Bloody Sunday, 1905 - Russian Revolution

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Question: I am studying the event of Bloody Sunday, that took place on the 05th of January, 1905 for a school projectand must study the different views and perspectives of different people.

I would greatly appreciate the view of your University and it’s beliefs of;

  • What happened
  • What/who caused the event
  • The death and injury toll
  • And the outcome

I have already read the view of the Orthodox Church and am looking for more points of views to widen my understanding.
This project will be marked internally so my History teacher will be the only person marking my work.

The answer of Director of the Institute of History Abdulla H.Daudov:

It’s the great pleasure for us that you so interesting in our history, though you have chosen the hard page of it. The main reason of such terrible event as Bloody Sunday was a political and social order of Russia, which had no even elements of democracy and freedom. Russia was ruled by the tsar and powerful bureaucracy. It was agrarian country without developed capitalism, with backward economy and millions of illiterate peasants and workers. The conditions of this people were terrible: they lived in dirty and small dwellings, worked all day long for insignificant salary.

Naturally, these people were an object for revolutionary propaganda in the arms of young Russians political parties which appeared in this time. With the purpose to divert workers from a political struggle the government encouraged the creation of special organizations under the control of police and Orthodox Church. In 1901 Sergei Zubatov set up a police-dominated trade union. But he could not control the members of this organization and restrained them of participating in some strikes. His union was closed by the police.

His work was continued by a priest from the St. Petersburg industrial suburbs, Father Grigorii Gapon. He had organized workers throughout the city into an "Assembly of Russian Factory Workers". Although Gapon’s workers started meetings with a prayer and ended them with the Russians anthem, they also grew increasingly radical. They still, however, believed that the tsar was on their side. Gapon decided that his movement needed a political as well as an economic and moral dimension. He took advice from some liberals and social-democrats and with their help drew up a petition including political demands which combined elements of liberal and socialists thinking. The petition called for an eight-hour day, the right to strike, civil liberties, demanding a constituent assembly, and law-abiding government answerable to the people’s representatives. Reflecting the close ties most workers still had with the village, the petition also took up the most burning peasant concerns, such as the abolition of redemption payments and the transfer of land to those who worked it. The petition began:


"Sire – We, the workers and inhabitants of St Peterburg, of various estates, our wives, our children, and our aged, come to THEE, O SIRE to seek justice and protection. We are impoverished; we are oppressed, overburdened with excessive toil, contemptuously treated… We are suffocating in despotism and lawlessness"


The fall of Port Arthur to the Japanese (in the course of Russian-Japan war) in December 1904 and the outbreak of a strike at the huge Putilov engineering works in St. Petersburg coalesced to create a mood of expectation in which Gapon decided the workers must register their petition publicly. The occasion was to be a peaceful march through the city, followed by the presentation of the petition along with a loyal address to the tsar. Workshop meetings took up the idea enthusiastically. Observes spoke of "a kind of religious, mystical ecstasy".

Alarmed by the mass mood, the government tried at the last moment to ban the procession, but merely succeeded in sowing confusion. On Sunday, 9 January 1905,[1] the workers turned out in their Sunday best and paraded with icons and portraits of the tsar. They proceeded from the various industrial suburbs to the center of the city, where they hoped to present their petition. There, instead of the tsar, they found nervous soldiers  awaiting them. Next situation was strange, but typical for Russian government: nobody knows who gave the order to shoot in the demonstrators. The massacre began in different parts of the city, because the workers were going from different districts. People  were killed near Narva Gates, on the Palace Square, etc.

The quantity of murders and wounded exactly is unknown, but the serious sources tells us about 200 murders (or more) and many wounded: may be 5 thousands. The first consequence of this terrible event was the lost of faith in good tsar, which Russian people received centuries ago. During the four centuries before Russians and others people in Russia had believed in true (good) tsar, who was for them  on the one level with a God or even higher. And now they became very angry.

The people said: "There is no God any longer. There is no Tsar!" And another picture. Only moments after the shooting had ceased an old man turned to a boy of fourteen and said to him, with his voice full of anger: "Remember, son, remember and swear to repay the Tsar. You saw how much blood he spilled, did you see? Then swear, son, swear!"

 In Soviet and American historiographies this event estimated as the beginning of First Russian Revolution 1905 – 1907. But now some historians (among them – also the historians of Sank-Petersburg University) do not use word "revolution" in connection with these events, because they did not change the states order in Russia. 

The American and English historians pay great attention to the Bloody Sunday. Some analysis of these events you can find in the articles and books devoted to the "Revolution of 1905" [2]. Among the new works of American and English authors we can mention:


Figes, Orlando. Revolutionary Russia, 1891 – 1991. L.: Penguin Books Ltd, 2014.

Hosking, Geoffrey. Russia and the Russians. From Earliest Times to the Present. Second edition. Penguin Books. L., 2012.

Russia: A History. Third Edition / Edited by Gregory L. Freeze. Oxford: University Press, 2009.

Ascher, Abraham. The Revolution of 1905. 2 vols. Stanford, Calif., 1988


Meanwhile the works devoted only to the Bloody Sunday are seldom. We can recommend you: Sablinsky W. The Road to Bloody Sunday: Father Gapon and the St. Petersburg Massacre of 1905. Princeton, 1976.



Historians of St Petersburg University

[1] Until February 1918 Russia adhered to the Julian (Old Style) calendar, which ran thirteen days behind the  Gregorian (New Style) calendar in use in Western Europe.

[2] Frame M. The Russian revolution 1905 – 1921: A bibliographic guide to works in English. London, 1995.

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