CLIO mr brice - page 40

The first shots were fired by
inexperienced guards in a state of
panic, and from there on the event
deteriorated. To demonstrate how
drastic the realisation that the Tsar
was not on their side was, as the
first forty or so people were shot
dead, father Gapon – an orthodox
priest - is supposed to have cried
“there is no God anymore! There is
no Tsar!” Elsewhere, Cossack cavalry
broke the protests up, with sabres
and horses alike used to trample
on, and kill, the protesters. One
eye-witness claimed “I saw the men,
women and children dropping to
the floor like logs of wood.” As
demonstrated perfectly by this tiny
piece of Russian history, there was
clearly something majorly wrong
with the government at the time.
But what caused this magnitude of
social unrest?
The main cause for the 1905
rebellion was, simply, the
autocracy's failure to satisfy the
people of the Russian empire. After
nearly 300 years of the Romanov
dynasty, by 1917 Nicholas II
became the last Tsar Russia would
ever see. Tsarist Russia was hugely
oppressive towards their own
citizens, with elements such as the
secret police (Okhrana) and the
infiltration of the Orthodox church
(in which uneducated peasants
attending church were practically
brainwashed into believing the Tsar
was appointed by God) in place to
prevent the autocracy from falling.
While the rest of the western world
had (for the most part) set up a
democratic government, the Russian
empire was way behind its time; it
was still essentially a dictatorship -
there was no constitutional or legal
way to challenge the government
and the Tsar did not need anyone
else's permission to enforce laws
or regimes. There had been little
change to the agricultural system
since the middle ages and there
was very little industry. Huge
proportions of the population were
illiterate, and both housing and food
were scarce. On top of this, until
1916, Russia had no form of income
tax, meaning the money used to
support the tsarist regime came
from the taxation of the produce of
peasant farmers.
Viewed by the
rest of Western
Europe as a both
socially and
economically
backwards,
tsarist Russia was
not a pleasant
place to live.
On top of
the famine,
homelessness
and illiteracy was
also plaguing
Russia at the
time. The Russo-
Japanese war
proved another
trigger for the
revolution
of 1905. On
February 8th
the Japanese
army launched a surprise attack on
the Russian fleet at Port Arthur,
in response to in-tell informing
them of the Tsar's plans to seize
Manchuria. The Russian navy
fought two major battles in order
to try and regain control of Port
Arthur. In both cases (Liao-Yang
and Sha Ho) the Russians suffered
significant defeats and were forced
to withdraw. On 2nd January 1905,
the Japanese captured Port Arthur,
a disaster for both the Russian
economy and pride. It caused the
scarcity of goods and the rise in
prices of everyday objects which the
majority of people couldn't afford
anyway. This was, essentially, the
final straw.
Russia's disastrous performance in
the Russo-Japanese war coupled
with agricultural stagnation, class
divisions and decades of oppression
contributed to deep dissatisfaction
with the Romanov autocracy and
triggered the first waves of social
unrest.
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