Our Father, Who Art in Heaven

This post received the "red star" award from the editorial team

This post received the “red star” award from the editorial team


While Czar Nicholas was beloved by the people and reverently called ‘our father’, a new rival patriarch entered the Russian economic-political scene in 1904. Father Gapon, an Orthodox priest,  retracted from his religious duties in order to join the plight of Russian laborers, organizing the “Assembly of Russian Factory Workers” (Freeze 150).

Father Gapon

Father Gapon

Gapon led the labor movement in hopes to peacefully achieve the national vision of civil rights and protective legislation for the working class.  Due to his humane intentions and pure purpose, he is remembered as the “first romantic figure in the Russian revolution of 1905”. The petition he drafted for the czar was laden with lofty, yet democratic, ambitions: higher wages, shorter hours, a constitution, and free, direct elections with universal male suffrage (Freeze 151). With police support, Gapon and thousands of factory workers in St. Petersburg marched on the Winter Palace to deliver these bold demands.

Despite the civility of the demonstration, the imperial ‘father’ responded to this nonviolent movement with a harsh hand. While the working class simply wanted to “ask for bread and liberty,” the unarmed masses, including women and children, was fired upon, causing over one hundred casualties. Amid the chaos, a worker was able to rescue Father Gapon from harm. After surviving the tragic massacre of January 9th, 1905, later called Red or Bloody Sunday, Gapon became a national hero. Stories of his fame and leadership spread to the curious ears of party leaders, who then sought him out and attempted to recruit him to their political causes. His attention was widely demanded, and Gapon eventually fell under the influence of the highest bidder.

Bloody Sunday, St. Petersberg.  January 9th 1905

Bloody Sunday, St. Petersburg.
January 9th, 1905

Gapon received 75,000 rubles from the czar, which was a little-know fact until Martin Ruthenberg, the same man who saved Gapon on Bloody Sunday, exposed him as a spy and a traitor to his fellow workmen and revolutionaries. Ruthenberg revealed that Gapon worked for the Okhrana, which was the secret police that operated under the czar, and the enemy of their movement. Besides his acts of espionage, Gapon squandered the workers’ money from the Assembly he created, and dishonored the victims of Bloody Sunday with his disloyalty.

Ruthenberg's expose of Gapon. Translated by Herman Bernstein.

Ruthenberg Exposes Gapon.

Just as Russia’s hope had become their disappointment, Gapon’s savior had become his executor. After confirming these treacherous deeds to a room of enraged workers on March 38th, 1906, Ruthenberg left Gapon with his comrades to meet his fate. He was hung that night. Gapon had once been a pious and promising inspiration, but became corrupted under the influence of fame and greed. A leader with the potential to leave a legacy of change and revolution, Gapon instead left behind a cautionary tale of espionage and betrayal. This twentieth century Judas is the first in a series of modern day Russian revolutionaries to commit egregious acts and meet dire endings.


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  6 comments for “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven

  1. Kelly Cooper
    September 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    This was a great and well-written post! It almost read like a novel summary with the surprising twist due to the betrayal of Father Gapon. It was very interesting to read this focus about Gapon as Bloody Sunday is a well-known event, but I never knew about this figure’s betrayal to a Russian community that once saw him as a leader. This continues to show how messy the revolution was in Russia as conflict, bribery, and betrayal became increasingly apparent.

  2. cpurvis2
    September 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I agree with Kelly– excellent post, and it was great to learn more about Father Gapon (someone I never knew much about previously). I had no idea that his espionage contributed so significantly to the events of Bloody Sunday.

  3. phillip5
    September 8, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Money makes people do crazy things. Even a religious man respected by allhis peers. I agree with the others also, nice post.

  4. piercedc
    September 8, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Really well done. I think this hit all of the high and low notes about this figure in history. I really appreciate the detail and concrete research. It is sad to see political figures fall to money and bribes…cough cough Bob McDonnell.

  5. rkw15
    September 8, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Great post about Father Gapon and Bloody Sunday. I liked the way that you used the person to explain the protest. To echo the others, I like that you included what happened to Father Gapon after Bloody Sunday as well as the comparison between the two “Fathers”.

  6. snagy54
    September 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Definitely an eye opening article. Although I had heard of Father Gapon and his participation in the movement that led to the Bloody Sunday massacre, I had never heard of what happened to him in the aftermath of the massacre. When I read the portion of your post about how after the massacre he became under the influence of the highest bidder, I just assumed that the highest bidder was the Socialists, who were going to use him and his fame to gain popularity for their movement. I was shocked when I discovered he had betrayed those who he had led into suffering.

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