How far was the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, responsible for the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution? The Russo- Japanese War, although an important rationale for the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution , was caused by many other problems which made a foundation for the War as well as the Revolution. Due to the War the economy suffered, adding on to the problems that Russia was already facing from a lack of preceding modernization, making this very important as the majority were affected causing them to revolt.
Furthermore, Russia lost against Japan in the War portraying the Tsar as weaker compared to how he was already viewed by the population, making this another very important factor as the Russians felt they needed a stronger leader and in distress turned to extremist political parties. In addition another important factor is, the extremist parties in particular, felt that the autocratic rule of the Tsar was causing Russia to suffer, seeing that the people were not being heard resulting in them gaining extremist views and rebel.
The Russo- Japanese War was a short term factor, which was only partly responsible for the outbreak of the Revolution. The Russian military lost miserably to the Japanese and this was a huge blow to the Russians as due to censorship, they had always conceived the Japanese to be inferior and weaker, making them certain that they would win. The defeat was seen as national humiliation, helping to cause unrest towards the Government and making the Tsar look weak, giving encouragement to the revolutionaries.
In addition the overall cost of the War was very high, meaning that the already suffering Russian economy was plummeted further into trouble resulting in the tarnishing of the state finances made by Witte. However, it mainly helped to prolong the Revolution as many of the events of the war took place after the Revolution had begun. Long before the Russo-Japanese War had begun, Russia was still facing Economic turbulences and this is one of the main contributors to the outbreak of the Revolution.
A revolt by the Peasants who were discontent due to only small individual plots for each family being distributed and bad harvests meant that there was massive industrial growth, resulting in an economy boom and building expectations of a better life for peasants . An industrial ‘slump’ caused social discontent of economic misfortune as Russian peasants and workers forced the uncertainty of poverty and poor living conditions. This caused major resentment to the Tsar both in industry and agriculture with his social and economic regime.
In addition, due to Russia being backwards, even under Witte the Russian economy had failed to reach or exceed the output in production of goods as the other Great Powers although being the largest continuous land Empire. The low production in goods meant that Russia’s trade also suffered. The overall state of the economy meant many problems which were causing much unrest such as poor living conditions were left unresolved and the resentment towards the Tsar continued to grow. Russia was under autocratic rule and this is also one of the main contributors to the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution.
Autocratic rule was disliked by many as many people believed that under the Autocratic rule Russia was suffering and there needed to be a change in the way the country was led in order for the country to progress. This caused many political groups to gain extremist views. The extremist groups such as the Social Revolutionaries became very popular as they wanted to give political power to the peasants, who made up 80% of the total population and solving their problems would mean that the whole of Russia would benefit greatly.
This shows that the groups were becoming more organized and strategic in the way they worked as they were targeting the biggest problems, in addition in order to gain publicity and get their message and views across, political groups were responsible for over 2000 assassinations which included the Interior Minister, Plehve and the Tsars Uncle, Grand Duke Sergei, the Governor of Moscow.
Furthermore, the demand for political reform continued growing as just like the Russian economy, Russian politics was also backwards and unlike other European states, Russia had elected bodies being the Zemstva, instead of an elected national parliament. This meant that the Russian population had no say in how the country was run which angered many and in turn meant that they supported extremist political groups in an attempt to force political change. Alexander ii’s reforms were also partly responsible for the outbreak of the War.
Although the Emancipation of Serfs Act was passed in 1861,the peasants were still not completely free as they could not leave their villages without permission from the elders. The fact that they also had to pay redemption payments for 49 years added to their animosity towards the Tsar. In addition, landowners had to sell their land to the Government, meaning that they were in great debt and like the peasants their resentment towards the Tsar continued to grow. Due to Russia’s economical state many of these problems continued to grow as did the resentment.
The weaknesses of Nicholas ii, although not as important as the other factors such as economic and political, also influenced the outbreak of the Revolution. As Russia was under autocratic rule, the majority needed to be under his control. This was very hard for Nicholas as he was very shy and timid, not qualities the Russians admired in their leader. His image was also affected by events such as the Russo-Japanese War as the result meant that Russia’s pride was damaged. Bloody Sunday also affected how he was viewed by his Country as he had been accused on turning against his own people.
It was also said that he had no political knowledge, which many people blamed for Russia’s turbulences. Therefore people saw him unfit to rule. Bloody Sunday was only minutely responsible for the outbreak of the Revolution as it was merely a spark. Although it was only a short term cause it had a damaging effects that angered many. Although the Tsar was not present at the time it still harmed his popularity as he was no longer the ‘Little Father’ who was on their side and would listen to them if they petitioned.
He had destroyed the trust causing them to revolt. In conclusion, the Russo- Japanese War, although important as it highlighted and added to many of the issues already present in Russia, was merely a factor that prolonged the Revolution. The most important factors were the Economical and Political, as they showed Russia’s latent issues whereas the War made people more aware. The Russo- Japanese War itself was a problem that helped merely to prolong a revolution that would have occurred even without it.