If you type in the phrase “Bloody Sunday” into google, many different choices appear (40,900,000 to be exact). The first few are song lyrics from U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. Next on the list are from a Bloody Sunday that happened in 1972. The incident I was researching happened on January 9th, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The movement all started with an Orthodox priest named Georgii Gapon. Gapon began organizing thousands of people into the “Assembly of Russian Factory Workers”. It was a legal labor organization that was approved by the government as a way to guide workers away from new extreme ideas and continue their support of the Tsar and his autocratic government. The movement took off. Thousands of people joined and supported Gapon’s assembly.
In December 1904, the machine-building Putilov factory laid off many workers. These workers happened to be part of Gapon’s assembly. The conclusion was drawn that they were trying to reduce the power of the Assembly by getting rid of workers that were members. This incident helped to spark the march on January 9, 1905.
Gapon wanted to deliver a petition to Tsar Nicholas II at the Winter Palace. The petition asked for a shorter work day, increased salary, as well as free elections. As the day arrived, the people peacefully began to make their way towards the Palace. They walked with religious icons and sang traditional Russian songs. What they met at the palace was not what the people expected.
The Tsar was not even at the palace when they arrived. Instead, the Preobrashensky Regiment was. They had been ordered by the chief of the security police to fire to kill. More than 100 people were killed, and hundreds more were injured. This incident caused for public opinion of the tsar to drop immensely. People turned against him after hearing about this atrocious event. What started as a peaceful day turned into a horrible event in history.
Freeze, Gregory. (2009). Russia, A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Photograph: The Tsar’s soldiers shooting at demonstrators at the Winter Palace – still shot from the Soviet Film “Devyatoe yanvarya – 9th of January” (1925) by Vyacheslav Viskovsky