Although the growth of reformist groups from 1881 is a cause of the 1905 revolution because it signifies the growth of opposition against the Tsar, there are also other factors which caused the 1905 revolution. The recent defeat of the Russo-Japanese War was a significant short term effect, as were the long term social and economic situations of Russia at that time. On balance, one could argue that these had a more influential effect on causing the 1905 revolution, as the reformist groups were not technically involved in the revolution, so their impact would have been limited.
Reformist groups had been growing, even since before 1881. With the idea of the Populist party having existed for a long time in Russia, it was properly founded in the mid 19th century, before the terrorist wing called the People’s Will being founded in 1879. This had growing support from 1879, resulting in the successful assassination of Alexander II in 1881. This subsequently lost some support for the movement, as it meant the exchange of the ‘Tsar Liberator’ for Alexander III, who was far more repressive. His repressive reign was successful in limiting the growth of reformist groups, as the Okhrana infiltrated reformist groups and the Statute of State Security was set up in 1881 to make government controlled courts to try political opponents, where suspects were put on trial without jury and normally executed or exiled to Siberia. Nicholas II’s reign from 1894 was really what caused reformist groups to grow. As many people could see that he was a weak character, and not suited to running a country with so many problems, such as Russia there was much opposition to him. The Populist movement eventually changed in to the Social Revolutionaries under Chenov in 1901, calling for the workers and peasant to have more power, as they believed that the future of Russia lay in the hands of ‘the people’. Other reformist groups included the Social Democrats (1898) who believed in the ideas of Karl Marx, that the proletariat would overthrow capitalism and the Liberals, who supported moderate reform.
Obviously, the growth of reformist groups did cause the 1905 revolution, as it signified the growth of general opposition, however one could argue that this did not specifically cause the 1905 revolution. The revolution itself was spontaneous and carried out by workers who gradually joined until their numbers reached 400,000 in February 1905. At the time, the majority of the members of the reformist groups were in exile, and were surprised by the uprising so were not involved. This demonstrates how their role in causing the 1905 revolution was limited. Furthermore, it wasn’t until after the 1905 revolution that political opposition and political freedom of speech was legalised, under the dumas. This means that although the growth of the reformist groups may have seemed significant in terms of opposing the Tsar, their ability to influence the public’s thoughts in order to continue growing and properly challenge the Tsar was limited, so I do not believe that the growth of reformist groups was the main cause of the 1905 revolution.
More likely to frustrate the workers who were involved in the 1905 revolution were the hardships that they were faced with. Despite the reforms by Bunge and Vyshnegradsky aimed to appease peasants, such as the establishment of the Peasant Land Bank in 1893 to offer cheap loans for peasant to buy land, peasants were still suffering, due to causes beyond the government’s control. Rapid population growth from 98 million in 1885 to 125 million by 1905 meant that there were more people to feed. The Peasant Land Bank was successful in that it allowed some peasants to expand their land, therefore becoming more productive and producing more food, but this success was totally dependent on good harvests. In 1891, 1892 and…