The 1905 revolution was the first time when Nicholas II was publicly challenged. There were a number of reasons why this revolution transpired including the impact of the Russo-Japanese war and the disastrous outcome of Bloody Sunday. Whilst these reasons contributed to the occurrence of the 1905 revolution, it was the economic and social problems faced by Russia which was the most important.
The long term economic and social problems in Russia were the most fundamental factor for the 1905 revolution. In agriculture, peasants had to pay heavy taxes as well as mortgage repayments on the land they own. To make matters worse, they faced poor harvest in the years 1900 and 1902 which led to starvation, disease and further social unrest. Together the peasants made up 82% of the population and due to their issues, they were certain to start a revolution to improve their situation. In industry, the economic slump in 1902 caused mass numbers of unemployment. Peasants who had left their land to work in factories, due to higher wages, turned out worse than before becoming workers. As a consequence, thousands of unemployed workers faced serious social unrest and their hope of a better life was shattered. Additionally, the workers who were unaffected by the slump were forced to work under poor conditions and faced high taxes. For that reason the economic and social problems raised the urgency for radical change. Since the Tsar was unwilling to compromise his power to resolve these issues, there was an increase in tension. This reason was the most important because the reason by itself would eventually cause a revolution. In addition to this, the revolution was a reaction to an industrial recession and bad harvest.
As well as humiliating Russia, the impact of the Russo-Japanese War worsened the country’s social and economic problems which together led to the 1905 revolution. The main cause of the war was Russia and Japan’s desire to dominate Korea and Manchuria. Russia’s defeat in the war humiliated the country and the Tsar because he thought that by winning the war, he could distract the people from the problems they face at home. Additionally, it highlighted the weaknesses of the military since the main cause of their defeat was the lack of proper organisation which enabled the Japanese army to outmanoeuvre them. As a result of the defeat, the people were humiliated and ashamed to be Russian due to the fact that they were beaten by a small and weak nation. Also, the war caused shortages of resources including food in Russia. Therefore, the Russo-Japanese war exposed the Tsar’s incompetence which led to an increase in opposition. However, it was not the main reason for the 1905 revolution because the majority of the defeats in the war transpired after the event started. As a result, this reason couldn’t be possibly be the main cause of the revolution. Therefore, the Russo-Japanese war only acted as a catalyst in the 1905 revolution rather than a trigger.
Although the Russo-Japanese War was a catalyst, it was the