Russian Revolution

The 1905 Russian revolution was not a ‘dress rehearsal’ as Lenin would put it, but rather an indication of popular belief and attitudes of the people towards Tsar Nicholas II’s autocratic regime and of what was to come if current trends in the government continued. Furthermore, it is difficult to argue that the events of 1905 were in fact an actual full-scale revolution. A revolution by definition is one which at the very least, is aimed at effectively overthrowing a former government and introducing a new administration. The events of 1905 weren’t aimed (in the long run) at overthrowing Tsar Nicholas II – its purpose was to achieve government concessions. In comparison to the actual revolution of 1917 which ousted the Tsarist regime, the events of 1905 were merely a large scale national riot in reaction to the government with events such as Bloody Sunday as the trigger for riots.

One of the central reasons that the events of 1905 does not deserve the same status as that of 1917, for one, was that national unity in support for the government in 1905 was scarce, and secondly, the armed forces didn’t support the action. The events pf 1905 occurred in a society whose revolutionary groups were divided from one another, were deprived of focus, incapable of common action[1], and weren’t ready to complete a full scale revolution. Those attacking at the government ranged from Leninists to land owners – the former seeking to seize land for the peasants, the latter hoping to save their land from the peasants. This leads to confusion, a lack of clarity and unity, and in some cases, conflict as many of the groups had quite different and incompatible methods, desires, and remedies to each-other[2]. To top this off, none of the strikers had the materials or organizational resources in terms of armaments (or anything else for that matter) to sustain a full scale uprising[3], which demonstrates the events of 1905 were mealy a strike action, and not a revolutionary movement – little lone the ‘practice run’ for one. This was intensified by the fact that the armed forces weren’t aligned with the revolutionaries but still with the government fighting a war against the Japanese. In a comparison between 1905 and 1917 there is a demonstration that this isolation of the soldiers and sailors (from the revolutionaries) - partly due to the Russo-Japanese war[4] - had a huge impact on the way the actions in both years turned out. Events such as World War I with particular reference to the inadequate preparation and armament of Russian troops as one in three soldiers had a rifle, and most didn’t have a second shoe and were fighting bare-foot[5]. This was all brought to an apex when in 1916, the Tsar declared himself the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, thereby allowing all the blame of the war to be put onto him, had huge impacts on Russian military perceptions of the Tsar. This particular event amongst others gave the soldiers reason to not only blame the Tsar for these problems, but also to oppose him in revolutionary movements which allowed the action of 1917 to be unified and coordinated enough to overthrow the autocratic regime. This was not the case in 1905 as the soldiers fighting against the Japanese were still loyal to the Tsar. Even those still in Russia supported the autocratic regime in putting down the revolutionaries[6]. This particular point highlights the vast differences between the two ‘revolutions’ in terms of unity, and preparation for an actual overturn of government.

The proposition put forward by Lenin that the revolution was mealy a ‘dress rehearsal’ creates the illusion that this particular event was planned to occur (as a revolution), however was only meant to be a practice run preparing the people for what Lenin saw as the ‘real thing’, and furthermore, was not meant to fully overthrow the government, but to weaken it in anticipation for ‘what was to come’. This proposition is weak as Lenin (little-lone anyone else) had no idea when the revolution would occur, and only believed that there was going to be one. For all he knew, the 1905 revolution was the real event. It was after the event looking back in hindsight