BLOODY SUNDAY

January 22, 2023 -Durt Fibo

 

Today marks the 118th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when Russia’s desperate people marched to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a petition to the Tzar, naively asking him to ameliorate their unbearable living conditions, and were instead fired upon by his Imperial Guard, leaving around 1,000 dead and wounded. Some estimates are as high as 4,000 for that single day.

Led by the priest, Gapon, the petitioners were following a long tradition in which oppressed citizens of Russia would present their grievances to their omnipotent ruler -the “Little Father” they assumed cared about and protected them- meekly bearing religious placards and singing “God Save The Tzar” (the national anthem), as they did on that occasion as well. The crowd grew from 3,000 to as many as 50,000 as they attempted to converge in this grand supplication.

Pictured here is “The Russian Crown” on the cover of the American magazine Puck, published in December, 1905 -the end of that year which began with the Bloody Sunday massacre and led to a revolution most historians have called “the dress rehearsal” for the decisive one in 1917. The frontspiece of this popular mainstream magazine shows how the world thought of Russia at that time; it was considered the most cruel, incompetent, absolute autocracy on earth.

Throughout that year, entire factories struck for the right to not be abused and a reduction of the 11-hour work day. Nations and ethnic groups revolted against their absorption and rule by Russia; the Romanov empire was surrounded by wild fires of ancient societies burning to regain independence. The stubborn Tzar was militarily annihilated and had lost 2/3 of his navy in the Russo-Japanese war. Mutinies boiled over. Its standing as a European superpower was replaced by a reputation for ridiculous overconfidence. Russia’s economy was crushed and everyone who was connected to it suffered. Almost the entire populace found themselves fighting the regime for some basic democratic social structures, including an end to the near-total censorship, only to be clubbed into comas by a police state whose main product was political prisoners. Everyone knew it couldn’t last.