There were several reformist groups in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century that helped to fuel the revolution in 1905. Despite attempts to educate the people and introduce policies the political parties were a reactionary movement that were created because of the increased discontent amongst all levels of Russian society. As such they could never be the main cause of revolution, but merely followers in its wake.
Political parties did not get off to the best start, the first group, the Populists failed in their aims to entice the peasantry into revolution. However The People’s Will, a separate arm of their group, was able to assassinate Tsar Alexander II in 1881. This was a huge success as it showed the people that the Tsar could be beaten and that they did have some element of control over their lives. It also encouraged the use of violence to achieve this aim, which would be seen in later 1905. The foundation of the Populists also encouraged the spread of other political parties and by the time the revolution occurred in 1905 two large groups had come to the forefront – the Social Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats. Both groups helped to lead the people towards revolution. The Social Revolutionaries felt that the peasants were the key to revolution and tried to gain support with their Land Policy, while the Social Democrats believed that a proletariat revolution would take place and attempted to educate the workers through periodicals such as Iskra.
However, most of these efforts were in vain. Both groups suffered from a lack of organisation and clear policy which lead to factions and disunity such as the Social Democrats dividing into the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. This meant that they were unable to either produce a strong challenge to the Tsar or provide an adequate leader for the people to follow. Indeed the majority of the revolutionary leaders were in exile at this point and most meetings were held underground in secret. When the revolution did break out in 1905 it caught the reformist groups by surprise and unprepared to lead the people.
By far the main cause of revolution in 1905 was the severe discontent throughout Russia. The assassination of his father meant that Alexander III followed a hard line of repression. Within the countryside the introduction of the Land Captains and the reorganisation of the Zemstvo caused a tidal wave of discontent amongst the peasantry. The barbaric measures used by the Land Captains and the inability to gain a political voice resulted in the peasants taking matters into their own hands. Land Captains were routinely killed or chased from the village and many needed the support of others to enforce their orders. This was merely the fore runner to the revolution where the peasants stepped up to start attacking their landlords and burning their houses.
Similarly the Education Acts deprived the universities of their autonomy causing a great deal of displeasure amongst the intelligentsia. Unable to practice their teaching amongst students these intelligentsia turned to spreading liberal ideas amongst the workers. Likewise the bourgeoisie had been deprived of any meaningful political power, and as they felt they were the best educated and most capable of running the country this did not sit well with them. Throughout 1904 a series of banquets were held around Russia to discuss liberal ideas and how best to bring about revolution. Many of the bourgeoisie also became the leaders of the political parties, hoping that a revolution would give them the political influence they were owed.
Finally the reforms of Sergei Witte encouraged massive industrial…