Magic Lantern journal. Art from the original Russian Revolution of 1905. The pages are yellowing and brittle but the revolutionary fervour in the art they carry is still as raw, fresh and angry as the day they were printed.
Before the Russian Revolution(s) of 1917 there was another; the First Russian Revolution of 1905. Lenin later called it “The Great Dress Rehearsal,” without which the “victory of the October Revolution in 1917 would not have been possible.” The years 1904 and 1907 saw mass movements, strikes and protests decline and an unprecedented wave of overt political violence that swept across Russia. Combat groups such as the SR Combat Organisation carried out many assassinations targeting civil servants and police, and robberies. Between 1906 and 1909, revolutionaries killed 7,293 people, of whom 2,640 were officials, and wounded 8,061.
Strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies broke out. The pressure led to constitutional reform (namely the October Manifesto and the establishment of the State Duma, a multi party system and the new Russian Convention of 1908).
The 1905 revolution was spurred by the Russian defeat in the Russo Japanese War which ended in the same year, but also by the growing realizaton by a variety of sectors of society of the need for reform. Politicians had failed to accomplish this. Perhaps the major turning point that tipped Russia over from a country in unrest to a country in revolt were the events of 22 January 1905 or “Bloody Sunday” when Tsar Nicholas II’s soldiers fired on unarmed civilians attempting to present a petition. Any loyalty to the tsar was lost. Whilst the Tsar managed to cling on to power, the events foreshadowed the Russian Revolution, his overthrow and the eventual execution of the whole Romanov family in an Ekaterinburg cellar. The events of 1905 heralded the rise of the Bolsheviks and facilitated the formation of the Soviet Union.
In the midst of the 1905 Revolution, there was the art that fuelled and maintained it. Hundreds of journals, printed in limited colours, on illicit presses, in secret locations. A few of these survive. Their pages are yellowing and brittle but the revolutionary fervour in the art they carry is still as raw, fresh and angry as the day they were printed.
Волшебный фонарь.Volshebnyi Fonar’. Magic Lantern. Published in St. Petersburg by K. Chetverikov. 1905-1906.