Russian Revolution (1905)

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The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included terrorism, worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies. It led to the establishment of limited constitutional monarchy, the State Duma of the Russian Empire, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906.


Pre-Revolution Conditions

Russian Jews were threatened with an ultimatum: convert to Russian Orthodoxy (the state religion), or be expelled from Russia entirely. Catherine the Great created the first Pale of Settlement in 1791 by establishing a region in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited. This Pale would last until the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917. The Emancipation Reform of 1861 officially ended serfdom and "freed" the peasants. Small parcels of land were distributed to the peasants by the State. Due to the community’s ownership of the land, as opposed to the individual’s, an individual peasant could not sell his portion of land in order to work in a factory in the city. A peasant was required to pay off long-term loans received by the government. The money from these loans was given to the primary landowner. The land allotted to the recently freed serfs did not include the best land in the country, which continued to be owned by the nobility. The serfs from private estates were given less land than they needed to survive which led to civil unrest. The redemption tax was so high that the serfs had to sell all the grain they produced to pay the tax, which left nothing for them to survive on.

Simultaneously, the Industrial Revolution swept through Russia. This was supported by a labour force consisting of large masses of miserable peasants who were forced either to abandon their inadequate plots of land permanently, or to look for additional work during winter. As elsewhere, industrial development meant development of the proletarian class. And as elsewhere, this class began to furnish contingents to the revolutionary movement.

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