The Event That Started It All

Bloody Sunday 1 2

The Russian Revolution of 1905 began in Saint Petersburg on January 22nd when soldiers of the Imperial Guard fired upon unarmed workers led by Father Gapon. Gapon and the rest of the demonstrators were marching to the Winter Palace in order to petition Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar made a mistake by not appearing before the protestors to listen to their complaints. Thus, showing the contempt for the working class that was held by the aristocracy and proving to the protestors that what they were fighting for was necessary. This uprising was instrumental in convincing Tsar Nicholas II to try to transform the Russian government from an autocracy into a constitutional monarchy.

Before 1905, diverse social groups demonstrated their disapproval of the Russian social and political system. The protests included riots, strikes, and terrorist assassinations. All of this unrest culminated in the massacre of peaceful demonstrators at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg in an event that would later be called Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was the spark that ignited the 1905 Russian Revolution. This event coupled with the Russo-Japanese War would reveal the ineptitude of the Czarist Government and force the government to concede to the establishment of the Duma.

Strikes continued in Saint Petersburg after this turmoil. Nicholas tried to establish an elected assembly to advise the government, but this did not appease the striking workers or the peasants. The rebellion reached its peak in the months of October and November. A railroad strike quickly developed into a general strike in many of the larger cities. The magnitude of the strike eventually convinced Nicholas to act. On the advice of Sergei Witte, Nicholas issued the October Manifesto on October 17th, 1905. The October Manifesto promised a constitution and the establishment of an elected legislature, which was called Duma. He also made Witte the president of the new Council of Ministers.

Alas, these concessions did not meet the radical opposition’s demands for an assembly or a republic. The revolutionaries refused to yield. However, some people were content and many workers interpreted the October Manifesto as a success and returned to their jobs. Therefore, this was enough to break the opposition’s coalition and to weaken the Saint Petersburg Soviet. At the end of November, the government arrested the Soviet’s chairman, Khrustalev-Nosar and in December apprehended Leon Trotsky and others.

Even though the uprising failed to replace the tsarist assembly and most of the revolutionary leaders were arrested, it did force the imperial regime to institute extensive reforms. The most important of these reforms were the Fundamental Laws, which functioned as a constitution and the creation of the Duma, which fostered the development of legal political activity and parties.