The Russia Revolution of 1905 brought to surface the great unrest and uneasiness that had been brewing in Russian society for so long. Among the many things that Russian citizens were in uproar about, an elected legislative body was a key component that was absent in Russian government. However, the October Manifesto of 1905 brought hope to many citizens that liberties would now be enacted and integrated into society.
Notions to change the governmental structure had not first emerged during the 1905 Revolution. In 1825, Alexander II had attempted to bring about democratic change in Russian society, including freeing the serfs and introducing the Zemstvo (“The October Manifesto”, 2005). Because of his work, Alexander II was assassinated. Years later Nicholas II, the grandson of Alexander II, would sign the October Manifesto, and reintroduce many concepts that his grandfather advocated for earlier.
The 1905 Revolution had brought Russia to a standstill. Close to two million people had been on strike since the beginning of October, and large factories and railways had to be shut down due to the civil unrest brewing in the country (“The Explosive October”, 2010). Tsar Nicholas II, not knowing the best action to take, eventually signed the October Manifesto. The October Manifesto established an elected legislature, the State Duma, as well as “civil and religious liberties” (Freeze, 2009, p. 255). For the first time ever, the October Manifesto also granted citizens the right to unionize and form political parties. As with all legislation, there were some weaknesses to the manifesto. It seemed to favor the privileged in Russian society, but was also accommodating to the peasant class. The October Manifesto was a great leap in the direction of democratic ideals, but ultimately failed to end the turmoil and the revolution taking place in Russia during this period.
Freeze, G.L. (2009). Russia: a history. New York: Oxford University Press.