So I did some more research online and read a bit more of what Freeze had to say about the people’s representation after Nicholas left power. Almost immediately after Tsar Nicholas abdicated in 1917, a provisional government was set up in Russia. Freeze writes that through the new provisional government, democracy and self government spread to every level on the basis of universal suffrage, “down to the township level” (Freeze, 277). Wikipedia quoted a book titled “Interlude: The Russian Provisional Government 1917.” The quote refers to this time in Russian history and claims it was “the only time in modern Russian history when the Russian people were able to play a significant part in the shaping of their destinies.” From the little extra reading and research I did, I’d say that the people had better representation with the provisional government than with Tsar Nicholas II. However, history is confusing and contains many different accounts and perspectives, and many things must be taken with a grain of salt. The provisional government eventually came to an end due to making a decision that elicited another mass demonstration of angry protestors (concerning the war, more on pg 280 of Freeze), and obviously wasn’t a clear representation of what the people wanted. Despite this, and with the thought that many representative governments elicit mass demonstrations from their people, I still hold to what I mentioned above, saying that the people had better representation with the provisional government, than with Nicholas II.
The context for the quote is that Lenin looked upon Father Gapon as an important figure, but not one that deliberately advanced the Revolution. I think he said it because Gapon’s organization was sanctioned and assisted by the police, and Lenin believed that the government permitted them to protest in order to make a spectacle out of shutting the protest down in order to discourage the revolution. So in that sense, Father Gapon unknowingly led the petitioners into a massacre, which unexpectedly ignited protests across Russia. I think by “unconscious instrument,” Lenin meant that Gapon was not seeking a revolution, but his actions played a key part in the Revolution of 1905.
After submitting this comment I was reminded of the images I saw from Ukraine during the unrest they experienced in our lifetimes. Here, as in 1905, the Orthodox clergy are at the forefront of the upheaval and seem to play a very crucial role in inspiring people to action.
After reading your post, I was fascinated by the figure of Father Gapon and wish I had researched and done my post on him and the influence he had on the Russian revolutionary spirit. Very interesting historical figure and certainly one who is inspiring in a very real and apolitical way. He wasn’t seeking political power, simply saw injustice and did what he could for Russia and the Russian people.
Great explanation of the events surrounding the 1905 Revolution.The revolutions that took place in Russia (not just the 1905 one) also made a great impression on future Soviet/Post-Communist leaders in the soviet-bloc states after World War II. Revolutions that came from bottom-up movements started by activists, unions, and political parties not within government were popular later in the 20th century. Old revolutionary habits die hard eh?
Excellent title, it definitely caught my eye! I would definitely agree with you that the October Manifesto was Tsar Nicholas II’s attempt to do whatever it took to secure his position, even if it meant undermining the very concept of the imperial power in the first place. It’s no wonder though that the Russian people, though perhaps temporarily bought off, saw this as a weakening of the social order and were even emboldened by his weakness.
What I found interesting in this post was the idea that by relinquishing much of his power Tsar Nicholas II was admitting, in a way, that he was not the sovereign appointed by God. This idea had been a bulwark in assuring the submission, or at least acquiescence to his authority in the face of obvious and numerous crises. Perhaps his relinquishing of power only further emboldened the revolutionaries and their spirit in Russia at the time.
It’s interesting how there was so much hatred for the Jewish population of the Empire, as well as the other minorities. Jews always seem to be a specific target for persecution throughout history. I wonder what part of the October Manifesto made people justify these actions? It seems as though Jewish workers shared a common cause with many other revolutionary groups at the time.
First of all I LOVE the title of the post. I think my own post was trying to get at that notion as well: Bloody Sunday wasn’t just a march-gone-bad, it was something that almost every Russian outside of the aristocracy/nobility could relate to. Fr. Gapon’s work assimilating the masses was a huge catalyst in the beginning the 1905 Revolution.
I talked about Father Gapon and Bloody Sunday as well in my blog. Glad to see someone else took an interest in him. Lenin’s praise of him is understandable since the protest brought more support to the revolutionists. Great job examining Gapon’s charisma and leadership of Russian factory workers.