Reasons for Revolution: The Czars’ Rule of Russia
In 1894, Nikolas III became the new czar of Russia; he was the grandson of Czar Alexander, who had just died. Russia’s new czar Nikolas stayed true to Russia’s tradition form of rule, which was autocracy (or absolutism), a form of government in which he had total power. Anyone who questioned the absolute authority of the czar, worshiped outside the Russian Orthodox Church, or spoke a language other than Russian was labeled as a threat to society and was to be jailed or killed.
To get rid of any people trying to start a revolution to overthrow him as czar, Nikolas III used harsh measures. He censored all written materials in Russia, from choosing what books would be available in libraries to reading citizens’ private mail. Nikolas had secret police carefully watch high schools and universities to make sure teachers were teaching their students to love the czar and support absolutism. Teachers also had to send detailed reports on every student who said something negative about the czar or seemed different from others. All prisoners were sent to Siberia, which is the northeastern region of Russia covered by snow year-round. There, prisoners worked all day in labor camps called gulags. Their tasks included many laborious jobs and ranged from mining coal to breaking giant rocks into gravel.
Reasons for Revolution: Citizens Upset Over Industrialization
The Industrial Revolution came to Russia much later than Europe. When industrialization finally came to Russia in the 1860’s, it drastically changed Russia’s economy. The number of factories more than doubled between 1863 and 1900, and so did the number of Russians working in those factories. Still, Russia lagged behind the nations of Western Europe in terms of industry and technology, so Russia’s leader, Czar Nicholas, launched a program to move the country forward.
The Czar’s plan was to rapidly increase industrialization in Russia by creating more factories and more mines; this upset the people of Russia. The growth of factories brought new problems, such as torturous working conditions, miserably low wages, and child labor. To try to improve their lives, these unhappy workers organized strikes, which would be shut-down and the strikers would be jailed by the government. As a result, several revolutionary movements began to grow and compete for power. More Russians wanting a revolution followed the ideas of Karl Marx. These “Marxist Revolutionaries” believed that the working class should overthrow the czar. In Russia, the term for the working-class poor was “proletariat”; the proletariats then felt they would rule the country once the czar was out of power.
Reasons for Revolution: Military Losses
Between 1904 and 1917, Russia faced a series of military crises. These events showed that Russia’s leader, Czar Nikolas, was a weak ruler; these losses prepared the way for a revolution in Russia.
In the Russian-Japanese War In the late 1800s, Russia and Japan competed for control of Korea and Manchuria (which is part of China). The two nations signed a series of agreements over the territories,which outlined how Russia and Japan were to share the lands. Shortly after these papers were signed, Russia broke their agreement and tried to take Japan’s territories in China; this caused to Japan retaliate by attacking the Russians in February 1904. The Russian army was no match for the Japanese, and Russia soon lost.
The final blow came in 1914, when Czar Nikolas made the decision to drag Russia into World War I. Russia was unprepared to handle the military and economic costs of this kind of all-out war. Russia had weak generals lacking military strategy, poorly trained troops, and their weapons were no match for the German army. German machine guns mowed down advancing Russians by the thousands, and the Russians faced loss after loss. Before a year had passed, more than 4 million Russian soldiers had been killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. As in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia’s involvement in World War I revealed the weaknesses of the Czar’s ability to rule and his military leadership.
Reasons for Revolution: Bloody Sunday and the Duma
On January 22, 1905, about 200,000 Russian factory workers and their families approached the palace of Russia’s leader, Czar Nikolas. With them, they carried a petition asking for better working conditions, more personal freedom, and a new form of government which would allow citizens to elect certain leaders. The protestors received their answer from the Czar when his generals ordered soldiers to fire gunshots into the crowd. More than 1,000 Russian citizens were wounded and several hundred were murdered. This event went down in Russia’s history as “Bloody Sunday.”
Bloody Sunday caused a wave of strikes and violence that spread across the country. In order to stop the violence, the Czar promised more freedom in 1905. Czar Nikolas approved the creation of the “Duma,” which was Russia’s first parliament. The czar copied the British model of parliament, which is similar to America’s Congress; the Parliament is the branch of government with the most power because it is in charge of passing laws and overseeing elections. Russia’s first Duma (parliament) met in May 1906. Its leaders were elected by citizens, and therefore they represented the people’s wishes. The Duma wanted Russia to change its government from absolutism with a czar, to a democratic government, modeled after Britain’s government. Angered by what the Duma wanted and unwilling to share his power, the czar fired all members of the Duma after ten only weeks, and did not establish another.