The Russian Revolution of 1905 | Bloody Sunday and the first Soviets
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The Russian Revolution of 1905 | Bloody Sunday and the first Soviets

November 6, 2019


In February 1905 a peaceful procession of
over 100-thousand unarmed civilians made their way towards his Winter Palace. True in Russian spirit, that day would enter
the history books as Bloody Sunday, as somehow imperial soldiers managed to… well, turn
it bloody with the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. Massive strikes and protests, obviously, ensued. But the aftermath of what happened that day,
the Revolution of 1905, was an extraordinarily complex event that radically changed Russia’s
political culture and society. -intro- Historical Background On the twenty-second of January nineteen-o-five
the first clash between parties occurred in Saint Petersburg. The two parties facing each other on this
cold, wet winters day were working class citizens and soldiers loyal to the Tsar. Five colonnes of working class citizens slowly
made their way to the city centre, where the Palace Square and Winter Palace of Tsar Nicholas
II were located. It was a peaceful demonstration and there
was nothing that gave an indication this day would enter history as “Bloody Sunday”. The group of protesters was unarmed, showcasing
icons and images of Tsar Nicholas II, chanting the Russian anthem “God Save the Tsar”. The crowd was led by a youthful priest of
the Orthodox Church, Georgy Gapon. He wasn’t a revolutionary, but an organizer
of the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers, which had as its goal to hear and contain
the growing dissatisfaction of the proletariat, instead of antagonize it. This Assembly was even patronized by the police
and secret service, the Okhrana, of which Gapon, not completely coincidentally, was
an informant. Now, the core of the strike consisted of workers
of the large railway and artillery factories of Putilov, and this strike was characteristic
about the sentiment throughout Russia. Low wages, long working days, increasing tax
pressure due to the Russo-Japanese war and the lack of civil rights and means to voice
political opinions all made for a near revolutionary sentiment among the Russian people. Gapon was to hand over a petition, signed
by one-hundred-thirty-five-thousand people, requesting the Tsar for an eight-hour working
day, a minimum daily wage of one ruble (about fifty cents) and a democratically elected
Constituent Assembly in order to slowly introduce a representative government. The strikers figured that if they were to
turn up at the Tsar’s palace, and he would see they were peaceful instead of aggressive,
according to the twisted information he received from his ministers, he would show solidarity
with the working class. Once the Tsar realized their situation wasn’t
their own fault, he would surely give in. Bloody Sunday Well, Tsar Nicholas II wasn’t too enthusiastic
about tearing down the ‘wall’ between the monarchy and its citizens. On the night before the workers procession
Nicholas and his family abandoned the Winter Palace and left for the Tsarskoye Selo palace
a few kilometres outside of the city. He tasked his Minister of Interior, Pyotr
Sviatopolk-Mirsky, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, his generals and the commissars of police
to maintain order in the city. Just as every Imperial civil servant, they
feared any form of public protest, no matter how peaceful the intentions were. As the procession grew more discontent and
voiced their anger and frustration over the rising taxes, lack of food and horrible working
conditions, these men became more and more concerned over the crowd. The atmosphere in Saint Petersburg was the
same as in the rest of Russia: tense. Strikes erupted in towns and villages and
due to a strike at printing presses there hadn’t been a newspaper for two days and,
as I mentioned, the workers of the Putilov factories went on strike as well. Government officials figured that under these
circumstances, violence could easily erupt. As over one-hundred-fifty-thousand people
held the procession through Saint Petersburg, the men in charge figured the only response
to these events was with brutal force, re-establishing the autocratic authority over the masses. Orders were given to the soldiers to not let
the masses come too close to the Winter Palace, though long before the procession had reached
the square, people were forced to a halt by heavily armed police detachments. It isn’t exactly clear what happened, all
that is known is that without provocation the soldiers suddenly started firing at the
crowd. Within several minutes between one-hundred
and a thousand people were dead and the crowd fled in turmoil. The autocracy sure showed her power, but this
was merely the first collusion between the Russian people and the Russian monarchy. What happened today had long-lasting effects
on Russian society. The Russian Revolution and Terrorist Activity To Russian revolutionaries, the events on
Bloody Sunday were a reason to rejoice: the first signs of the imminent revolution were
finally showing. Leon Trotsky concluded: “The revolution
has begun”, although the Bolsheviks would seize power more than twelve years later. Tsar Nicholas, writing in his diary about
that day, had a different vision on events. He was saddened by the deaths but the diary
entry put emphasis on his mother visiting him and his family. Talk about priorities. Now, the result of Bloody Sunday was a cataclysmic
eruption of social disorder, and all social strata, regions and nationalities of the empire
were involved one way or the another. And as time went on, the government started
losing its grip on events more and more and Russia plummeted into a state that could be
described as anarchy. The most serious development was not just
industrial workers went on strike, but civil servants, students, peasants, and even servants
joined the movement. At the end of January over four-hundred-thousand
people were on strike, which would increase up to two-and-a-half-million later that year. Non-Russian territories were affected most,
in Poland with the Lodz insurrection, Finland and the Baltics. Nationalist feelings increasing among non-Russian
population and increased hostility against the government. In regions such as Bessarabia the antisemitic
and far right elements were utilized to create the Union of the Russian People, a pro-monarchist
political party. In other parts, such as Charkov and Yekaterinoslav,
street fighting was no rare sight. And the Tsar and Russian government? They grew increasingly isolated. To complicate things even more, the Russo-Japanese
war was still continued, and Russia suffered major losses during the Battle of Mukden. At around the same time the workers started
to organize themselves, peasants, living nearly below the means of existence and in practice
existing as if they were serfs, started to plunder the properties of their landowners. The liberal middle classes generally supported
all these upheavals, if only passively, and blamed the government for the bloodshed. Back in the war, Tsar Nicholas sent the Baltic
Fleet on an epic voyage to Vladivostok to replace the lost Far Eastern Squadron. The Baltic Fleet was nearly completely destroyed
by the Japanese navy at Tsushima in May 1905, and the Tsar and his government had no other
option at this point but to sue for peace. These events took place against the background
of rapidly growing civil unrest. Over a million workers struck during spring
in St Petersburg alone. The peasant and worker strikes went combined
with organized terrorist attacks on government officials. On the thirtieth of June Nikolai Bobrikov,
the Governor-General of Finland was killed. Vyacheslav von Plehve, the minister of interior,
was killed shortly after. A surprising assassination was the murder
of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, the uncle of the Tsar and not much later Viktor
Sakharov, the former Minister of War was killed. Unrest spread all over Russia, and reached
its peak over summer as Central Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic Provinces and Caucasus
saw strikes, rebellion and mutinies. Perhaps the most well known event was the
mutiny on the battleship Potemkin of the Black Sea Fleet. During this mutiny, the entire crew of the
battleship rose up against its officers, killing seven out of eighteen of them. The entire event has beenimmortalized by Sergei
Eisenstein in his nineteen-twenty-five movie The Battleship Potemkin. Anyway, this mutiny, together with several
other mutinies around this time were a warning sign to Tsar Nicholas that even his loyal
troops could turn on him. Opposition closes ranks Chaos, turmoil and strikes caused industry
and production to halt throughout Russia. Taxes and prices increased, causing inflation
and economic unrest. As the year progressed, the resistance against
the autocratic regime kept growing. Now teachers, technicians, doctors, lawyers
and people from all walks of life joined the unions of workers in solidarity. Eventually, fourteen of these unions allied
themselves in the Union of Unions under the liberal politician Pavel Milyukov. These liberal movements supported constitutional
reform and a representative government. Their ideas were voiced at numerous congresses
and lectures at universities, which became the centres of revolutionary meetings. There were other openly revolutionary parties,
following the Marxist and socialist thought with support of the masses instead of the
middle-class. The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party,
established in eighteen-ninety-eight, was split between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, with
the latter containing future main figures of the Soviet Union: Lev Trotsky, Vladimir
Lenin and Joseph Stalin. At this stage, these leftist parties didn’t
have that much influence yet, though they certainly shouldn’t be underestimated. Both Lenin and Trotsky were abroad in nineteen-o-five,
and only Trotsky returned upon hearing of the revolution, and he would play an important
role later that year. There were other groups on the left; Members
of the Socialist Revolutionary party had their supporters base among peasantry, and not the
proletariat. There wasn’t much cohesion among the left-wing,
and definitely not among the opposition which made it difficult to organize an all-out revolution. Nicholas’ Reaction The first response of Tsar Nicholas after
Bloody Sunday was on the third of March, after receiving advice from Sergey Witte, to publish
a manifesto. He confirmed his faith in the autocratic regime
and condemned all those that violated the fundamental laws of the Russian state. At the same time he published a contradictory
manifesto in which he promised to establish a consultative body based on some form of
election. The procedure of election for this body was
anything but representative, as became known in August, and its powers appeared to be limited. It thus had no effect, and in autumn the strike
movement in the cities resumed with even greater force. The Tsar wasn’t willing to give in, while
there were peasant uprisings across the land. At the end of September it wasn’t just peasants
anymore, but once again people from all walks of life joined the strike, among which bakers,
railway employees and the postal-telegraph employees, bank clerks and what not. In October the strikes turned into a general
strike, directed against the Tsar and demanding a democratic republic. It was at this point, due to the absence of
other organizations, the workers in Saint Petersburg started to form a Soviet. The Saint Petersburg Soviet Workers did what they could to organize themselves,
improvise meetings, protests and strikes and get in touch with the workers. Organization took place and the result was
a new type of workers association, the Soviet (Council) of Workers’ Deputies. The Social Democrats remained dubious about
these soviets at first, but the Mensheviks realized their potential. According to Geoffrey Hosking the first one
was set up in the textile town of Ivanovo-Voznesensk to coordinate a general strike, but the one
that was established in Saint Petersburg would experience one of the greatest moments of
the soviets in October nineteen-o-five. As slowly leaders of the strike treaded forward,
the Saint petersburg workers soviet held a meeting, a rough meeting with some resemblance
of primitive democracy and subsequently similar soviets emerged throughout the entire country. Eventually the Saint Petersburg Soviet had
around five-hundred-and-sixty delegates, each representing around five hundred workers. Because these Soviets could convince the workers
to get back to work, their authority was even recognized by the government. The Soviet organized a general strike which
disrupted normal production and communications over much of the empire. The Russian economy, once again, came to a
standstill. Even the imperial ballet refused to perform.. The Soviet became the vanguard of the attack
on the autocracy, the powers of revolution in Russia had, in a way, shaped their own
institutions when other institutions did not represent their interests. And its Chairman? It was Leon Trotsky. After the arrest of its former chairman, Georgy
Nosar, Trotsky was elected under the name of Yanovsky. The Aftermath The general strike throughout the country
had led to the Tsar’s arm twisted into granting the strikers and revolutionaries what they
wanted. Finally, on the 30th of October the Tsar conceded
that Russia would receive a representative legislature, to be called the Duma, and some
sort of constitution. So, in short, this October Manifesto, promised
civil liberties and an elected legislative assembly. On the eighteenth of October huge crowds took
to the streets their celebrations, as Leon Trotsky spoke to them from the balcony of
the university building. The strike ended, but the Bolsheviks wanted
to ignite a proper revolution and overthrow the Tsar. The result was insurrection in the factory
districts of Moscow in December, which failed, and was suppressed mercilessly by the army
and police. That same month, Trotsky was arrested and
sent into exile. It didn’t matter for the revolution, though,
as the Russians would finally receive their civil liberties and elected body. It cost the Russian population over 15.000
lives. And that was, in fact, the revolution of nineteen-o-five. The climax of the revolution was reached at
the end of october, when nearly every facet of life in Russia came to a standstill, the
government was without power and the Russian people were openly rebelling against the monarchy. So… what about this elected body, the Duma? And what about the civil liberties the Russians
would receive? And what about the Tsar? Did he finally liberalize his policy? Well, my next video will explore the response
of the Russian government in the face of these civil unrests. As I mentioned, the Tsar issued the October
Manifesto, a precursor to the first constitution of the Russian Empire, rendering it a Constitutional
Monarchy in nineteen-o-six. The Duma, a body that resembled a parliament,
was instated, although Nicholas and Witte rewrote the constitution and, by now you’re
probably not even surprised anymore, they attempted to curb its influence. I’ll cover the aftermath of this revolution
in the video next week, thank you for watching this one and if you enjoyed it, consider subscribing
to my channel. See you next time.

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  1. What is a lesser-known revolution or uprising that you would like to know more about and perhaps see a video of? Let me know your thoughts in a comment!

  2. Great video man, as usual. Tsar Nicholas was pretty cool imo but I have to always remind myself that he was all a big asshole. I wonder how Russian Tsar were able to strengthen their absolutism when most Europen monarchies bent under further liberalism?

  3. I think Nicolas was even more incompetent and inept as a leader than the communist apes who succeeded him.

  4. 5:55 Shout-out from Łódź! 😁

    BTW, in case you're interested, allow me to make a note about pronunciation. If it was jus spelled "Lodz" it would be pronounced as you did, however with all those funny diacritics it's actually more like "Wooj" or "Woodge".

  5. Do you ever come across a historical event in Russia, where there is 2 or 3 sides to a story? If you do, what do you do about it? Research it more or showcase all sides?

  6. Czar wasn't responsible for the events of the "Bloody Sunday". Like u said "it isn't exactly clear what happened …"

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