October Manifesto

The October Manifesto of 1905 paved the way for constitutional democracy. The document promised a legislative duma, the liberalisation of censorship and the gradual unlocking of land. This appealed to many people who desired political reform. The manifesto divided many political groups as some doubted that the reforms would come into practise. The liberals into two groups: the Octobrists (who accepted the reform) and Kadets (who pursued further reform). The St Petersburg Soviet however openly opposed it. Trotsky suggested that ‘we have been given a constitution, but absolutism remains… everything is given and nothing is given.’  The Soviet gained influence during the General Strike. They called for strikes to continue, but workers did not strike as there was the promise of reform and they were unable to carry the economic burden.

The Soviet’s chairman, Nossar due to his opposition of the Tsar, was arrested. Due to this the Soviet responded with an armed uprising. This however failed and half the armed members (260 men) were arrested. The Moscow Soviet called a strike in response to this but it was ended by troops from St Petersburg. Over 1000 people died and more key figures from the St Petersburg Soviet were arrested, including Trotsky.

The October Manifesto may have allowed political reform but Industrial workers wanted specific improvements to working conditions. This included the introduction of an 8 hour day, elected workers’ council and better medical services. Therefore they were not inspired by calls for constitute assembly or socialist proletarian revolution. In addition, peasants disengaged from the political reform, as they wanted immediate change through gaining land and lower tax.

In the Tsarist regime was unscathed however there was a rise of unions, crippling industrial action and emergence of key opposition groups which threatened the Tsar’s claim to power. The reforms of 1905 had little or no benefits for the people of Russia in the long term and the Duma did not actually curb the Tsar’s power. The Tsar’s supreme authority was reaffirmed through the Fundamental State Laws of 1906.