The October Manifesto Essay.
Assess the following statement: ‘The October Manifesto marked the formal end of autocratic government; for the first time the Tsar was forced to share his law-making powers’ The October Manifesto was a vague but insincere promise of political reform, issued by Tsar Nicholas II at the height of the 1905 Revolution (J. Llewellyn et al, “The October Manifesto). The Manifesto, a document proposed by Sergei Witte, which demanded civil liberties and the creation of a Duma, was an important stage in the 1905 Revolution, as the revolutionaries thought they had finally gained power and influence over the tsar.
Effectively, the Duma would rob the tsar of his autocratic power, have influential legislative powers and successfully mark the formal end of autocratic government. Nonetheless, the tsar’s cunning and devious ways prohibited this from happening. By granting concession and implementing his fundamental laws, the October Manifesto did force the Tsar to temporarily share his law-making powers, but it did not cease autocratic government in Russia.
American philanthropist Howard Hughes once said ‘Once you consent to some concession, you can never cancel it and put things back the way they are’, and when first reviewing the Russian Revolution of 1905 it would seem that this quote would be extremely accurate. In theory, the tsar would have signed the manifesto out of defeat, the Duma would have been created and he would have lost his cherished autocratic power. However, the tsar agreeing to the manifesto was actually him giving the revolutionaries concession.
Not only was the tsar giving the people what they wanted, he was correspondingly eliminating their disapproval of him and his autocratic power. Whilst his opposition was distracted by the small concession he had granted them, the tsar was able to plot and plan how he would maintain his power. He took to the throne swearing to ‘protect the principle of autocracy as firmly and unwaveringly as did my late father. ’ It is clear that Nicholas’s intentions were to retain his family legacy, something he found exceedingly difficult.
He had originally stated that ‘I am not yet ready to be Tsar. I know nothing of the business of ruling. ’ However once he was put under pressure, his family legacy and autocratic beliefs paved the way for Nicholas to deceive his opposition and ultimately prevented the end of autocratic government in Russia. With the Duma ready to be inaugurated, the tsar realised he could not retain his autocratic power with The Duma. He needed to demonstrate to not only his followers but his adversaries that he was not willing to be efeated, and with his power he could get around the Manifesto, and that autocracy was the most beneficial option for the future of Russia.
“Nicholas believed wholeheartedly in autocracy. He thought that democracy with elections and parliaments would lead to the collapse of Russia’. (GSCE textbook)To achieve, just before the signing of the Manifesto, Nicholas published his fundamental laws. The laws were a set of 124 decrees which categorized individual rights, including religion and changes to the succession of the throne, but they also undermined promises for political reform that were made in the 1905 October Manifesto. Unknown, Alpha History).
The three main laws that denied the Duma of their power and consequently weakened the October Manifesto were: 4. The Emperor of All the Russia’s possesses Supreme Sovereign Power. Obedience to His authority, not only out of fear, but in good conscience, is ordained by God Himself 8. The initiative in all legislative matters belongs to the Sovereign Emperor. Only upon His initiative may the Fundamental Laws be subject to revision by (in) the State Council and the State Duma 86.
No new law can be enacted without the ratification of the State Council and the State Duma, and cannot go into effect without being approved by the Sovereign Emperor. It was clear through this the antagonistic relationship between the Tsar and the First Duma further highlighted the Tsar’s unwillingness to relinquish his hold on absolute political authority, which he had so brashly moved to abandon in 1905.
It can conversely be discussed that the October Manifesto and the succeeding events did in-fact end the reign of autocratic government in Russia; and because it was the first time the tsar was involuntary forced into sharing his power, it marked a defining moment in the Romanov dynasty and Russian politics; and although the tsar did eventually counteract the conditions of the Manifesto and regain supremacy, the conception of the Duma put an official end to Tsarist Russia. As the tsar was forced to sign the Manifesto, it officially signified his defeat by the revolutionaries and the end of autocratic government in Russia.
A newspaper bulletin published by St Petersburg in 1906 is a useful piece of evidence, a primary source that officially signified and documented the rules of the Manifesto and its imminent impact on the population and Tsarist reign. The Tsar was bullied into creating the Duma; there was no other option if he was to avoid a revolution. Official end of full autocratic government was celebrated by many and history was made as it was the first time in the Romanov dynasty a tsar was required to sacrifice some of law-making power. The 1905 Revolution was an uprising of the people of Russia calling for a change in their government. Bowman, the 1905 revolution)
The October Manifesto was a defining moment in the revolution and in the history of Russian politics. It marked the first occasion on which the tsar was forced into giving up his autocratic power. Nicholas II made promises of political reform, and once these concessions were given; the revolution was essentially doomed to failure -leaving the Tsarist regime shaken but not brought down. “Nicholas believed wholeheartedly in autocracy. He thought that democracy with elections and parliaments would lead to the collapse of Russia’’