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The October Manifesto

17 October 1905, Repin 17 October 1905, Repin


Although we cannot change the past, it is sometimes interesting to think about the “what if’s.”  What if I had chosen to go to UVa over Virginia Tech?  What if the South had won the Civil War?  What if cave men never discovered fire?

What if the October Manifesto had not been granted by the tsar in 1905?

The October Manifesto was a document that brought about a period of constitutional monarchy (somewhat) in Russia.  It promised a form of representative government with the creation of the Duma legislative body, claimed to guarantee freedom of speech, and limited the tsar’s power.  It was essentially a precursor to the constitution that would be written later on.

However, the Manifesto did not appease everyone right away.  The New York Times published a letter dated November 14, 1905 (just a couple weeks after the Manifesto was issued) from a Russian to one of his friends.  In the letter, he describes Russia as being under “a bloody cloud” and says “a battle is raging between the Government and the people, the people and the Government, and the people among themselves.”  He goes on to say that the government, “true to its tradition of always doing the wrong thing at a critical moment,” blundered its attempt at making concessions with the people through the October Manifesto.  Another article even called the Manifesto pathetic.  Clearly, it fell short of what many revolutionaries were hoping for.

Despite its shortcomings though, the October Manifesto somehow managed to stave off a full-fledged revolution in 1905.  According to the Freeze book, it “proved satisfactory to the regime’s more moderate critics” (255) and essentially broke the backbone of the revolution.  Even though the Manifesto didn’t do what many hoped, it did enough to keep the tsar in power for the time being.

If it had not been granted, perhaps the revolutionary events of 1917 would have happened much earlier?  Maybe both moderates and more extreme party members would have been driven over the edge sooner?  Would the Soviet Union have come about the same way?  It is impossible to say, of course, but it is interesting to think about what might have happened had this so-called “pathetic” document not been written when it was.  The course of the revolution could have been very different from what we know today.



“October Manifesto”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 05 Sep. 2013

PROMISE AND PERFORMANCE. (1906, May 12). New York Times (1857-1922). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/96643497?accountid=14826

RUSSIA’S REDUPHEAVAL LOOSED CHAOS AND HATE. (1905, Dec 03). New York Times (1857-1922). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/96512201?accountid=14826

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