1905, the "October Manifesto"



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October 17th, 1905, the “October Manifesto”
If you have to pick a date which the revolutions “begin” it would be bloody Sunday. If you had to pick a climax, a point where something actually happened as a result, it is arguably October 17th. On the 10th day of the general strike in St. Petersburg, with the aid of middleclass, the October Manifesto was signed. It made a promise to grant full civil rights to people, such as: Freedom of conscience, gathering, and right of habius corpus. It also promised a legislative system that was fair.
Again, this promise was very vague. It was certainly cause for lots of celebration, but people took it with caution because the tsar had made promises before. In particular, the working class was very skeptical.
Now that the Tsar has made a promise that satisfied some of the liberals organization, there was a split in the previous alliance between them.

The more progressive of the liberals create the Constitutional Democrats (aka the KDs/Kadets). They are led by Miliukov.


The majority of the urban “worker class,” i.e factory workers, still remains more than skeptical and keep on striking. At this point there are strikes in a number of major cities besides Petersburg, including Moscow. They eventually try to take over the Moscow government.
In December 1905, there is the Moscow Uprising. Nicholas II sends the Cossacks in to put it down and over 1000 civilians are killed—The tsarist forces put down the revolt, making this the first major failed attempt at really trying to take power by the working class.

Union of Russian People (Black Hundreds)
The politically right, conservative party. They are actually outraged that Nicholas has been put under such pressure by his own people. Bear in mind that this a group who wants to strengthen the autocracy. Eventually many pro-Monarchist parties, groups who consider themselves loyal to crown, form The Union of Russian People, or, “The Black Hundreds.”
This organization is a grass-roots vigilante group. They physically attack mostly Jewish people and known socialists. They are convinced that the Jewish communities are the source of the problems. 3000 Jews murdered in the south regions of Russia in the weeks after the October Manifesto, mostly at the hands of the Black Hundreds. In some cases, the police even helped this group. All anti-Semitism aside, many argue that because they were in favor of the monarchy Nicholas II did not do much to stop them.
This became a black mark on him. His open and brazen courting of mob violence, i.e. the Black Hundreds, showed the government was willing to allow ethnic scapegoats instead of taking responsibility.

Under the new manifesto, a state Duma system is finally permitted. The best comparison I can give is that the Duma is like the US’s House of Representatives. Each representative is supposed to be elected for a 5 year term. Until the revolution, there are 4 Dumas elected.


1st Duma, April 1906-June 1906
2nd Duma, February 1907-June 1907
3rd Duma, November 1907-June 1912
4th Duma, November 1912-Februarty 1917

The 3rd duma is the only one that lives a natural life, but Tsar had a provision so that he could disband Dumas on certain grounds.



The Period of the 1st and 2nd Dumas.
December 11, 1905 elector law.
Elections are not equal but almost universal for men. They take place within the Zemstvos. Secret ballots are also allowed, that is, people could keep who they voted for from the public.
Men 25 and older are permitted to vote and the decision is to be made via who wins the popular vote.
Property ownership was a factor definitely a factor in who ran; that being said, it was still less restrictive then during the era of serfdom because technically anyone could own land.
Peasant electors: 43%
Urban workers/Industrialists: 23%
Rural Landowners: 31%
Factory Owners: 2.5 %

Some historians have interpreted the 43% peasants make up as indicative of a flawed optimism on Nicholas II’s part. He appeared to still believe that they were not the real threat and that all the unrest was caused from the outside. This is not necessarily accepted as a full-proof explanation, though.

December 11, 1905 Electoral Law is passed, then the 1st Duma Elections followed.

The Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, and the SR’s all boycott the election. They claimed that was is not a real change in the government. They continued to tow the line of revolution being the solution.


The Trudoviks, a labor party, win 94 seats
KDs win 179 of the 574 seats. The Muslim, Polish, and Ukrainian groups get 30, 51, and 40 seats, respectively. This accounts for most of the important representative groups for our purposes.
They all get elected from across the empire and go to Petersburg. What is interesting is that they are elected and given seats, even making their way to Petersburg to begin their duties, before they even knew what the powers were and what they could actually do.
April 23rd, 1906, The Fundamental Laws are passed. The fine print actually ends up eroding most of what was promised in the October Manifesto. Since things have calmed down some the government is trying to back track.
Nicholas II still calls himself the Autocrat, which connotes absolute power. Additionally, the Duma is only consultative. Nothing they do binding on the Tsar. While a lot of matters have to be submitted to the Duma for approval, their disapproval has no weight at all: The tsar can still do it. There is no check on the tsar’s power from the Duma.
A major issue that becomes more and more relevant over the next 5-10 years is that the Tsar has the power to dissolve the Duma as long as he indicates when the new elections will take place and when the new group will meet.
In the laws there is a special provision called Article 87. The government can issue emergency decrees when the Duma is not in session (i.e. disbanded or not in session) but then any such decree must be considered within 2 months of the Duma coming back in session. This loophole becomes abused over time, as we will see later in the lecture.
The Fundamental Laws also specifically cites that the Duma has no authority over budget of armed forces, over the ministries, or the authority to declare war or peace. Lastly, the Duma can not alter the fundamental laws.

New Minister of the Interior appointed: Petr Stolypin


He is a strong Russian nationalist. Some historians view him as Russia’s last and only hope for maintaining the Monarchy. He later becomes the Prime Minister. He has lots of trust from the Tsar and ends up setting a lot of policies.

New tensions rise shortly after the Duma elections. The Duma sees that the key issue is still the autocracy and the extreme poverty of the peasant class, so they began to push harder for land reform on the grounds there is not enough to support the people with the way it is now. Nicholas II says absolutely not and the Duma says it will do it anyway.


They then attempt a “2nd emancipation,” that is, they try take more from the gentry then the first one did; but, Nicholas wants to respect private property rights because he afraid of angering the gentry even more. While he is the autocrat, he does rely heavily on the gentry for support at times. This issue swings back and forth for a while between the Duma and tsar. Nicholas eventually becomes fed up with it, disbands the 1st Duma in June of 1906 (only 2 months after it began), then sends troops to occupy the space. He sets the election to be beginning of the next year.
The “Octobrists,” those who supported and were attempting to carry out the promises of the October Manifesto, were outraged. The far right did not really care because they did like the Duma much anyway.

A number of Kadets put together the Vyborg Manifesto (named for the city it was written in). This document announced the dissolution of the Duma and urged the population to participate in civil disobedience, such as not paying taxes and not sending recruits for the military. About half of the Duma was involved in drafting this manifesto. Unfortunately for them, the population does not respond to this on a significant level. Additionally, everyone who signed it was actually disqualified by the government for further elections (in this case, the election for the 2nd Duma, specifically.). The government then used this opportunity to try to get a more conservative Duma in. This took its toll on the next round of Kadets elected, and the SRs start returning to assassinations.



The SR’s actually attempt to blow up Stolypin at home and end killing a number of people, but his study where he was somehow remained intact. This attack pushed him over the edge. He became consumed with vengeance against radicals and killed over 700 radicals within 6 months. He also created military courts to deal with revolutionaries, which created a serious lull in revolutions and strikes. Stolypin then called for elections for the new Duma at the end of 1906.
He undercut the Duma’s desire to do land reform by making his own under the provisions provided by Article 87, i.e. since they were not in session they could pass emergency legislation. What follow was Stolypin’s idea of the “wager on the strong.”
The peasant commune is the culprit according to him, but they were stil on to something.
He made it so that in a situation where there is enough agreement and certain conditions are met, then peasants could dissolve the peasant commune, privatize a strip of land, and enclose it. Withdrawal of land from the communal fund of land.
The 2nd part of this was consolidation. If you can withdraw strips, then you could negotiate with others to replace some of those scattered strips with some that are closer. Thus, you create a little homestead farm. His idea was to turn the peasants into a nation of small farmers, profit “maximizers”. This would hopefully create middleclass farmers who were no longer interested in radical ideas and thus it would divide them. He wanted to drive a wedge between those peasants who can break out and become profitable, and those who remain behind.

Next lecture we will see what happens with next rounds of Dumas, hopefully look more closely at the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks (if not this time then the following lecture), and see what happens when tensions begin to come ahead in the 2nd decade of the 20th century.


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