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«Bloody Sunday» — beginning of the First Russian revolution

22 January 1905

In the beginning of the 20th century in the Russian Empire it became evident that the revolution crisis is inevitable. More and more people were unsatisfied by the existing order. The situation was aggravated by the economic crisis that resulted in mass closure of enterprises and dismissal of workers who joined the strikers. In Petrograd in the beginning of January 1905 the strike included about 150 thousand people turning into a general one. In these conditions any incorrect action from the powers’ side could lead to an explosion.

And on January 9 (22) 1905 the explosion occurred. On this day the troops and the police of the capital applied arms against a peaceful demonstration of workers marching to present a petition to Tsar.

The initiator of the demonstration was officially legalized organization “The Union of the Russian factory workers of St.-Petersburg” that functioned since 1904 under the leadership of a priest George Gapon. Due to the stoppage at Putilov factory, the Union decided to address the Tsar with a petition saying: “Your Majesty! We have come to you seeking the truth and defense… We can’t go on like that any more. Our patience is giving way…”. Under the influence of socialist revolutionaries and Social Democrats, the final version of the petition also included the requests deliberately unrealizable, such as Constituent Assembly convocation, indirect taxes abolition, political freedoms declaration, separation of church from state, etc.

The early Sunday morning of January 9 (22) 1905, tens of thousands people including old men, women and children, holding icons and Tsar’s portraits, moved from all districts of St.-Petersburg to the Winter palace. In spite of the information that the demonstration would be a peaceful one, the government considered it impossible to allow demonstrators approach the Tsar’s residence. Therefore it declared the city to be on a martial law and put the armed units of police and regular army on the way of workers. The groups of manisfestants were too numerous to stop moving immediately after having stumbled on obstructive cordons. The fire was opened against the pushing demonstrators, panic started. As a result, according to different sources, on this Sunday, named by people a “bloody” one, were killed, wounded and crushed by the crowd about 4,6 thousand people.

 One of the highest military commanders commented the situation as follows: “…The Palace square is a tactic key of St.-Petersburg. If the crowd turned out to be armed and seized it, no one knows what would occur then. That is why during the meeting held on January 8 (21) under the leadership of His Imperial Highness [St.-Petersburg governor-general, a grand duke Vladimir Alexandrovich] it was decided to resist by force so that not to allow people gathering on the Palace square and to advise the Emperor not to stay in St.-Petersburg on January 9 (22). Of course if we were sure that people will come to the square unarmed, our decision would be different… but what is done could not be changed”.

Tragic events of January 9 (22), 1905 in St.-Petersburg shook people’s faith in Tsar and provoked the First Russian revolution that spread over the entire Russia in 1905-1907.

Lit.:  Доклад директора Департамента полиции Лопухина министру внутренних дел о событиях 9-го января // Красная летопись. 1922. № 1; Карелин А. Е. Девятое января и Гапон // Красная летопись. 1922. № 1; Листок о революционных днях в Петербурге 9 января 1905 г. СПб., 1905; Никольский Е. А. 9 января 1905 года // Никольский Е. А. Записки о прошлом. М., 2007; Петиция рабочих и жителей Петербурга для подачи Николаю II 9 января 1905 г. // Государство российское: власть и общество. М., 1996; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/jan1905.htm; Семанов С. Н. «Кровавое воскресенье» как исторический феномен // Вопросы истории. 1991. № 6.

From the Presidential library materials:

Бикерман И. М. Российская революция и Государственная Дума. СПб., 1906 (обл. 1907);

Семенников В. П. Политика Романовых накануне революции. М.; Л., 1926.