History 11

The Russian Revolution

(1905 and 1917)


The 1905 Russian Revolution describes the wave of political terrorism, strikes, and peasant unrests that swept through vast areas of the Russian Empire, leading to the establishment of the State Duma and the Russian Constitution of 1906.


At the beginning of 1917, Russia was once again on the doorstep of a revolution.

Even though the cities were growing rapidly and jobs were being created, the peasants were struggling. A new middle class was on the rise and people were becoming transformed by a commercial culture (people were becoming more materialistic).

Absolute monarchist, Nicholas II, did not take the necessary steps to reform the government, despite advice from other world leaders. The people saw the monarchy as being corrupt, inefficient and out of touch with the needs and aspirations of the common man. Even though some advancement had been made, Russia was still far behind the rest of Europe in industry and farming, leading to extreme poverty. Inflation and food shortages were also affecting Russia’s citizens.

Between 1890 and 1910, the capital city of Saint Petersburg grew by almost one million people; this led to overcrowding. The influx of people also made it easier for workers to protest their unsafe and unsuitable conditions. Many strikes and protests took place by Russian workers.


In 1917, the absolute monarchy of Czar Nicholas II was overthrown and replaced with a provisional government during the February Revolution.


Later that year, the provisional government in Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg) was overthrown by the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, during the October Revolution. Lenin was highly influenced by the communist philosophies of Karl Marx.

Vladimir Lenin

Communism: the belief in government ownership of land, businesses, and industries.  It is the opposite of capitalism or private enterprise.  Communism is based upon the philosophy of Karl Marx, who believed in the concept of a ‘classless society’.




1.    The Russo-Japanese War (1904-05)

-Russia lost this war to Japan in 1905.  This win for Japan signified the first time Japan had overtaken a major world power.

-it was a conflict that grew out of the rival imperialist ambitions of the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over Manchuria and Korea.

-The Russians were in constant pursuit of a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean, for their navy as well as for maritime trade. Port Arthur was a valuable port that would be operational all year.

-The resulting campaigns, in which the competent Japanese military consistently attained victory over the Russian forces that were against them, were unexpected by world observers. These victories, as time transpired, would dramatically transform the balance of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan's recent entry onto the world stage. The embarrassing string of defeats increased the Russian citizen’s dissatisfaction with the inefficient and corrupt Tsarist government and proved a major cause of the Russian Revolution of 1905.


Japanese ukiyoe woodblock print of the night attack on Port Arthur.

2.    Bloody Sunday ~ Sunday, January 22, 1905

-After years of economic hardship amongst peasants, Bloody Sunday occurred.  Japan had just defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, and relations were obviously strained. 

Russian troops fired on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, killing several hundred and wounding many others.  This led to further unrest and forced Czar Nicholas II to form the Duma (parliament).  This had little influence over the policies of the Czar.   


3.    World War I

-The poor economic conditions of 1914-1918 caused the Russian soldiers to be treated very poorly.  They were not equipped for battle, and often had to fight even though they were starving. Continued unrest and tremendous Russian losses during WW I forced Russia to make a separate peace with Germany.




-Civil War erupted in 1918.

-between the ‘Reds’ and the ‘Whites’

-raged for several years, but ultimately the Bolsheviks were victorious.

-It became the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in 1922 until 1991.