Bloody Sunday – What does it mean to America?


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In a Peaceful plea to the Tzar

In St. Petersburg, Russia on January 22, 1905 a peaceful protest was organized and led by Father Gapon that was heading towards the winter palace of Tzar Nicholas II. I think it’s important to show that this was being done in the middle of the winter. This was a period after the war with Japan (to which they lost), they were protesting the horrific working conditions in their workplaces, it was in a time of an economic slump, the people wanted the help from Nicholas which they considered “Little Father”. They had gathered together on that cold morning to plead with their king.They had no intent in making any kind of political protest in the sense of calling for the overthrow of the government or royal family. The petition they carried clearly shows that they wanted Nicholas to help them. Up until this point many times the people had gone before the Tzar in asking for help, in most cases he supported the people and reform was made.

This day they carried a petition that stated:

“Oh Sire, we working men and inhabitants of St. Petersburg, our wives, our children and our parents, helpless and aged women and men, have come to You our ruler, in search of justice and protection. We are beggars, we are oppressed and overburdened with work, we are insulted, we are not looked on as human beings but as slaves. The moment has come for us when death would be better than the prolongation of our intolerable sufferings.
We are seeking here our last salvation. Do not refuse to help Your people. Destroy the wall between Yourself and Your people.”

1905 Uprising

Inspired by the Union of Liberation

Dressed in their Sunday best, with the women and children at the front (upon reflection many young men were put to the front), the marchers carried icons, crosses or pictures of the Tzar, but no weapons of any kind. The religious procession moved forward singing hymns the less optimistic of them understood that they might be martyred. The reasons for this march, they were asking for the working day to be cut to eight hours, for the right to strike and for the election of a constituent assembly by secret ballot and universal suffrage. All of which was in the body of their petition, inspired by the Union of Liberation. They never reached the Winter Palace, Nicholas not understanding the gravity of the situation was not in residence at the time. He had taken his family and had gone off to the countryside for a rest.

As several thousand workers approached the Winter Palace, officers called out the palace’s security garrison to guard its entry points. The guards themselves were quite nervous about facing such a large gathering of  people. It has never been clear if the first shot was out of nervousness or an officer called out the order to shot.  Once the shooting was over government sources declared that 96 souls had been killed, eyewitnesses believed the number was closer to 200, while other reports and propaganda from revolutionary groups claimed even higher figures.

So what gave rise to this massacre

In the late 1800s there was a boom in industrial growth that had been supported by the tsarist government economic stimulus program. The problem with the program was a lack of legislative and regulatory controls that protected the labors. Because of these lack of labor laws and extremely low wages the workers of Russia were being exploited not only by there own people but also by foreign investors as well. Those who were working the the Industrial sector labored under appalling conditions. The average work day at the time was 10.5 hours, six days a week, but it was common for them to work up to 15 hours per day. Annual holidays, sick leave and superannuation just didn’t exist. Under these conditions it was commonplace for accidents, illnesses, injuries to happen, when they did the workers were summarily dismissed without sick leave, or any kind of compensation what so ever. Then to add insult to injury Factory owners imposed arbitrary fines for singing while working, failing to meet production quota, being tardy to work and the list goes on. The workers themselves lived in over crowded tenements or run down sheds owned by their employers. The construction of these quarters lacked adequate heating, water or even sewage facilities. The whole situation was just over appalling.

The results of the shooting

All through Russia the news spread quickly about what had happened. In the same way strikes occurred involving around 400,000 workers. Factory owners and landlords homes were attacked by peasants even the Grand Duke an uncle of the tzar was assassinated as a result of what had happened. The transportation system of Russia also came to a grinding halt. It seemed at any point Russia just might implode. Then to add more woes to this ever growing problem it became clear that Russia had lost the Russo-Japanese War. The war that was to gain the favor of the people to the tzar wound up having the opposite effect.

While the events of 1905 had little effect at the time, the victims of the massacre were remembered in the years that followed. On January 9th 1917, the Bolsheviks organized a mass strike to remember Bloody Sunday as it had become known. As January passed, the strikes had become more organized and more widespread to the point where cities began to grind to a halt. In St Petersburg, Russia’s capital at the time, there were mass walkouts across the city. Even the police went on strike
When the police joined in the strikes it really was the end. The Duma collapsed and on 15 March 1917 the Tzar abdicated, leaving a provisional government to run the country. This government, led by Alexander Kerensky met a great deal of opposition and unrest grew which in turn led to the October revolution.
This is the point where Lenin and Stalin returned from their respective exiles and made their marks on Russia. Lenin’s was the greater influence as he returned to lead the Communist Bolsheviks who voted in early October to rise up against the provisional government and take power.
Lenin succeeded in capturing the key cities in Russia, and the country collapsed into a four year civil war in which the Communists were ultimately victorious. The Royal Family were arrested and shot to prevent them being freed by the White Armies and therefore this removed the risk of them ever

What does it mean to America

So the question remains “What does it mean to America? Right? Lets take a look at modern history in America so hopefully the picture I’m going to paint will be understood. What is one of the forefront of most people minds when it comes to the news? What comes to me is the incident in Ferguson.  In of itself Ferguson doesn’t seem all that important, but when we look at it in the context of history I believe it will be important. But like all good things you must wait…………

Part II coming soon.

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3 thoughts on “Bloody Sunday – What does it mean to America?

    1. I suspect part II will be viewed a bit differently, the reason is that I’m going to try to extrapolate why I believe there is a danger this could happen in the US as well. I don’t think it will be in the same manner but will possibly along the same line. It will be to provoke thinking and probably some controversy.

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