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The Revolutionary Masses

The Revolutionary Masses

Until the Revolution of 1905 the dissent in the milieu of the gentry and raznochintsy intellectuals had existed alongside the popular risings of the discontented masses but they had never really come together in one powerful anti-autocratic movement. Earlier intellectuals-revolutionaries, like the Decembrists, for example, were concerned about the unpredictability and violence of a spontaneous popular revolt. The inability of the educated members of society to find a common language with the people, as well as the peasants natural distrust of squires had ensured that for decades the revolutionary intelligentsia and the masses had been unable to overcome mutual suspicion and misunderstanding.

 
   
 
 

However, at the turn of the nineteenth century socialist and liberal-democratic doctrines began to filter into the popular movement. The influence of various social-political organizations and parties of the intelligentsia among the worker and peasant masses started to grow. This combination of radical ideas with revolutionary energies of the masses produced an explosive mix that totally transformed the situation in the country. At the start of the twentieth century popular discontent began to assume all-Russian proportions. The numbers of strikers, rebels and dissenters multiplied dramatically. Calls for a violent overthrow of autocracy were becoming ever louder, imparting an increasingly revolutionary character to popular protests.    

The result was an unprecedented rise of popular discontent which erupted into three revolutions in a space of twelve years. The Revolution of 1905-7, and the February and October Revolutions of 1917 were the three great peaks and the culmination of popular movements in Russia. They had a momentous effect not just on Russias future but on the course of world-wide developments in the twentieth century.

The Russian revolutions were in many ways different from the earlier revolutions in the West and from the revolutions in the East at the start of the twentieth century. Their singularity was in the way in which the struggle against the survivals of the antiquated feudal system was combined with the protest against capitalist exploitation, in the way in which various currents of rural and urban unrest blended in one democratic movement, in the way in which the working class and the radically-minded intelligentsia spearheaded revolutionary action, and in the way in which socialist ideas caught the imagination of the masses.

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The Revolution of 1905-7

 

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