‘What is going to happen to me? I am not prepared to be Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling; I have no idea of even how to talk to ministers.’ This was a quote from Nicholas II when he was in private discussing his recent coronation. One of the most significant causes of the Russian revolution was Nicholas II. As proven by the quote it was clear that Nicholas was reluctant to become Tsar. He was not a strong character and was ignorant of the nature and extent of the opposition. Within ten years he had already involved Russia in the Russo Japanese war. His father Alexander II had managed to last all of his reign without a war, obviously Nicholas had different ideas. Nicholas ‘often kept to himself and agreed with everyone’. He never used the council of ministers he had available to him; and if he did he just agreed with every one of their suggestions as he was too scared to disagree with them. Nicholas also claimed after his coronation that the ideology that the Zemstva will be called upon to participate in the government of the country was a senseless dream. This angered a huge number of people in Russia. For many the Zemstva was the only way for their issues to be heard never mind the slight possibility of them being addressed. Before his father was assassinated he was planning many reforms to introduce a parliamentary system to Russia and so naturally it seemed that Nicholas would also pursue this idea. No, ‘I want everyone to know that I will devote all of my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of autocracy.’ This once again enraged the majority of the population, they had seen the problems autocracy had caused and were hoping that Nicholas would notice this as well. Many Russians began to doubt the current political system and wonder if they would benefit without a Tsar. However, some key left wing figures including Trotsky believed that in some ways it was not Nicholas’ fault and that ‘Nicholas inherited from his ancestors not only a giant empire, but also a revolution. And they did not bequeath him one quality which would have made him capable of governing and empire….. Or even a country.’ It is clear that Nicholas II rule of even lack of rule compelled many Russians to take matters into their own hands; although some people believed that the revolution was imminent regardless of the ruler it does not redirect attention from the poor decisions made by Nicholas and the disregard for this people.
Another important factor which caused the 1905 Revolution is The Great famine of 1891and subsequent famines in 1898 and 1901. In the Volga region in 1891 the winter frosts arrived very early, then the crops where further damaged by the dusty winds in early spring and a very dry long summer which began in April. In 1891 each peasant only managed to salvage 0.1 pud (1.6kg) compared to a normal of 15 pud (240kg) of rye. By autumn, 17 provinces were threatened by the famine which equated to around 36 million people. Almost inevitably a cholera and typhus epidemic struck killing half a million people by the end of 1892. The government was far too slow to export the necessary supplies and the transport system failed to cope. The government was also reluctant to send out food until they had ‘statistical proof’ that the province had no other means of food; but by then it was often too late. The public began to blame a government conspiracy. However, on the 17th of November the government issued an imperial order calling all voluntary organisations to help with famine relief. People set up canteens and health centres. Sergei Semenov a peasant quotes that Tolstoy a writer who gave up his profession to help people was ‘disturbed by the well-furnished and well-kept estates and mansions’. The people realised that they could make an impact and that the government needed them. This resulted in small sparks of communism and even the young Lenin was converted to Marxism because of the horrific events. Lydia Dan believed ‘Russia was the brink of something’. Russian population was growing rapidly from 98 million in 1885 to 125 million by 1905. This resulted in the individual peasant land holdings falling in size; with further famines to follow by 1905 the countryside seemed on the verge of revolution. As shown, the famine was extremely important as it gave the people a sense of power and was the first time communist ideas began to crop up in Russia, for example, the formation of the Socialist Revolutionary party. Although the government did eventually manage to solve the problem by the time they did many had already died. This therefore made the famine slightly more significant than the Russo Japanese war as it was the first hint of revolution and not only angering the population but showing them that in desperate times of need to government is nothing without them.
Furthermore, one of the most influential factors of the revolution was Bloody Sunday. The march was led by Father George Gapon. The march was caused by many peoples discontent at the fall of Port Arthur. It took place in St Petersburg and the aim was to make sure the Tsar saw a petition signed by thousands requesting reform. The marchers got all the way to the winter place before they were fired upon by Nichols’ troops. The march comprised of peaceful families signing hymns and the national anthem. The horrendous massacre caused sympathy strikes to break out across the empire mostly in non-Russian parts of the empire. This small movement resulted in a variety of consequences. Firstly, Grand Duke Sergei was assassinated. This was followed by the Potemkin mutiny. The Potemkin was a Russian battleship and it was the first time the army had rebelled against the Tsar. The crew killed the officers, cruised around the Black Sea and bombarded Odessa before seeking asylum in Romania. The strikes across Russia rose from 400,000 to 2,700,000 just in 1905. By the 20th of September a general strike took place. A striker workers council also developed called the Soviets they represented 400 workers from 96 factories. Unfortunately it came to an end in early December when the government arrested the leaders of the soviet. The strikes resulted in the whole country being paralysed including the Trans-Siberian railway which meant that the Tsar had no way of moving the troops around to contain the strikers. An armed uprising occurred in Moscow on December the 7th and several thousand workers were involved. Yet, they surrendered on 18th of December as the city was destroyed and civilian casualties in the thousands. As we can see, Bloody Sunday was extremely key to the 1905 revolution and can be referred to as the spark that lit the fire. The people finally realised that they could make an impact as shown during the Great Famine. Although the government did manage to extinguish the opposition the people had made enough of an impact for the Tsar to rethink many previously disregarded ideas; and so overall it was a success and more significant than the Russo Japanese war.
In conclusion both the Great Famine and Nicholas’ suitability for the role of Tsar were very significant in the grand scheme. Along with these the Russo Japanese war was also essential in sparking Bloody Sunday which ultimately was the main cause for the 1905 Russian Revolution. The war was not the most significant factor as although it showed Russia’s weakness it did not directly cause the Revolution, however, Bloody Sunday did do this as it proved to the people that they could stand up against the government. Although both Nicholas II and the Famine were influential they both contributed to the mentality of the people and not directly the revolution. Overall it was a combination of factors which led to the uprising and Bloody Sunday was the last of these consequently lit the fire.