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‘The Revolution in 1905 was the result not of insufferable conditions but of irreconcilable attitudes’

Immediately it must be said that the ‘insufferable conditions’ in Russia – predominantly the poor living standards of the working class – did also play a significant part in Revolution coming about in 1905, contrary to the implication of the above statement. That said, the ‘irreconcilable attitudes’ of the Tsar and the government also had a large part to play.On Bloody Sunday the Tsar was not present at the Winter Palace to deal with the trouble. While it isn’t possible to tell whether his absence made the eventually, bloody result of the march on the Winter Palace any more or less likely, it is clear that his handling of the situation was poor. He should undoubtedly have been there, in the nerve centre of politics, at a time of such social tension and, furthermore, he only exacerbated the situation after it had happened by having the audacity to forgive the marchers when clearly it was the government who had overreacted to what was a peaceful protest.And Bloody Sunday was not the only occasion when the Tsar called in violence to enforce his will. He consistently used violent repression as a way of holding onto his power, going so far as to use live ammunition against civilians at the smallest sign of trouble. All the while he refused to place any restriction on the increasingly outdated idea of his God given autocratic powers. The liberals and middle class wanted an elected, legislative body in government but this was something Nicholas was unwilling to provide. Any changes he did make were superficial, half hearted in the face of growing expectations, and these two groups were furious at the incompetence of the Tsar and his seeming lack of devotion to the position of leaders of the Russian people. It was well known he preferred to spend all of his time with his family.Nicholas seemed unable to prioritise aspects within his government and was permanently crippled by paranoia and distrust of others amidst the worsening political situation. Fearing others were conspiring against him he attempted to take on a large amount of the government bureaucratic work himself, leaving him bogged down and distracted from the important issues of the time. This may have also contributed to Russia’s poor showing in the war against Japan, but that was mostly due to the ‘superannuated’ nature of Russian military. The term refers to the fact that they were trying to deal with problems of the 20th century with methods better suited to the 18th century. This fact manifested itself in the war with the lack of organisation of the army, the poor quality of the troops, incompetent generals and poor quality, insufficient equipment. The inferiority of the Russian army was highlighted when they had a whole large section of their fleet sunk in a single afternoon. The humiliation of the unprecedented defeat to a Far Eastern power angered the patriotic public and drove them towards revolution.National minorities in Russia continued their opposition to the Russian in the face of sustained ‘Russification’ against them. By the policy, originally from Alexander III, national minorities living in Russia or within her spheres of influences had all aspects of Russian culture forces upon them. They were essentially expected to renounce their own culture in favour of a Russian one in areas such as language, religion, education and law, an idea that was obviously met with great opposition. These people was further angered when, after having hope that Nicholas might end the policy, he simply continued the work of his predecessor.However the poor conditions of everyday life in Russia at this time meant ‘insufferable conditions’ cannot be discounted as a factor.The events of Bloody Sunday also imply that the urban workers had issues with the state of Russia beyond political qualms, as they were marching on the Winter Palace in order to present a petition that they had collected demanding an improvement in their living standards. Urban workers worked long hours for low pay and lived and worked in poor, often dangerous, conditions. They marched peacefully but nonetheless were turned on by soldiers leaving many dead, though the figures for exact numbers of dead vary wildly. To add insult to injury, their petition was rejected by the government.Meanwhile the urban working class, in addition to the rural peasantry, were being affected by the ramifications of the Russo-Japanese war that was being fought at this time. The war was going very badly for Russia and this had a knock on effect on domestic life, especially for the poor. The army was given first option on grain at a time of drought resulting in food shortages. Infrastructure also faced breakdown, worsening the problem of food shortage and freights were trapped by delays as their cargo rotted.These issues built upon existing tensions from the abolition of serfdom where the peasants had been laboured with expensive redemption payments for land they considered theirs. Land was also regularly redistributed, removing the desire to improve land and hence a way for peasants to break out of their redemption debt. People also lived in constant fear of their land being seized from them.All these issues resulted in the emergence of a unified lower class force against the government, especially in the towns, as from 1905 Soviets, essentially very active, unofficial, trade unions that fought for lower class rights, began to appear.Further supporting the fact that the lower class would not join the 1905 Revolution for political reasons related to the so called ‘insufferable attitudes’ of the government is the fact they would have little comprehension of political matters. Information about politics was not widely available to them, especially the rural peasantry, and even if it had been their low literacy rate would have prevented most from understanding it. They instead concentrated on the day to day living of their and it was ultimately when this was affected and living conditions were at an insufferable level that they made a stand against the government.In conclusion it can be said that the two themes of factors mentioned in the statement played a roughly equal part in bringing about the 1905 Revolution. Each of the groups involved in the revolution – the liberals, the middle class and the working class – each had their own agendas with those of the liberals and middle being associated with ‘irreconcilable attitudes’ and those of the working class being linked with ‘insufferable conditions’, though obviously there would have been overlap between the two. Without any of these three groups the Revolution would not have been what it was, particularly the lower class as they gave the anti-government movement the numbers and support it needed to be considered a revolution.

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