Internal tension in Russia continued to build over the next decade, however, as the regime proved unwilling to truly change its repressive ways and radical socialist groups, including Lenin's Bolsheviks, became stronger, drawing ever closer to their revolutionary goals. The situation would finally come to a head more than 10 years later as Russia's resources were stretched to the breaking point by the demands of World War I.
For the Mensheviks, defeat proved that the workers should not take the lead in the struggle against tsarism. For the Bolsheviks, 1905 was a near-miss which showed that the workers could lead the way to victory. The Bolsheviks were sharply self-critical—they were often too narrow, too sectarian, too conservative—but they came to recognize that the creative impetus of the mass workers’ movement showed how these faults could be overcome.
The activities of Duma politicians notwithstanding, there was no real devolution of political power, which still rested in the hands of an irresolute Emperor and his appointed ministers; there was no realignment of the rigidly hierarchical class structure of Russian society and no radical redistribution of wealth or property; not one of the non-Russian peoples of the Empire gained its independence from Russia, and the combined forces of the bureaucracy, the military and the police re-established 'public order' over an exhausted population, ably supported by the pogroms and the militant thuggery of the Black Hundreds.
In his October Manifesto (Oct. 17th to 30th 1905) the Czar established the Duma, granted freedom of speech, association, the press, of conscience, otlawed arbitrary arrest, granted almost universal adult manhood suffrage. The government, as before, was to be appointed by the Czar and to represent him.
The first workers’ council, or soviet, acting as a strike committee, was formed at Ivanovo-Vosnesensk; another, the St. Petersburg soviet, was formed on October 13 (October 26). It initially directed the general strike; but, as social democrats, especially Mensheviks, joined, it assumed the character of a revolutionary government. Similar soviets were organized in Moscow, Odessa, and other cities.
Petersburg was in the grip of a total strike. And the general strike spread from the capital to many cities hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The economic demands of workers led to political demands, economic struggle led to political struggle and vice versa. The two were not separated.
Finally, on 6 August, the Tsar made a concession. But instead of giving the long promised National Assembly, nothing was given but a consultative body – the Duma – with no power to legislate. The Duma was at the mercy of the Tsar. Out of the 1,400,000 Petersburg citizens only 13,000 had the vote. This roused the popular passion to fever heat, and led to the second great wave of strikes in October, in which the demands were overwhelmingly political.
The singing crowds marched toward the Winter Palace from different directions... As the crowds approached their destination, soldiers in a few places told the marchers to turn back...
The marchers did not heed the orders to disperse. When one large crowd that included Gapon...reached the Narva Gate, a bugle was blown as a signal to the soldiers to open fire.
...Troops fired indiscriminately, hitting people who were trying to escape as well as innocent bystanders.
A procession set off for the Winter Palace early on the morning of 22 January 1905. Despite the freezing conditions, approximately 200,000 people, forming five separate processions, had turned out to present their petition to the Tsar. At the head of the huge procession was a priest, Father Gapon. The peaceful intent of the marchers was underlined by the icons of the Tsar which many of them proudly held aloft. Their demands now appear fairly modest: 'We ask but little: to reduce the working day to eight hours, to provide a minimum wage of a rouble a day, and to abolish overtime'. Added to these requests for social change was a more ambitious call for constitutional reform.
Feeling themselves safe, continuing to limit themselves to purely economic demands, protected by the sections and by Gapon, they decided, after several turbulent meetings, to support their cause with a strike... It is thus that the strike at the Putilov factories, the first major strike in Russia, broke out in December, 1904.
...All the Workers' Sections stirred and moved to defend the rights of the Putilov workers.
The Russo-Japanese war had been caused by Russia’s expansion into the Far-East where it had taken control of Manchuria and Korea. Ignoring Japanese negotiations with the view that any war would be easily won by the Russians, they had provoked Japan into attacking their navy in Port Arthur, Manchuria. Japan was quickly able to occupy Korea and continued to attack Port Arthur while the Russian army and navy began the long trip to fight them. Port Arthur eventually surrendered in January 1905, while the Baltic navy took until May to reach the port where it was quickly destroyed. This showed that the Russian state was far from invincible and that it’s failure to modernise had left it weak, giving confidence to those who opposed it.