Father Gapon the hero of St. Petersburg and Bloody Sunday

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Father Gapon the hero of St. Petersburg and Bloody Sunday.

History 497

On January 22, 1905, about 200,000 Russian workers and their families approached the Tsar’s winter palace in St. Petersburg. They conceded a petition asking for better working conditions, and more personal freedom, and elected national government. Bloody Sunday provoked a wave of strikes and violence that spread across the country. This would not be done because of one man. George Gapon, a priest who showed concern for the interest of Russia’s peasants during the 1905 revolution, was a hero for all St. Petersburg workers. Before Bloody Sunday occurred, life was very hard for Russian workers. The average Russian worker would work for an 11 hour day. Some of the factories not having the best quality facilities for employees were unhealthy and unsafe for people. The Russian people were tired of not receiving these workers rights and not doing anything about it, was a problem. Until Father Gapon started talking to these factory workers and seeing their side of the story. Father Gapon had connections and also formed an assembly for all workers of St. Petersburg that wanted to make a difference for them and their families as well. Father Gapon also created the secret programs that were demands for the rights of the working people of St. Petersburg. Therefore receiving the support of the Tsar was very difficult to get something in plan to create a type of program to give workers rights. The Tsar was having trouble understanding the lost of the Russo-Japanese war than giving rights to all workers of St. Petersburg. With out the help of Father Gapon the people of St. Petersburg would have a difficult time working and being mistreated by the owners of these factories and companies that these people did not deserve.
Oliva 1

Father Gapon was born the 5 of February, 1870 in a small village in the Ukraine called Beliki in Poltava. His parents were always having money trouble but they cared about their children though no matter the situation. 1In his memories Gapon stressed his plebeian background, often referring to the financial difficulties of his parents and the necessity of helping them money.” His father Apollon Fedorovich received basic education and his mother was illiterate. His mother was religious person. She always wanted the best for her children on the word of god. 2 Believing that her own salvation depended upon her ability to save the family, his mother did her best to reinforce the teachings of the church in the mind of her oldest son.” Father Gapon as a young boy practiced praying and reading the bible frequently. His mother was the one to show him about everything about god and how to become a better person by following the word of god. As a young boy he was a good student. He did really extremely well in academics. His parents wanted Gapon to receive the best education. Gapon did really well; when it came to examinations for school therefore he passed all his exams. 3 At twelve years of age, Georgii found himself living in the strange surroundings of boarding school. Dressed in peasant clothes, feeling out of place among the sons of clergy, he immediately became the butt jokes and pranks. His good grades only helped increase this antagonism, and not until he was able to repay his tormentors in kind was his presence tolerated. He had a hard time growing up. Not the type of child that would have many friends throughout his


childhood. 4 As a boy Georgii was in stature and had a very dark complexion. He was physically strong for his size, but his health was frail.”

When Gapon was sixteen years old of age he lost his younger sister. She had been his frequent playmate, and her premature death marked the end of childhood for him.” Everything changed for him after his sister died he decided to be with the seminary and to all the good deeds that would help him and people. Around his early twenties he meets with a young lady that later down the road she becomes his wife. 5daughter of a local merchant, in a house where he gave private lessons. Pretty, well-brought, and charming, she was also intelligent and secondary education.” She cared very much about people; she would do anything to make people happy especially the poor population. 6 During those years Gapon’s married life was happy and relatively calm. The couple had two Children, a daughter and a son, but soon after the birth of their son. Gapon’s wife fell gravely ill. Her final days were spent in constant prayer, and shortly before her death she had prophetic dreams of her own funeral, describing it exactly as it was to take place. She died in the arms of her husband, and Gapon frequently remarked that with her early passing his life lost its meaning.” Losing his sister was horrible during as an adolescent therefore seeing his wife dying was the worst thing for him for the reason that she was everything to her in this world. Also seeing that his own children did not have a mother in this world made it hard for him, but also for his children.

What was next for Gapon he had no clue what to do in his life? He felt that everything was over, that there was no need to live. He wanted to go back and study to be

a priest. He applied for the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. He desire to accomplish what he never had the chance to do as a kid to become a priest. 7 The St. Petersburg Theological Academy, the most prominent of the four religious academies of the Russian Orthodox Church offered a four-year program of advanced study. Gapon was admitted in 1898 as one of 235 regularly attending students including 64 first-year students of whom four held ecclesiastical rank.” Throughout the time he was studying and serving the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. He did what ever it took to please the bishops of the Orthodox Church. He wanted to be respected in the Orthodox Church that he did a lot of missionary work with especially with the poor of St. Petersburg. It was hard work, but he did have the heart for people. 8 The strain of work of work, the pace of life in St. Petersburg, disturbing impressions of the miserable conditions endured by the lower classes in the capital, and further disenchantment with the church led to an acute psychological depression.

Gapon starts to work at the Moscrow-Narva Branch orphanage to help out the poor and also the sick children. He is doing all kinds of labor to help him, but also helping his family with the financial statues. Gapon was keeping himself busy with all the work he was doing for the church. The money that he worked hard and earned Gapon used it to travel to see his family in the summers of every year. He got the opportunity to preach that fall. People enjoyed hearing his great lectures of the word of god. He had the voice for it. People all over and out side of St. Petersburg would come to see him and

meet him because he had a way with words. 9 His services in the church attracted large crowds, and his simple sermons delivered with a distinct Ukrainian accent, visibly moved them masses of working-class worshippers in the audience. Even non- believers attended the services and were impressed, as the following description by a man with extensive experience in Social Democratic circles, a future lieutenant in Gapon’s organization, indicates:” People all over St. Petersburg were pleased with this new priest that was doing good deeds all over the city of St. Petersburg. Gapon was serving the poor to even the rich society of St. Petersburg. When Father Gapon was not giving the word of god he would have meetings with factory workers. He would have conversations with the working class and to hear their anger towards the owners of these factories. Father Gapon had many ideas to help the poor society of St. Petersburg. He wanted to change that for the people of St. Petersburg. It stared slowly by talking to the governor of St. Petersburg General N.V. Kleigels. 10 This strange preoccupation with the lower classes on the part of a student –priest did not escape the watchful eyes of the authorities. One day Gapon was summoned by the city governor, General N. V. Kleigels, to explain the nature his duties and his interest in the workers. Gapon told his concern for the poor and said he was preparing a report on a project for rehabilitation of the poor. Satisfied that there were no political implications involved, the city governor dismissed Gapon, encouraging him to continue working on the report.” Father Gapon wanted this proposal so bad that he got the chance to talk to important people in the city of St. Petersburg to help with the plan he had in mind for the working class and their workers rights as well. Everything was going

great for him and his plan was interesting to people, it did not matter if you were poor or rich. The plan was for everyone that thought it was a good idea to give workers rights to these hard working individuals. 11 The growing popularity of Father Gapon and the prospects of an audience with empress stimulated considerable interest among certain members of the St. Petersburg aristocracy. According to his own account, Gapon became a frequent guest in many of their homes. He often visited Mme. Sofia Khitrovo, widow of the Hofmarshal and the Russian ambassador to Japan, and Elizaveta Naryshkina, a lady –in-waiting to the empress. Naryshkina imbued him with a sense of intense loyalty to emperor, whom she greatly admired. She related stories of life in the palace and praised the imperial family highly. “Thanks to her I began to idealize Emperor Nicholas 2,” commented Gapon. He became convinced that the salvation of Russia could achieved through. “I thought that when the moment came he would appear in his true light, hear his people, and make them happy.

During this time the working people of St. Petersburg were having a hard time earning a good wage, but not having workers rights if incase of an accident occurred at work you will receive something at least. It did not work that way for the people of St. Petersburg though. The life in Russia was not improving like the other European countries. Famine played important role of desperate peasant to look for work outside the villages .People all over the mother country wanted to flee to St. Petersburg. People came for the best in St. Petersburg, for the best education or they came for a better job


Comparing what they had in their towns. 12 Finally, in the two decades before 1900, the factory workers of St. Petersburg grew into the largest and most highly politicized industrial labor force in the country, unmatched in its immersion in urban values, toughened by its proximity to and frequent encounters with the repressive organs of the state, and schooled by long exposure to revolutionary ideas and organization. The potential for explosive and sustained revolt that these conditions contained would not become fully known, to the wider world or to the workers themselves, until 1905, when the labor movement proved to be the decisive part of the revolutionary alliance because it alone was capable of translating into action the revolution strategies of the intelligentsia. In St. Petersburg there were all kinds’ jobs that people could do from transportation to metal to textile. People did all kinds work to make ends meet and be stable during the harsh time that the county was going through. 13 The Petersburg city census of 1900 showed that the greatest industry of the city was metal working and machine production, which accounted for some 80,000 workers, or about 18 percent of the total of 442,353.This was followed by general commerce, clothing, transportation, construction, woodworking, and textiles, with about 7 to 11 percent each. Metalworking was also the fastest –growing major industry in the city during the two decades before 1900.

Wages were not best thing when they received there money every time they got paid from their bosses. It was incredible how they were paid every time they received there salary. It was joke to most of these hard working people of St. Petersburg.14 Wages

in Petersburg contrasted sharply with those paid throughout Russia generally. By one calculation, the average daily wage of the city’s factory workers in 1900 was 39 percent higher than that of workers in European Russia as a whole. Every category of factory worker but one earned more in St. Petersburg. The lowest-paid factory workers in both Petersburg and the Empire were those in the textile industry, where extensive mechanization had created large numbers of unskilled and semiskilled positions that did not command a high wage because the workers filling them could be so easily replaced.

Men worked very hard to bring money home to their families. Therefore you also had high percentage of women working as well their husbands or lovers. They were a portion of stereotypes to these hard working women especially the men. 15 The percentage of women in Petersburg’s work force around 1900 varied between 15 and 17 percent. In the capital city’s and in the country as a whole, women were concentrated in certain industries and were absent, or nearly so, from other. The number of women in the Petersburg work force was increasing, rising from 49,600 in 1881 to 73,724 in 1900, a gain of 48.g percent. The proportion of women in the city’s work force also grew, from 14.4 percent in 1881 to16.7 percent in 1900 and 20.3 percent in1910. Those industries which already had high concentrations of women grew the most, such as textiles and clothing.

Majority of the people that worked in the factories were tired of not receiving the best quality serves while working inside these dirty companies or factories were not best as well. The conditions in these factories were very poorly managed. Everything was cramped where employees would do there job in the factories. There was always a close

watch to employees. They were always controlling the people and they were strict. The working conditions were not best in town especially for these big factories that would produced a lot for the country, but also the city of St. Petersburg.

The people could not take it any more they had to rise up and do something. Well they did by protesting and striking in the streets of St. Petersburg.16 When four workers members of the Assembly Russian workers were dismissed at Putilov Iron Works, Gapon called for industrial action. Over the next few days over 110,000 workers in St. Petersburg went on strike. Father Gapon was still working on the plan he had in mind to give workers working rights. In the other hand your had an angry Tsar that was tired of riots and protesting in the cities especially in the capitol city of St. Petersburg. 17 Nicholas punished rioters and protesters severely. Indeed, his reaction to these uprisings were the only consistent, decisive responses he made during his troubled rule. In 1900 alone, the Russian police arrested 1,580 people for political crimes. By 1903, 5,590 had been arrested. Everything is not going right for the Russian people during this moment. You had protesters and rioters also you are having conflicts with international affairs with the nation of Japan. The Tsar is not doing well in Russian politics because the people are seeing the real him not doing anything for his people also not having a plan to defeat Japan. 18 In February 1904, with the power struggle between the workers and czar at a standstill, war broke out between Russia and Japan. The czar saw as an opportunity to distract Russia’s workers from revolutionary ideas, uniting them in the goal of fighting a common enemy. The war might also allow Russia to expand its power and influence. Trouble had been brewing between Japan and Russia for some time. Much of the feud centered on a treaty Russia had negotiated with China, which allowed Russia access to the Chinese seaports of Dairen and Port Arthur. The treaty also permitted Russia to build a railroad through Manchuria to get to these Ports. Japanese leaders, however, worried that Russia harbored secret plans to take control of both Manchuria and nearby Korea-an area Japan was also interested in dominating. For several weeks, Russia and Japan attempted to solve their dispute diplomatically. The war began when the Japanese, without warning, launched a naval attack against the Russians at Port Arthur. From the beginning, Russia was at a disadvantage, and at the end of the18 month war, Japan was a clear victor. Russia had suffered a series of humiliating military defeats, with casualties mounting as Japan’s modern warship destroyed the czar’s aging fleet. At the start of the war, Russians from all levels of society rallied around the czar. But as news of military disaster and thousands of death began to filter back, popular support turned to outrage. Antiwar protests began to materialize. The ever-violent SRs continued to riot in the streets, trying to take full advantage of the public’s anger.

During this time Father Gapon was meeting with different people to help him with his plan that he had in mind. One of them was no other than police officer S.V Zubatov. Zubatov was the one of the men that gave that to Gapon to do more for the people of St. Petersburg especially the workers and the peasants. Like Gapon Zubatov has the same ideas like Gapon about giving rights to the factory workers.19 As far back as 1901, S. V Zubatov, a chief of the Moscrow Okhrana, the secret police, had hit on the idea of the principle of the safety value as a means of preventing unrest. He formed a government –sponsored union, the Society for Mutual Aid for working Men in the Mechanical Industries. It encouraged the workers to air their grievances, to set fourth their demands for higher pay and a shorter working day, but at the same time the police took good care to ensure that the meetings were conducted in an atmosphere of reverence and loyalty toward the Czar. Zubatov was a man with a large amount of power in his hands to change the situation with the workers in St. Petersburg. Zubatov was born in Moscow as a 20young man he had interest in Russian politics. But by 1884 his politics changed completely and he became an informant for Okhrana. He formally joined the political police, probably in 1886, and rose rapidly through the ranks, attaining the post of head of Moscow branch of the Okhrana within ten years. Father Gapon wanted to meet with Zubatov to discuss a plan for the hard working people of St. Petersburg. 21 Gapon interest in the city’s lower classes and his organization of self-help projects came to the attention of the authorities late in 1902 and he was brought to meet Zubatov, just then attempting to establish one of his unions in the capitol. The police official was impressed by the priest’s abilities and demeanor and tried to entice him into joining the effort. Receiving the help from Zubatov would benefit a great number of peasants that work in these bad conditions in these factories and to give them what they deserve for there hard work they do to make what is St. Petersburg. 22 From the earliest days of his association with Zubatov, Gapon had believed it necessary to give the workers more independence and to reduce visible police control. In a letter to the former police chief written early in September 1903, Gapon addressed himself to the problems of developing his labor organization. Zubatov did all kinds of work to help Gapon with anything to with the petition to give workers that help. 23 Zubatov began to send the priest a monthly subsidy of 100 rubles (a substantial sum at the time), and in the summer of 1903 Gapon founded the “Assembly of the Russian Factory and Mill workers of the City of St. Petersburg. During this time father Gapon and Zubatov furthermore to create an Assembly to help the peasants of St. Petersburg where they could talk about their problem inside and outside the factories. Father Gapon wanted them to benefit from this assembly and to stand up what they felt for.24 Zubatov acknowledge that the workers had real and legitimate grievances, and that these could make them into a revolutionary threat. If they were left to the mercy of their factory employees, the workers were almost bound to come under the influence of the socialist. But if, as he advocated, the government set up its own workers’ organization, the initiative would lie with the Tsar’s loyal servants.

The Assembly of Russian workers and father Gapon was the only remaining result of changing the life’s of the people of St. Petersburg. Everyday they would hold meetings bringing different people to discus their feelings about St. Petersburg situation, therefore the economy of Russia with the Tsar leading the country, majority of the people were disgusted and tired not caring for his people. 25 Gapon had bigger plans in mind. He wanted the Assembly to grow into a gigantic organization with branches in other cities and to become a genuine force in Russia society. During the time that assembly was growing. He started to work on a document. A document that would explain the demands that workers of St. Petersburg want to have. 26 In March 1904 he called a highly secret meeting at his apartment, inviting four Assembly leaders whose trust he sought-Varnashev, , Vasil’ev Karelin, and Dmitirii Kuzin, a Menshevik worker not associated with Karelin group. Gapon showed them a document he had written listing the demands later incorporated in the petition of January 9. He suggested that it adopted as the secret program of the Assembly. The secret programs of demands were known as the program of five. This program describes in detail all the demands that the people of St. Petersburg deserve. Gapon always had this idea for while, but it did come true until he put in paper. 27 In the last months of 1904, with the war still in progress, the liberals in Russia organized a banquet campaign through which the social the social elite demonstrated support for the idea constitutional reform. At the same time the government was under other kinds of pressure, including terrorist attacks on officials, student demonstration and workers’ strikes.

After the program of five there were suddenly more protest and strikes as the strikes that occurred in 1903 and 1904 than the main one that every worker and family member was going to participate in the winter palace in St. Petersburg.28 The police, however, greatly underestimated Father Gapon. They also failed to realize the extent of the priest s proletarian sympathies. Setting aside his role as secret agent, the clergyman became a real labor leader. When workers were fired from Putilov machine and engine factory-one of the biggest such plants in the world-Gapon called for a strike. Within a week, 100,000 disgruntled workers had walked off the job. In 1905 he wanted to meet the Tsar and see if he wood give him a chance to see about giving rights to all the workers of St. Petersburg. 29 In an attempt to settle the dispute, George Gapon decided to make a personal appeal to Nicholas 2. He drew up a petition outlining the workers’ sufferings and demands. This included calling for a reduction in the working day to eight hours, an increase in wages and an improvement in working conditions. Gapon also called for the establishment of universal suffrage and an end to the Russo-Japanese War. Over 150,000 people signed the petition and on 22nd January, 1905, Gapon led a large procession of workers to the Winter Palace in order to present the petition to Nichoas 2.

Political parties as the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks obtain gain of the peasant displeasure and tried to turn the peasants against the Czar and more in the direction of intolerance and freethinking. On January 21st Father Gapon writes a letter to Nicholas stating about the workers demands and there purpose for this gathering in the Winter palace tomorrow at 2pm.30 The people believe in thee. They made up their minds to gather at the Winter palace tomorrow at 2p.m. to lat their needs before thee. Do not fear anything. Stand tomorrow before the party and accept our humble petition, I the representative of the working men, and my comrades, guarantee the inviolability of thy person. The petition that father Gapon, was going to be submitted to the Czar stating on the demands of the people. 31 We workers, our children, our wives and our old, helpless parents have come, Lord to seek truth and protection from you. We are impoverished and oppressed, unbearable work is imposed on us, we are despised and not recognized as human beings. We are treated as slaves, who must bear their fate and be silent. We have suffered terrible things, but we are pressed ever deeper into the abyss of poverty, ignorance and the lack of rights. The demands that were made up by Father Gapon were 32 1). An 8 hour day and freedom to organize trade unions. 2) Improved working conditions, free medical aid, higher wages for women workers. 3) Elections to be held for a constituent assembly by universal, equal and secret suffrage. 4) Freedom of Speech, press, association and religion. 5) An end to the war with Japan.

33 Gapon and the assembly organized a great demonstration for Sunday, January 9, 1905. Workers would march to the Winter Palace, carrying religious icons and portraits of Nicholas, to present asking for redress of grievances. The government decided to block the demonstration. Troops and police fired into the packed masses of men, women, killing and wounding hundreds. Bloody Sunday was as terrible day for many Russians. For that day everything was closed business, stores, factories until something had to be changed. On the day of the marches at the Winter Palace, the Tsar was not at his palace. The military felt that they were in danger from the protesters.

Father Gapon was the hero of bloody Sunday he wanted to demonstrate that as a priest he also could be hero to the people of St. Petersburg. He wanted the best for the people of St. Petersburg. Father Gapon worked hard to help these hard working folks that never had some one to give them a hand until Father Gapon into their lives and made a difference for them and the whole city of St. Petersburg.


1) Sablinsky, Walter. The Road to Bloody Sunday: Father Gapon and the St. Petersburg Massacre of 1905. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1976


Surh D. Gerald. 1905 in St. Petersburg: Labor, Society, AND Revolution:

California: STANDFORD University Press, 1989

3). The National Archives. “Bloody Sunday.”

<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUSsunday.htm>(3 October 2006)
4). John M. Dunn. The Russian Revolution San Diego, California :Lucent BooksInc,1994

5). Moorehead Alan. The Russian Revolution: New York: Carrol & Graf Publishers, Inc,

6) Abraham Ascher The Revolution of 1905 Standford, California :

Standford University Press, 1988


Figes Orlando, A People’s Tragedy : The Russian Revolution 1891-1924. New York:

Penguin Books, 1996.

Fitzpatrick Sheila. The Russian Revolution: Second Edition: New York: OXFORD

University Press, 1994
9) Wade A. Rex. The Russian Revolution 1917: Second Editions: New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005

1 Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 34

2 Sablinsky,35

3 Sablinsky,36

4 Sablinsky, 35

5 Sablinsky, 39

6 Sablinsky, 40

7 Sablinsky, 42

8 Sablinsky, 42

9 Sablinsky, 46

10 Sablinsky,49

11 Sablinsky,50

12 Gerald D. Surh, 1905 in St. Petersburg Labor, society, and revolution (Standford: Stand Ford University Press, 1989), 6

13 Gerald D. Surh, 20

14 Gerald D. Surh, 23

15 Gerald D. Surh, 30

16 The National Archives; “ Bloody Sunday,” (3 October 2006).

17 John M. Dunn, The Russia Revolution (San Diego: Lucent Books Inc),32-33

18 John M. Dunn, 33

19 Alan Moorehead, “The Russian Revolution (New York, Carrol& Graf Publishers, Inc),52

20 Abraham Ascher, The Revolution of 1905( Stanford California: Stanford University Press,1988),24

21 Gerald D. Surh,109

22 Sablinsky,83

23 Abraham Ascher, 79

24 Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy : The Russian Revolution 1891-1924(New York: Penguin Books, 1996),174

25 Gerald D. Surh, Petersburg’s First Mass Labor Organization”: The Assembly of Russian Workers and Father Gapon Part 1 Russian Review , Vol. 40, No. 3( July.., 1981), pp.241-262=IV. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0036-0341%28198107%2940%3A3%c241%3APFMLOT(30 October 2006),245

26 Gerald D. Surh, 120

27 Sheila Fitzpatrick The Russian Revolution(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005),32

28 John M. Dunn,34

29 The National Archives; “ Bloody Sunday,” (3 October 2006), 2

30 The National Archives; “ Bloody Sunday,” (3 October 2006), 2

31 The National Archives; “ Bloody Sunday,” (3 October 2006), 2

32 The National Archives; “ Bloody Sunday,” (3 October 2006), 2

33 Rex. A. Wade The Russian Revolution 1917(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005),13

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