nicholas was ill prepared for the role of Tsar as Alexander was a domineering man making Nicholas a shy and withdrawn man.
This was demonstrated when he assumed that him taking personal control of the army during the First World War would unite the nation. There as now not only a distinct separation between the upper and lower classes but also a critical separation between the upper classes and the Tsar. Added pressures came from Russia’s increased involvement in the war in that it exposed the Tsar’s policies given the gravity of the domestic situation and his absence from Petrograd (St Petersburg). The Tsar’s rapid loss of support during the war allowed the Tsarina, who was heavily influenced by Rasputin, to gain control of internal politics. She disillusioned the middle and ruling class intelligentsia which further isolated the Tsar and