Beryl Williams marks the centenary of the revolutionary year 1905, and discusses the impact of the massacre outside the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, and the complex events throughout Russia that preceded and followed Bloody Sunday.
The centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1905 comes as historians are re-evaluating the late tsarist period, and as recently available local archives are throwing new light on the revolutionary year. The term ‘revolution’ has remained unchallenged, although by most definitions it does not qualify. The monarchy did not fall, and there was little real social or economic change. The political consequences of the October Manifesto issued by Tsar Nicholas II in the light of the uprising fell far short of liberal hopes. Nevertheless the standard work in English, by Professor Ascher, accepts the term, and the year should be seen as a genuine revolution in its own right, not just as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for 1917. If ‘revolution’ is defined, as Hannah Arendt defined it, as a spontaneous, popular upheaval, during which new forms of self-government were developed from below, then it certainly qualifies.