bloody sunday

Bloody Sunday | World History | Free PDF Download



  • After the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 by Tsar Alexander II of Russia, there e0merged a new peasant working class in Russia’s industrializing cities.
  • The working conditions in the cities were horrific, they were only employed for short periods of time and returned to their village when their work was complete or it was time to resume agricultural work.
  • The emancipation of the serfs resulted in the establishment of a permanent working class in urban areas, which created a strain on traditional Russian society.
  • Peasants were confronted by unfamiliar social relationships, a frustrating regime of factory discipline, and the distressing conditions of urban life.


  • Generally unskilled, these peasants received low wages, were employed in unsafe working environments, and worked up to fifteen hours a day.
  • Although some workers still had a paternalistic relationship with their employer, factory employers were more present and active than the noble landowners that previously had ownership of the serfs.
  • Abuse of power, made evident by the long working hours, low wages, and lack of safety precautions, led to strikes in Russia.


  • The first major industrial strike in Russia, which occurred in the year 1870 in St. Petersburg. This new phenomenon was a catalyst to many more strikes in Russia, which increased until they reached a peak between 1884 and 1885 when 4,000 workers went on strike at Morozov’s cotton mill.
  • A new law was passed in 1886 that required employers to specify working conditions in their factories in writing. This included the treatment of the workers, the workers’ hours, and the safety precautions that were taken by the employer.
  • This new law also created factory inspectors who were charged with preserving industrial peace. Despite these changes, strike activity again reached high proportions during the 1890s, resulting in the restriction of the workday to eleven and a half hours in 1897


  • A leading role in these events was played by a priest Father Georgy Gapon.Fr. Gapon was a charismatic speaker and effective organiser, who took an interest in the working and lower classes of the Russian cities.
  • The Assembly of the Russian Factory and Mill Workers of the City of St. Petersburg otherwise known as the Assembly had been headed by Fr. Gapon since 1903.
  • During 1904 the membership of the association had grown rapidly, The Assembly’s objectives were to defend workers’ rights and to elevate their moral and religious status. The Assembly served as a type of union for the workers of St. Petersburg.


  • The decision to prepare and present a petition was made in the course of discussions during the evening of 19 January 1905, at the headquarters of Father Gapon’s movement.
  • The petition,as drafted in respectful terms by Gapon himself, made clear the problems and opinions of the workers and called for improved working conditions, fairer wages, and a reduction in the working day to eight hours.
  • Other demands included an end to the Russo-Japanese War and the introduction of universal suffrage. The idea of a petition resonated with the traditionally minded working masses.
  • The march on the Winter Palace was not a revolutionary or rebellious act. Political groups, such as the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and the Social Revolutionaries.Fr. Gapon even encouraged his followers to tear up leaflets that supported revolutionary aims. 1905
  • The majority of Russian workers retained their traditional conservative values of Orthodoxy, faith in the autocracy, and indifference to political life.
  • The workers of St. Petersburg wished to receive fair treatment and better working conditions; they decided, therefore, to petition the tsar in hopes he would act on it. In their eyes, the tsar was their representative who would help them if he was made aware of their situation.
  • Troops had been deployed around the Winter Palace and at other key points. Despite the urging of various members of the imperial family to stay in St. Petersburg, the Tsar left on Saturday 21 January 1905 for Tsarskoye Selo.



  • On 22 January 1905, striking workers and their families began to gather at six points in the industrial outskirts of St Petersburg. Holding religious icons and singing hymns and patriotic songs
  • A crowd of “more than 3,000” proceeded without police interference towards the Winter Palace, the Tsar’s official residence. The crowd, whose mood was quiet, did not know that the Tsar was not in residence.
  • Initially it was intended that women, children and elderly workers should lead, to emphasize the united nature of the demonstration. Vera Karelina, who was one of Gapon’s inner circle, had encouraged women to take part and she expected that there would be casualties. On reflection, younger men moved to the front to make up the leading ranks


  • The troops, who now numbered about 10,000, had been ordered to halt the columns of marchers before they reached the palace square but the reaction of government forces was inconsistent and confused.
  • The first instance of shooting occurred between 10 and 11am. There was no single encounter directly before the Winter Palace, as often portrayed, but rather a series of separate collisions at the bridges or other entry points to the central city.
  • The total number killed in the day’s clashes is uncertain but the Tsar’s officials recorded 96 dead and 333 injured; anti-government sources claimed more than 4,000 dead; moderate estimates still average around 1,000 killed or wounded, both from shots and trampled during the panic.
  • Nicholas II described the day as “painful and sad”. As reports spread across the city, disorder and looting broke out. Gapon’s Assembly was closed down that day, and Gapon quickly left Russia.


  • The immediate consequence of Bloody Sunday was a strike movement that spread throughout the country. Strikes began to erupt outside of St. Petersburg in places.
  • In all, about 414,000 people participated in the work stoppage during January 1905. It is estimated that between October 1905 and April 1906, 15,000 peasants and workers were hanged or shot, 20,000 injured, and 45,000 sent into exile.
  • Perhaps the most significant effect of Bloody Sunday was the drastic change in attitude of the Russian peasants and workers. however, after Bloody Sunday the tsar was no longer distinguished from the bureaucrats and was held personally responsible for the tragedy that occurred.
  • The social contract between the tsar and the people was broken.

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