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Gapon u Narvskoy zastavy1

January 22. Father Gapon near Narva Gate. Unknown painter


A still from the Soviet movie Devyatoe yanvarya ("9th of January") (1925) showing line of armed soldiers facing demonstrators at the approaches to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg

Bloody Sunday (Russian language:Крова́вое воскресе́нье, IPA: [krɐˈvavəjə vəskrʲɪˈsʲenʲjə]) was the name that came to be given to the events of 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905 in St Petersburg, Russia, where unarmed demonstrators marching to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II were fired upon by soldiers of the Imperial Guard when approaching the city center and the Winter Palace from several gathering points. The shooting did not occur in the Palace Square. Bloody Sunday was an event with grave consequences for the Tsarist regime, as the disregard for ordinary people shown by the reaction of the authorities undermined support for the state. The events which occurred on this Sunday have been assessed by historians, including Lionel Kochan in his book Russia in Revolution 1890-1918, to be one of the key events which led to the Russian Revolution of 1917.


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|date= }} The previous December in 1904, a strike occurred at the Putilov plant, which filled military orders during the Russo-Japanese War. Sympathy strikes in other parts of the city raised the number of strikers above 800,000. By 21 January [O.S. 8 January] 1905, the city had no electricity and no newspapers whatsoever. All public areas were declared closed. Father Gapon, a Russian priest who was concerned about the conditions experienced by the working and lower classes, organized a peaceful "workers' procession" to the Winter Palace to deliver a petition to the Tsar that Sunday stating reforms they had desperately wanted. The petition, written by Gapon, made clear the problems and opinions of the workers and called for improved working conditions, fairer wages, and a reduction in the working day to eight hours. Other demands included an end to the Russo-Japanese War and the introduction of universal suffrage. Troops had been deployed around the Winter Palace and at other key points. Despite the urging of various members of the imperial family to stay in St. Petersburg, the tsar heeded the advice of his ministers and left on January 8 for Tsarskoye Selo.


On Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905, striking workers and their families gathered at six points in the city of St Petersburg in Russia. They were organised and led by Russian Orthodox priest Georgy Gapon. Holding religious icons and singing hymns and patriotic songs (particularly "God Save the Tsar!"), a crowd of "more than 3,000"[1] proceeded without police interference towards the Winter Palace, the Tsar's official residence. The crowd did not know that the Tsar was not in residence. The army pickets near the palace released warning shots, and then fired directly into the crowds to disperse them. Gapon was fired upon near the Narva Gate. Around forty people surrounding him were killed, however he was not injured.[2] Although the Tsar was not at the Winter Palace or even in the city and did not give the order for the troops to fire, he received the blame for the deaths, resulting in a surge of bitterness towards himself and his autocratic rule from the Russian people.


Soviet painting - Bloody Sunday massacre in St Petersburg

The number killed is uncertain but the Tsar's officials recorded 96 dead and 333 injured; anti-government sources claimed more than 4,000 dead; moderate estimates still average around 1,000 killed or wounded, both from shots and trampled during the panic[citation needed]. Another source noted that the official estimate was 130 persons killed.[3] Nicholas II described the day as "painful and sad".[4] As reports spread across the city, disorder and looting broke out. Gapon's Assembly was closed down that day, and Gapon quickly left Russia. According to one version,[which?] returning in October, he was assassinated by the order of the Combat Organization of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party after he revealed to his friend Pinhas Rutenberg that he was working for the Okhrana or Secret Police.[5]

This event was seen by the British ambassador to inflame revolutionary activities in Russia and contributed to the Revolution of 1905. The writer Leo Tolstoy was also emotionally affected by the incident.[6]

In popular cultureEdit

Dmitri Shostakovich's 11th Symphony, subtitled The Year 1905, is a programmatic work centered around Bloody Sunday. The second movement, entitled "The Ninth of January", is a forceful depiction of the massacre.[7] The sixth of Shostakovich's Ten Poems on Texts by Revolutionary Poets is also called "The Ninth of January"[7] Shostakovich's father and uncle were both present at the march that day, a year before the composer's birth.[8]


  1. Gapon, Address to the Tsar, February 1905, in Ascher, The Revolution of 1915, Vol. 1
  2. Ascher, Abraham. The Revolution of 1905. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 1988. p. 91. Print
  3. Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, 4th edition, Oxford University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-19-503361-2
  4. Kurth, Peter. Tsar: the Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra. Boston: Back Bay, 1998. p. 81
  5. Notes on Georgii Appolonovich Gapon (1870-1906), Northern Virginia Community College
  6. Rolland, Romain (1911). Life of Tolstoy. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 212. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Laurel E. Fay, Symphony No. 11 in G minor, "The Year 1905," Op. 103 (1957), American Symphony Orchestra Program Notes
  8. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11, Classics Online

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