Up to the end of the 19th century, Russia was an autocratic country. It was ruled by an autocratic Czar. He ruled as he liked. His will was the sole source of law, of taxation and justice. He controlled the army and all the officials. Through his special position on the Holy Synod, he controlled even religious affairs. His autocratic rule was supported by the privileged nobles, who possessed land and serfs, and held all the chief offices in the Czar's administration.
The mass of people were serfs. Serfs were 'slaves'. They worked on the estates of the nobles. They could be punished in any form by the nobles. They could even be sold as chattels by the nobles. Besides the serfs, there was a very small middle class in the towns. They were discontented with the backwardness of Russia.
The main theme of the Russian history in the 19th century is that the non-noble classes asked for an improvement in their wretched and poor conditions of life. When the Czarist government failed to do so, they revolted for the first time in 1905 and then for the second time in 1917, by which Czardom was finally overthrown.
The causes of the 1905 Revolution went far back into Russian history. It was the product of more than a century of discontent and the discontent grew more rapidly after 1861.
CAUSES OF THE 1905 REVOLUTION
A. THE REIGN OF CZAR ALEXANDER II ( 1855-1881 ) AND WIDESPREAD DISCONTENT AMONG THE RUSSIANS
Czar Alexander II began his reign in 1855 when Russia was defeated by Britain, France and Piedmont in the Crimean War. He thought that the chief reason for Russian defeat was her backward economic and social system -- most of the labour force were serfs who were ignorant and superstitious. In order to strengthen the dynasty, he decided to carry out a number of reforms to modernize the archaic institutions of Russia.