October Manifesto

Summary

The October Manifesto was a statement made by Tsar Nicholas II (Romanov dynasty of Russia) on October 30 (October 17 Julian calendar) 1905 in response to the multiple strikes in Russia at the time:
  1. Freedom of conscience, speech, meeting and association
  2. Freedom from arrest without charge and imprisonment without trial
  3. That no law would go into force without the approval of the Duma
  4. That the voting qualification for the Duma would be lowered

Cause

The Russian Revolution was drawing near. The Russo-Japanese War had been lost, Bloody Sunday had ensured that the populace had strong feelings of animosity towards the government, strikes were occuring frequently, and political assassinations were becoming frequent. Unions were forming, such as the Peasants Union, which co-ordinated rural movements and proposals for land transfers from the landed nobility to the people. However, there was still hope for the government, as they still had military support... but the Potemkin Mutiny (mutiny on a battleship which resulted in the boat being scuttled off Romania) showed that this support was perhaps becoming tenous.

By the middle of the year, the strike movement was slowing, due to the Tsar's promise that a consultative assembly (Duma) would be formed, which would help advise the government... however it had limited powers, and was elected by an exclusive selection of voters. In late September, the strikes began again in ernest, with printers in Moscow striking. The strike quickly spread through Moscow, and Cossacks were brought into the city to aid police. The printers in Saint Petersberg followed the strike movement, and by October 20, the whole Russian railway network was paralysed when the railwaymen called a general strike. Factory workers and professionals throughout the country joined the revolutionary wave, with incredible results, as explained by the Minister of Finance, Sergei Witte:
"...almost all traffic on the streets had ceased, street lighting was no more,... water supplies were cut off, the telephone network was out of action... The ruler... was in Peterhof and communication with him was only possible by means of crown steamer.... The government had lost its power to act, everybody was either doing nothing or moving in different directions, and the authority of the regime and of its supreme bearer was completely trampled down."
Witte was appointed Chief Minister, and it was in this position that he advised Tsar Nicholas to make concessions...

The October Manifesto

By the grace of God, We Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of all Russia, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc.
Make known to all Our loyal subjects: Roiting and disturbances in the capitals and in many localities of Our Empire fill Our heart with great and heavy grief. The well-being of the Russian Sovereign is inseperable from the national well-being; and the national sorrow in His sorrow. The disturbances which have appeared may cause a grave national tension that may endanger the integrity and unity of Our State.
By the great vow of Tsarist service We are obligated to use every resource of wisdom and Our authority to bring a speedy end to an unrest dangerous to Our State. We have ordered the responsible authorities to take measures to terminate direct manifestations of disorder, lawlessness, and violence, and to protect peaceful people who quietly seek to fulfil the duties incumbent upon them. To successfully fulfill general measures which We have designed for the pacification of State life, We feel it is essential to coordinate the activity of the higher government.
    We impose upon the government the duty to exercise Our inflexible will:
  1. To grant the population the invoilable foundations of civic freedom based on the principles of genuine personal invoilability, freedom of conscience, speech, assemblies and assocations.
  2. Without postponing the scheduled elections to the State Duma, to admit in the participation of the Duma insofar as possible in the short time that remains before its scheduled meeting all those classes of the population which presently are completely deprived of voting rights, and to leave further development of a general elective law to the future legislative order.
  3. To establish as an unbreakable rule that no law shall become effective without confirmation by the State Duma, and that the elected representatives of the people shall be guaranteed an opportunity for real participation in the supervision of the legality of the acts by authorities whom We shall appoint.
We summon all loyal sons of Russia to remember their duties towards their country, to assist in terminating this unprecedented unrest, and together with Us to make every effort to restore peace and tranquility in Our native land.
Given in Peterhof, October 30, the year of Our Lord 1905, and eleventh of Our reign.

Comments on the Manifesto

It can be clearly seen that the Tsar is worried about the effect of revolution on Russia and his reign, and is willing to consider some concessions. However, there are a number of statements or words which would belie this promise:
"...execute Our inflexible will" (making it perfectly clear who is in charge)
"(1) ...foundations of civic freedom..." (only foundations, no promises)
"(2) Without postponing the scheduled elections..." (the elections were to be held in January - three months was not enough time to organise all of the generally-illiterate population's voting rights!)
"(2) ...leave further development of a general elective law..." (once again, no promises)
"(3) ...an opportunity for real participation in the supervision..." (only an opportunity, and what this is for is not clear)
"(3) ...by authorities whom We shall appoint." (democracy would not be extending to the government and bureaucracy)
It can also be noted that whilst "all loyal sons of Russia" are spoken to, no mention is made of peasant women or the nobility.

Effects

These small, non-specific concessions created a split in opposition to the Tsar - the middle class went back to supporting the Tsar, forming a political association named the 'Octobrists', and although liberal groups continued to press for a consitiuent assembly, they now hoped to achieve this through the Duma. The working class (who had set up a council soviet in St Petersberg to run the city during the strikes) generally returned to work. Conditions in the cities improved from the disorder shown in Witte's comments, but in the countryside, conditions worsened. Fights broke out over land, manor houses and estates were burnt and/or looted. The government, instead of making concessions, tried to distract the workers in the country by orgainising horrific pogroms (mob attacks) on Jewish communities, and these resulted in the deaths of thousands.


Thanks toalight for your correction of the calendar name :)

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