How Russia’s own Bloody Sunday turned Nicholas II into a public enemy

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“In 1905, workers marched to Nicholas II’s palace with a peaceful petition demanding broader rights. Instead, they were met with gunfire, which completely destroyed Nicholas’s reputation and sent the Russian monarchy hurtling toward its eventual demise,” writes Oleg Yegorov in the July 15th 2019 edition of ‘Russia Beyond’

– Click HERE to read the article How Russia’s own Bloody Sunday turned Nicholas II into a public enemy. My personal comments are below – PG

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There is no question, that “Bloody Sunday” was a tragic event, which resulted in the deaths and injuries of innocent men, women and children. It is a tragedy which continues to haunt the legacy of Russia’s last tsar to this very day. Russian President Vladimir Putin has on more than one occasion, publicly referred to Nicholas II as “Nicholas the Bloody.” 

There are a couple of interesting facts which I would like to add to Oleg Yegorov’s article, on the events of Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905, which are often overlooked or simply ignored by other Western writers and historians.

The Winter Palace had ceased to be the residence of Nicholas II and his family in 1895. From then on the Winter Palace became little more than an administrative office block and a place of rare official entertaining. As Yegorov rightly points out, the tsar was not in residence on the day of the demonstration.

It is important to note, that upon finding out about the idea of ​​submitting the petition to the tsar, members of three revolutionary party organizations: the Social Democrats ( Mensheviks ), the Social Democrats ( Bolsheviks ), and the Social Revolutionaries, decided to swell the ranks of the “peaceful demonstrators,” on that fateful day.

The number of victims is greatly exaggerated by many historians. According to the Tsar’s official records: 130 dead and 299 injured; while anti-government sources claimed any where from 1,000 to 4,000 dead.

That evening, the events in St. Petersburg were reported to Nicholas II. The emperor was distressed and wrote in his diary:

“A terrible day! There were serious disturbance in Petersburg as a result of the workers wishing to reach the Winter Palace. The troops were forced to open fire in several parts of the town, there were many killed and wounded. Lord, how painful and how sad!” 

Photos: Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) ; the house in Ozerki, where Gapon was killed

Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) was a charismatic speaker and effective organizer who took an interest in the working and lower classes of the Russian cities. However, Fr. Gapon also had a hidden dark side, which has been proven by post-Soviet scholars – the priest was a police informant. 

After Bloody Sunday, Gapon fled to Europe, but returned by the end of 1905, and resumed contact with the Okhrana. On 26 March 1906, Gapon arrived for a meeting at a rented cottage outside St. Petersburg. A month later, his body was found hanged. Gapon had been murdered by three members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, after they had discovered that Gapon was a police informant.

Finally, it is interesting to draw attention to the provocative rumours spread by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets, who claimed that “tsarist troops shot workers on the orders of Nicholas II” (which for obvious reasons later became the official point of view in Soviet historiography, and was never researched or even discussed by Soviet historians). Even more outrageous, was the claim that the tsar “personally participated in the shootings, allegedly shooting at the demonstrators with a machine gun”!!

© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2019

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