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The Moscow Insurrection

 

Revolutionaries themselves were not ready to stop the fighting and continued to incite the workers with inflammatory calls for an armed insurrection in order to bring the struggle against the autocracy to its logical end. Their aim was to secure, this time by force, what could not be achieved by peaceful means in October: the convocation of a Constituent Assembly and the establishment of a republic. The revolutionary opposition felt intoxicated by the atmosphere of freedom following the announcement of civil liberties in the October Manifesto. Censorship was hardly enforced. Social-Democrats could now operate almost openly without fear of repression. In some places they persuaded workers to begin stocking up weapons and form armed detachments.  

The government, however, had somewhat recovered from its October capitulation and now thirsted for revenge. By provoking the opposition to an armed insurrection before it was properly ready, and then ruthlessly smashing it, the authorities hoped to teach it another lesson on the lines of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ crack-down. Neither side was willing to give in or agree to a compromise.

1905 Barricades. By I. Vladimirov 

The confrontation flared up with new intensity in December 1905. Its focus had now shifted from St Petersburg to Moscow where the workers were not as worn out by fighting as their comrades in St Petersburg, and where the government did not have as many troops and police. 

On 7 December, acting on the decision of the local Soviet of Workers’ Deputies supported by all revolutionary parties, Moscow workers went on political strike. Within two days the strike escalated into street battles with troops and police which raged for the next ten days. The insurrectionist camp was comprised of diverse social elements, including workers, students, high school pupils, women, white-collar workers and intellectuals. The city’s population openly sympathized with the fighting workers. Many joined them on the barricades.              

However, the military leadership of the rebellion was no match for the actions of the regular army and the police. The insurrection was suppressed with great bloodshed. In one of the city’s districts the government even resorted to the use of  artillery against  the rebels. The casualty figures are incomplete, but at least 55 people were killed and over a thousand wounded, many of the victims innocent bystanders. The responsibility for the tragic events of December 1905  did not entirely rest on the tsarist government. The revolutionaries were also to blame. Their fanatical fervor and doctrinaire extremism served to inflame the rebellious mood of the workers. At the same time, the revolutionaries themselves were under enormous pressure from the spontaneous radicalism of the masses.     

After the defeat of the Moscow insurrection in December 1905, the revolutionary tide started to ebb. Strikes continued throughout 1906 and the first half of 1907. They were now better organized, and the strikers’ demands were well thought-through and wide-ranging. Yet, fewer and fewer strikes ended in workers’ victory. In the conditions of an economic slump and relative stabilization of the tsarist regime, the workers found it increasingly difficult to compel the employers to meet their demands.

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The Revolution of 1905-7

 

Tsarist Russia

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