A blog post is not enough to answer that question, but I needed to find out some of the basics after hearing his name in class. I have studied Russia and the incident of Bloody Sunday multiple times since middle school, mostly in passing, but I had never heard that name until this past week. It seemed to me that in order to understand Bloody Sunday I needed to learn more about Father Gapon.
I read two New York Times articles one from August of 1905 entitled “Russia in Revolution–More Confessions of a Revolutionaire” in which featured an account of the events preceding January 22nd, 1905. According to records and witnesses, Gapon, who had been enlisted by the Ministry of the Interior to organize workers into peaceful meetings, had given into the rebellious voices in the workers meetings. He took a message to the Minister of the Interior requesting a meeting with Czar Nicholas II. When he went back to talk to the workers he told them that they would approach the palace peacefully but if need be fight the soldiers in order to speak to the Czar. He believed if it came to a fight many of the soldiers would take the protesters side and if the Czar would not see them that there would be a revolution.
How accurate is this account? According to Gapon he was not turned against the government at the very end. The New York Times published another article on February 18, 1906, more than a year after Bloody Sunday, “Gapon, the Hero of ‘Bloody Sunday'” a review of Gapon’s autobiography written when he was living in London. Gapon says he never was truly believed the current system in Russia worked. From the time he was a young priest he ignored the state controlled aspect of the Orthodox Church eventually causing the government to send him to a re-education camp. He was loyal to the Czar but wanted him to change the system. Unlike the account in the previous article, Gapon claims that he connected with the revolutionaries early on and organized them into a formidable group. This claim is matched in the Freeze text. Gapon’s account of the events of Bloody Sunday are interesting, including the fact that two policeman were shot trying to defend the protesters and the procession was led by a huge picture of the Czar, he stayed through several rounds of fire from palace troops, and it is common opinion that it is nearly a miracle that he got out alive. Through the bullets Gapon pleaded with his followers not to give up although many fled.
Any way you tell it, it is certain that Gapon’s actions led to the eventual demise of the Romanov dynasty and czarist Russia. A fitting quote from the review of Gapon’s autobiography that indicated the end for Nicholas II, after many shots were fired at Gapon’s peaceful procession the men around Gapon looked at each other and agreed “‘There is no longer any Czar for us!'”.
New York Times “Russia in Revolution–More Confessions of a Revolutionaire”–http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/96527837?accountid=14826
New York Times “Gapon, the Hero of ‘Bloody Sunday'”–http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/96601455?accountid=14826