The Russian empire relied on seaports and industry to replenish the Tsar’s coffers. It is estimated that the pre-WWI contributions of this region totaled a combined 37.6 million rubles annually. (It is difficult to translate USD today because of the abandoned gold standard and different economic conditions). Russian interests expanded to the Far East. The Boxer Rebellion (1900) in China was brought to a close in part due to a contribution of Russian troops. Continued occupation of the Manchurian providence secured an interest in trans-railways that would eventually shorten the Trans-Siberian Railroad. This was short lived.
|European Empires prior to World War I|
Domestic unrest soon led to demonstrations. Exploited factory workers, previously starving peasants, along with Father Gapon (an Orthodox priest appointed by Nicholas II) of St. Petersburg, marched on the Tsar’s Winter Palace, in a peaceable manner, on January 9th 1905 (Bloody Sunday). The ensuing massacre resulted in widespread strikes throughout the city.
On January 13th 1905, Riga factory workers marched as a show of support. The response was death at the hands of Russian police. Forty workers were killed, hundreds were wounded. This fanned the flames for Lenin’s supporters. They preached the overthrow of the Tsarist regime and its allies: the German Baltic land squires.
|unpaved road in Latvian country|
In London, the 1903 Central Committee meeting of the RWSDP was dominated by Lenin. The result was a split: the now infamous Bolshevik (“men of the majority”) and lesser known Menshevik (“men of the minority”). Bolsheviks touted a violent “means to an end” countenance that sparked movements across Europe, including Latvia. Followers of Lenin’s Bolshevism contested the right-wing Socialist Party (Latvia), breaking from them in December 1905. Political wrangling continued till the First World War and with this mass exodus came the hope of a better future.
|Ship Manifest of S.S. Norge|
May 16 1904
|Trinity Lutheran Church|
Roxbury, Boston, MA
Sources: A History of Latvia, by Alfred Bilmanis, copyright 1951, by Princeton University Press
Further reading on the web:
The 1905 Revolution in Latvia
"The Revolution in the Baltic Provinces of Russia"
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