The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a period of public unrest and opposition against the Government following the combination of many social and economic issues. One of which was labor issues following the emancipation of the serfs by the Tsar. A new working class emerged, which primarily consisted of peasants. But this new system of a working class failed to transition smoothly into the Russian infrastructure. Workers found themselves working long hours, for low wages, in dangerous work environments.
A Russian Orthodox Priest by the name of Georgi Gapon worked closely with factory workers and organized assemblies to promote workers’ rights. It is important to note Father Gapon’s “charismatic and sympathetic personality . . . he came to embody all the workers’ conflicting and confusing aspirations, lending them palpable personification at a moment when the workers might otherwise have lacked unity and direction” (Freeze 251).
In January of 1905, Father Gapon led a strike to march on Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, with a petition for Tsar Nicholas. The petition demanded higher wages and shorter hours during the work day for laborers. The march was comprised of workers and their families, including women and children, carrying religious crosses and singing Orthodox hymns. The Tsar order military troops to Saint Petersburg in order to suppress the crowd of marchers. When military troops formed a barrier in front of Winter Palace, the crowd refused to stop marching. The troops responded by using force to push the crowd back, and soon, troops opened fire on the crowd of marchers.
This massacre ordered by the Tsar is known as Bloody Sunday. Hundreds of marchers were killed and injured. Father Gapon managed to escape the conflict and was forced to flee to Europe for safety. This violent response by the Government prompted dozens of violent protests and backlash throughout the country by the general public. This event is considered by many as the start to the Russian Revolution of 1905.
- Russia: A History (3rd Edition), Gregory L. Freeze