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Why Did the 1905 Russian Revolution Fail

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Submitted By lydiagdavies
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‘What 1905 showed was that as long as the Tsarist government kept its nerve and the army remained loyal, the forces of protest would find it very difficult to mount a serious challenge.’ –p.39 Reaction and Revolution.

The failure of the revolution in 1905 was caused by many different contributing factors, however the key reason for the failure, was the success of state authority in retaining control. If the Tsarist state had collapsed, as in 1917, the revolution would have inevitably been successful.

A revolution means to forcibly overthrow a government or social order, for a new system. However, this simply cannot be possible if the state authority (controlled by the government) does not collapse. The survival of state authority was fundamentally the reason for the failure of the 1905 revolution. Trotsky once said “although with a few broken ribs, (the Tsarist system) had come out of the experience of 1905 alive and strong enough." This quote shows that although the revolt unsettled the government and was the biggest indication of the lack of support for the regime, it wasn’t actually strong enough to break it.

In 1905, the armed forces hadn’t yet become sufficiently disillusioned by the Tsarist regime in the same way that many peasants and working class had. The army stayed loyal to the Tsar, crushing revolutionary disturbances and arresting thousands of revolutionaries. The Black Hundreds, a counter revolutionary pro-government terrorist group also helped the military to hunt down and ‘execute’ thousands of known reformers.

Apart from the Tsarist system remaining strong, there was also a problem with the revolution itself. The revolt lacked any central coordination. The spontaneity of the revolutionary outbreaks meant that the armed forces, the police and the Black Hundreds could suppress them one by one.

Not only was there the problem of control. The revolt lacked was direction. The revolutionaries had many different aims. For example, the liberals wanted to share power with the Tsar. The social revolutionaries wanted peasant ownership of land. The social democrats, who were divided between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, wanted to completely change society and remove the Tsar. This meant that often, different radical parties would fight amongst themselves as much as they did whilst opposing the government.

As well as the unorganised nature of the revolt, another reason for its failure was the ease with which the government managed to appease the revolutionaries. For example, the Tsar promised to set up a constitutional government, a range of civil rights, including freedom of speech, assembly and worship and the legalising of trade unions, which many liberals in particular saw as enough of a success to abort the revolution.

This meant that through a combination of concession and repression the Tsarist’s government could easily control the revolution.

The Russian defeat in the Russio-Japanese war was also a reason for its failure, although it too was a cause of the revolution. It was a failure on one hand because of how quickly it was over. Had it continued, it had the potential to fuel an even bigger, more organised revolt.

So through a policy of concession and repression, state authority and divided opposition the 1905 revolution failed.…...

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