Father Gapon And Bloody Sunday Essay, Research Paper
At the beginning of the 1900’s, Russia was still being run by nobility, while the peasants made up more than half of the population. The Russian people didn’t see much of the rest of the world outside of their commune way of life. They were hard workers who farmed the land while struggling against the cold and hardships of their life. Czar Alexander II hoping to bring Russia out of the dark ages signed the “Emancipation Manifesto”. Which freed the serfs from ownership to the nobles. The unwillingness of the people to change their way of life left them blinded to the ways of the outside world (Scheer 73).
By the late 1800’s Nicholas II came into power. Many officials petitioned to Nicholas that the people have a opportunity to express their concerns. But despite all of the pressure Nicholas ignored their requests. Nicholas remained popular with the public by keeping tight control on any printed material containing revolutionary ideas. Nicholas was hoping to start a war with Japan. His advisors at this time urged him to refrain from going to war with Japan. But Nicholas replaced the most opposing advisor, Witte, with Pleve who believed a small victory would be good for the public. It was no question that the Trans-Siberian railroad, Russia’s only track, would not be able to provide the needed supplies to the military (Volkov 132). So the advisors eventually got Nicholas to see that the war would be a failure, but Japan had been insulted enough when news of Japans attack on Russia was received. Nicholas seemed to be unaware of the support he had from the Russian people. His concern was that his advisors warned him that this war was costing him the throne. The war was not going well. Russian ships were sunk by Japanese torpedoes and the Japanese were winning the war. News of the war finally reached Russia and the people were alarmed. Witte was called into settle the was with Japan. He negotiated with Japan and he ended the war with a loss of territory for Russia (Volkov 137).
During the war a sense of unhappiness with the Czar’s became apparent. The rise of a movement by Father Gapon, a monk, was developed. Georgii Apollonovich Gapon was the next leader to take control of labor organizations in favor of the peasants. Gapon came from a family with financial difficulties and often helped his parents with money. His mother was heavily religious and instilled and insisted on “the strict observance of rituals, saying of prayers, and church attendance” (Sablinsky 35). As an Orthodox priest with a poverty stricken and religious background, he became a leader in the labor movement. Father Gapon started the movement by working with the police. But when four members of Gapons movement were fired, a strike moved throughout St. Petersburg. Gapon was a natural choice for the leader of the strike. Gapon began his leadership combining the state sponsorship with Christian brotherhood. “The Gaponovite organization presented a strange combination of pious traditionalism and radical, potentially, explosive, innovation” (Sablinsky 32).
He began a strike; between January 3rd and January 7th of 1905 there was a workers’ strike in St. Petersburg which included 140,000 to 150,000 people. The numbers of demands grew as the number of people grew. Gapons followers wanted to form a petition and, after much dispute, the idea was approved. The petition began with the workers’ grievances such as, “We are impoverished; we are oppressed, overburdened with excessive toil, contemptuously treated” (Sablinsky 188). The petition went on to state the causes of the workers’ unhappiness and then called for the attention of the Czar and public representation in government to be their main demands. The petition also asked for freedom of the press, improved working conditions, legalization of labor unions, minimum wage, and the start a public school system (Sablinsky 1976). With optimism about his plan, Gapon said;
A great moment for us has come. Do not grieve is there are victims. ….,but here, in the streets of the capital, that blood, if it is spilled , will prepare the ground for the resurrection of Russia. Do not remember me with ill feeling. Show that the workman can not only organize the people, but can die for them. -Sablinsky 242
Father Gapon thought the most effective way to give their petition to the Czar was by gathering in a large mass in front of the Winter Palace. Gapons intention was to deliver the petition peacefully, as he informed the Czar in a letter that he stated, “The Czar has nothing to fear guarantee his personal inviolability. Let him, as a true Czar, come to his people with a courageous heart and accept our petition from our hands”(Gapon 219). The night before the scheduled march few slept. Gapon feared of arrest and went though considerable lengths to protect himself. Accompanied by a bodyguard, he was disguised as a woman and was taken to a apartment of a worker. There he was safe and able to get some sleep (Sablinsky 172).
On January 22, 1905, about 50,000 people led by Father Gapon, including workmen and their wives and children, carried portraits of the Czar and marched toward the Winter Palace in a mission to deliver the petition to the Czar. However, the day did not turn out peacefully, as the New York Times, January 23, 1905 stated: “this has been a day of unspeakable horror in St. Petersburg.” The newspaper told how the emperor was informed that the workmen were going to march to give him the petition. However, the Czar’s advisors had already made the decision to “show a firm and resolute front, and the Emperor’s answer to the 100,000 workmen trying to force their way to the Palace Square to-day was a solid array of troops who met them with rifle, bayonet, and sabre” (New York Times 1). A Calvary appeared out of the palace and fired at the crowd. The next events were best put a worker of a revolutionary organization he gave the following account:
The crowd moved toward the square at first; then, seeing the soldiers readying their rifles, the leaders began to run toward them, followed by the crowd. Three times the bugle sounded; twice the soldiers fired into the air. The crowd still ran and was almost at the entrance to the bridge when the third volley, fired point-blank at close range, knocked down the gonfalon bearer and the police officer that was trying to halt the procession. Shouts, wails, and groans were heard: the crowd and those of us in the front ranks quickly fell to the ground. The soldiers due to confusion or cruelty of their commander, fired seven more volleys into the crowd until both companies, firing in turns, had emptied their clips. -Sablinsky 242
Other groups throughout St. Petersburg met with similar action.
The figures of the total number killed or wounded at the Narva Gate, the Moscow Gate, at various bridges and islands, and a the Winter Palace vary. The best estimate is 500, although there are exaggerated figures placing the number as high as 5000 Heartrending scenes were witnessed as wives, husbands, and mothers came up to claim their dear ones and were carried off with them in the sleighs -New York Times 1.
This became known as Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday caused St. Petersburg and other cities in Russia to suffer chaos and revolution, yet it led to the positive changes in the government. Bloody Sunday became known as the first day of the revolution of 1905. After January 22, 1905, universities closed and some government officials were assassinated. Mutinies within the military occurred, and the Russian language was even boycotted in Poland. The country was in hysteria, Strikes paralyzed St. Petersburg. The factories closed down, there was no action on the stock exchange, and schools and pharmacies shut down. The strikes would end for a short time and then the workers would go back on strike. The news of Bloody Sunday spread to other cities and revolts and strikes then began in other cities (Sablinsky 1976). An example was the Markovo Republic, another peasant community in Russia. The peasants themselves created the Markovo Republic where they refused “to obey the established authorities, pay taxes or rents, or provide any conscripts for the draft” (Scheer 104). The peasants went so far as to elect the town elder as its first president (Scheer 1994). By October the country itself was in a unanimous strike against the Czar except the police and military. The police and military were brought out and killed and wounded some strikers. They, however, were powerless in greater respects because the trains were not operating and so their forces were not mobile (Sablinsky 1976). Bloody Sunday also brought the nation to another conclusion, a conclusion first spoken by Gapon that became widely used by workers, “we no longer have a Czar” (Volkov 145). By the end of October the Czar, Nicholas II, was in despair. The country was in a unanimous strike and stopping the country from a revolt would have been impossible. As a result, the Czar signed the October Manifesto on October 30th which granted the workers what they had been wanting. The Manifesto (documented by Witte) gave the freedom of speech and assembly and also created the Duma, the elected legislature that was supposed to have veto power over the Czar. However, it is stated that the Duma never actually received the power it was supposed to receive (Volkov 1995). The revolution was complete. The Russian people had risen to the fight and had successfully gained their demands. This was just the first of many battles the Russian people would have to face. The man responsible for the accomplishments made is the same man who took a stand for the minority workers rights. He is the man who “kicked off” the revolution with his persistent advocacy for change; Father Georgii Apollonovich Gapon. He changes the history of Russia and made way for many other revolutionaries.
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