What Were the Causes of the 1905 Revolution?

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Causes of the 1905 revolution in Russia included discontent among industrial workers and rural peasants, discrimination against Jews and other minorities, student unrest, the rise of socialism and a humiliating defeat in the war against Japan. Additionally, the repression of the Tsarist regime created a state of great fear and discontent in the country.

The first manifestation of the 1905 revolution occurred on January 9, when a group of thousands of unarmed protesters led by Father Georgy Gapon marched toward the Winter Palace of Tsar Nicolas II. The march included many women, children and elderly. The group of marchers was first charged upon by the cavalry and then shot at by the infantry, resulting in over 200 deaths and 800 injuries.

In reaction to the massacre, which became known as Bloody Sunday, a wave of strikes swept the country. These strikes included not only industrial and railway workers, but also of army and navy personnel. Armed forces mutinied against their officers, which is exemplified by the famous mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin. In the countryside, peasants seized the land of the wealthy and burned their homes. By mid-October there was a general strike in most major cities. The turmoil spread to non-Russian parts of the Tsar’s empire, including Finland, Poland, Georgia and the Baltic provinces.

At first, the Tsar favored responding with force, but the revolution became so widespread that he was compelled to offer concessions. He created a constitutional monarchy and a multi-party system, convened a state legislature, and enacted the Russian Constitution of 1906. However, many of the revolutionary leaders were arrested and executed, and the Tsar regained the loyalty of the army and used it to help end the uprising.