Economic Causes:

 The combination of a population explosion, backward farming techniques and poor policy making had made for a grave crisis in agriculture.

 A devastating famine in 1891 and 1892 had driven many peasants to the cities in search of employment and food. A formative labor movement began to develop as industrialization took place. From the later 19th century, the Tsars had been keen to see Russia become an industrial power. The senior minister Sergei Witte introduced policies that led to rapid industrial growth. Oil and coal production trebled, while iron production quadrupled. Some peasants left the land to work in these newly developing industries. However, their living conditions hardly improved. By 1900, more than two million industrial workers were concentrated in a few major cities of European Russia. Here the population was growing fast as peasants arrived looking for a new way of life, or simply trying to earn some extra cash before returning for the harvest. Low pay, 12 to 15-hour days, unguarded machinery and brutal discipline soon made the peasants realize that working in the factories was no better than working on the land. This made the urban workforce rebellious.


The Tsar, Nicholas II saw in the possibility of a successful war to divert the discontent of the Russians from his despotic rule. In February 1904, the Tsar chose to fight with Japan.

The Russo-Japanese War was a disaster to the Tsar. The Russian armies suffered a series of defeats in the battlefields because they were ill-equipped, badly-armed and poorly trained. The corruption and the inefficiency of the government were exposed in the conduct of the war. Transportation broke down, bread prices soared up. The Tsarist government was totally discredited in the eyes of the Russian people. In July 1904, shortly after the Russian defeat at the Yalu, the unpopular Minister of the Interior, Plehve, was assassinated by the Social Revolutionary terrorists. As war continued, discontent multiplied.

Political Causes

Opposition to the Tsar:

  The Tsarist government faced opposition from three particular groups. Many middle-class people wanted greater democracy in Russia and pointed out that Britain still had a king but also a powerful parliament. These people were called liberals or “Cadets”.

  Two other groups were more violently opposed to the Tsar. They believed that revolution was the answer to the people’s troubles. The Socialist Revolutionaries were a radical movement. Their main aim was to carve up the huge estates of the nobility and hand them over to the peasants. They believed in a violent struggle and were responsible for the assassination of two government officials, as well as the murder of a large number of police agents and spies. They had wide support in the towns and the country side.

The Social Democratic Party was a smaller but more disciplined party which followed the ideas of Karl Marx. In 1903, the party split itself into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks believed that it was the job of the party to create a revolution whereas the Mensheviks believed Russia was not ready for revolution. Both these organizations were illegal and many of their members had been executed or sent in exile to Siberia. Many of the leading Social Democrat leaders were forced to live abroad.

Join now!

By 1903 the activities of the opposition parties, added to the appalling conditions in the towns and the countryside, led to a wave of strikes, demonstrations and protests, The Tsar’s ministers warned him that Russia was getting close to revolution.

Ideological Causes:



(I) Although the political parties shared the same ultimate goal of overthrowing the existing order--Tsardom, they were divided from one another. The Liberals, the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks and the Social Revolutionaries had different political programmes. In 1905 each political party ...

This is a preview of the whole essay