The Russian Revolution of 1905, The October Manifesto, and The Fundamental Laws of 1906

Updated on September 29, 2013

Bloody Sunday: The Start of the Revolution of 1905

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Father Gapon

Father Gapon led the revolutionaries in an attempt to peacefully bring their demands to the tsar.
Father Gapon led the revolutionaries in an attempt to peacefully bring their demands to the tsar. | Source

The Beginnings of the Revolution

The Russian Revolution of 1905 began on January 9, 1905 with the massacre in St. Petersburg, where troops fired on a peaceful crowd attempting to bring petitions for change to the Tsar. This day has been named Bloody Sunday.[1] The crowd was led by Father George Gapon who formalized the demands of the revolutionaries to present them to Tsar Nicholas II. While Father Gapon was working with the radicals he became sympathetic to their cause and was the main author of “A Most Humble and Loyal Address,” the document to be given to Tsar Nicholas II.[2] Father Gapon outlined the feelings and the goals of the radicals. The radicals expressed a total of seventeen demands, mainly focused on civic freedom and personal rights, labor conditions, and representation of the people in the government. Some months later, The October Manifesto was written and issued in an attempt to quell the uprisings that erupted as a result of Bloody Sunday. The October Manifesto, written in 1905, was later solidified into the Fundamental Laws of 1906. Many of the demands of the revolutionaries were either met by The October Manifesto and later solidified by the Fundamental Laws of 1906 or gave legal routes for the civic freedom and personal rights, improving labor condition, and governmental representation demands to be met, however, in practice these new found rights were often not guaranteed.


                [1]  Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 33.
                [2] Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995), 38.

The October Manifesto

Tsar Nicholas II issued the October Manifesto in 1905 in an attempt to meet the demands of the revolutionaries.
Tsar Nicholas II issued the October Manifesto in 1905 in an attempt to meet the demands of the revolutionaries. | Source

Demands Met by the October Manifesto

Some of the radicals’ demands were met by The October Manifesto, the declaration from Tsar Nicholas II given in response to the demands of the 1905 revolutionaries. Civic freedom and personal rights demands were addressed as the October Manifesto granted “real personal inviolability,” or freedom from harm or trespass. It also promised “freedom of conscience,” or freedom to think and feel. One of the radicals’ main issues, as expressed by Father Gapon, was a lack of free speech, which was used by employers and managers to accuse workers of illegal action when simply airing labor concerns. The October Manifesto granted freedom of speech to rectify this problem. It also granted freedom of assembly and freedom of association that allowed the people to form political parties and unions to express their concerns on their behalf. The October Manifesto met some of the radicals’ demands for representation in the government because it granted universal suffrage during Duma elections and opened participation in the Duma to all classes. Within the October Manifesto, Nicholas II also gave the Duma the power to veto laws. Finally, it gave the elected representatives the ability to participate in determining the legality of appointed officials’ and authorities’ actions.[1]

Although labor conditions such as limiting overtime, the length of the work day, and wages were not expressly mentioned in The October Manifesto, the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association would have allowed workers to form groups to address those concerns on a smaller level. Similarly, the establishment of the Duma could have potentially addressed the taxation, governmental spending, war, and education concerns expressed by the radicals. Other concerns, however, were not addressed at all. The radicals brought up religious concerns such as the separation of church and state and freedom of worship that were completely ignored in The October Manifesto.


                [1] Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, “The October Manifesto,” October 17/30, 1905.; Father George Gapon, “Gapon’s Petition: A Most Humble and Loyal Address,” January, 1905.

The Third Duma

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The Fundamental Laws of 1906: Solidifying the Promises of the October Manifesto

The Fundamental Laws of 1906 solidified the promises made in the October Manifesto and was, says Fitzpatrick, “the closest Russia came to a constitution.” The radicals’ demands met by the October Manifesto in 1905 were formed into concrete law. However, Tsar Nicholas II made it clear that Russia was still to be considered an autocracy, however just one that happened to have an elected parliament.[1] Parliament was divided into two chambers. The upper chamber, the State Council, was made up of public body representatives and appointees such as church officials and noblemen. The lower chamber, the State Duma, consisted of elected officials. The State Duma served five year terms and could be dissolved at any time by the Tsar. The possible dissolution of parliament and Article 87, which stated that when parliament was not in session the Tsar could rule by decree, left Russia still semi-autocratic. The Tsar also maintained the right to declare both war and peace, ignoring the radicals’ demand for the people to hold this power.[2] Both chambers passed a budget giving them control over money and taxes. Also to pass legislation, a bill needed to be signed by the Tsar and both the chambers. The Fundamental Law officially legalized political parties and trade unions through freedom of assembly and freedom of association. However, in practice the trade unions were put down by the police, the Duma only had limited powers, and there was little change within the police regime despite the Duma’s ability to publicly question ministers.[3] Due process was suspended in tumultuous areas and the Tsar reserved the right to rule by martial law and suspend freedoms in those areas as well.[4] As an expression of the freedom of speech guarantee, censorship was abolished.[5] The tsar and his advisors hoped that by officializing the promises of the October Manifesto the radicals’ would be satisfied and the uprisings would come to a halt.


                [1] Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 35.
                [2] Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995), 46.
                [3] Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995), 45-46.; Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 35.
                [4] Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995), 46.; Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 35.
                [5] Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995),46.

Conclusions

Although the Fundamental Law did not meet all of the demands of the radicals of the 1905 revolution, it did solidify the promises made in The October Manifesto. Representation in the government through the Duma and the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association made it possible for the people to move toward their goals personal rights and improved labor conditions, even if they were not granted directly by either The October Manifesto or the Fundamental Law. For Russia, these concessions to the revolutionaries were important steps towards democracy. However, they may have just made the people want even more after receiving a taste of what they could get.

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    • profile image

      Wow123 

      3 years ago

      All other sources state Bloody Sunday as being on the 22nd?

    • CHRIS57 profile image

      CHRIS57 

      4 years ago from Northern Germany

      Great hub. I very much agree with the expression that "the Fundamental Laws were the closest Russia came to a constitution."

      Well - close to, but still no real constitution. And with this the seed was planted for the events some 12 years later. Please allow me to add a little story:

      Some months ago i was at a remote place somewhere in Russia for business. An article in Russian tabloid newspaper "Komsomolskaja Pravda" had attracted my attention. The article was about comparing the economic situation of today with that of Russia 100 years ago. The author came to the conclusion that in 1913 the overall economic condition of Russia was better than in 2013, with one little stain on the picture. Because Russian economy was humming along before WWI, it attracted a lot investment from western countries. But and because at that time in the west (Europe) already some change in social attitude had taken place. From the social security laws of Bismarck to health insurance in France, there was no more brute force capitalism in the West. The East however, Russia still offered total freedom and use of ellbows to investors, leading to an ugly type of capitalism.

      So, the incomplete constitution of 1906 and following ellbow capitalism caused, what we all know: October revolution, Leninism, Stalinism, the whole 70 years long show.

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