Why did Nicholas II survive the 1905 revolution?
The Russian revolution of 1905 (hereafter referred to as “the revolution”) was a protest against the Tsar’s refusal to make political concessions, and that once the concessions were given; the revolution was doomed to failure. The opposition was disorganized and not united in its objectives, and that generally the people of Russia still revered the Tsar, despite his faults.
A notable feature of the revolution is how little a part the revolutionaries actually played. Hardly any of them were either in St Petersburg or Moscow. It could be said that the revolution happened in spite of rather than because, of them. With the exception of Trotsky, none of the revolutionaries actually played a significant part, which has led historians to doubt the notion of 1905 as a revolution. One of the most significant reasons why Nicholas II survived the revolution being the lack of leadership, organisation and unity at the time the revolution took place.
Despite the failure of Russia in the war against Japan, the Tsarist regime survived the revolution remarkable unscathed. There are a number of reasons for this. A significant reason is that since Nicholas II had enough manpower by way of his military to deal with the revolution, he could crush pockets of resistance wherever there was opposition to the Tsarist regime. The end of a collective resistance was down to the two progressive ministers of the Tsar, Sergie Witte and Peter Stolypin, the former being responsible for the Dumas and the latter for the concessions for the peasants. In this way, the demands and needs of both the liberals and the peasants were satisfied.
The nature and extent of the concessions made in the October Manifesto had a huge impact on the survival of Nicholas II in the revolution. Although until 1905, most of the population opposed the Tsarist regime, there were varying levels of opposition, which became exposed as a result of the October Manifesto. In fact, the readiness with which the liberals and the peasants accepted the government’s political and economic bribes showed that neither of these groups were really serious about revolution.
It became apparent that the ‘Union of Unions’ formation had actually helped the Tsar in some way. After the Liberals accepted the manifesto it became clear that the Liberals disliked the ‘common people’ and therefore the majority of people in Russia. Peter Struve said “Thank God for the Tsar, who has saved us from the people”. The Intelligentsia’s experience with the ‘people’ had made them see what type of people they were and they disliked it, so therefore the Tsar gained sympathy from the Liberals after the manifesto which helped the Tsar to regain his authority.
With the Liberals satisfied it was easy for the Tsar to deal with the rioting peasantry. He promised to progressively reduce mortgage repayments and the abandon them altogether which did not greatly effect the Tsar as they were not being paid anyway. The immediate response to this was a drop in the number of land seizures across Russia.
Russia. And following the year 1905 the number of peasant households becoming independent increased to a peak of 579,409 in 1909, although this number is still small when put into scale with the 12 million peasant households. Now, the only major group of concern for Nicholas was the industrial working class.
The Industrial working class was peasant based initially and was looking for a better standard of life. All that they saw however was poor living and working conditions, bad pay and much unemployment as they were totally at the disposal of the factory owners.
The fact that the Tsarist regime was actually strengthened by the revolution is argued among the historians. An analogy presented in favour of this argument is that the ego and the power of the Tsarist regime had been dented by the embarrassing loss in the war against Japan. The revolution, and the Tsarist regime’s success in preventing it, overshadowed the war, and broadcasted their strengths namely the loyalty of their military. This is in turn helped to strengthen the Tsarist regime’s power.
In conclusion, it can be said that the Tsarist regime survived the revolution for a number of reasons, of which most prominent was foremost the divided opposition, which helped them to crush pockets of resistance. The lack of leadership also played a considerable role in assisting the Tsarist regime, as the majority of the people were unorganised and hence disunited. The groups propagating their ideas had no real way of actually “converting” people to their set of political beliefs. But above all, it was the power and authority that the Tsar had over his military and the sheer size of it actuality sums up the real reasoning of the survival of Tsar Nicholas II despite the attempted revolution of 1905.
Reaction and Revolutions: Russia 1881-1924 (Access to History)
Michael Lynch, Hodder Arnold H&S; 2000