1905 in St. Petersburg: Labor, Society, and Revolution

By Gerald D. Surh | Go to book overview
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The subject of this book is workers in revolution. My intention has been to illuminate the double meaning of the term "revolution" by treating both the manner in which workers acted to change the conditions around them and the process by which they changed their own views and attitudes. The emphasis here is on what was attempted and expressed rather than on what was attained, as the latter would not become clear until a later revolution. Yet, looking back from the early years of the Soviet regime, the 1905 Revolution may be said to have carried the country the greatest part of the way toward the decisive break of 1917. It had mobilized a massive opposition to continued Tsarist rule and made revolution a compelling practical possibility for the first time. It had shattered the belief that the economic and cultural modernization of the country could continue without a significant transformation of the Tsarist regime. The certainty and security of the government's continued monopoly of power was henceforth openly contested and decisively undermined.

Throughout the revolutionary period, the workers of St. Petersburg played an extremely important role, quite out of proportion to their numbers. If in 1905, as in 1917, the capital of the Russian Empire also became the capital of the Russian Revolution, this was due above all to the concentration in the city of the most militant and politically sophisticated labor movement and the most radical and politicized intelligentsia. In 1905 St. Petersburg workers first emerged as a mass labor movement, displaying remarkable political ingenuity and revealing themselves to be the most forceful collective voice in the rising chorus of opposition and revolt. St. Petersburg's long history of underground


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