V. I.   Lenin

Revolutionary Days



The Eve of Bloody Sunday

In our account of the movement’s progress we stopped at the point at which, on the initiative of Gapon, the procession of the working-class masses to the Winter Palace to present a “petition” to the tsar for convening a Constituent Assembly was set for Sunday, January 9. By Saturday, the 8th, the strike in St. Petersburg had become a general strike. Even official reports placed the number of strikers at 100-150 thousand. Russia had never yet witnessed such a gigantic outbreak of the class struggle. The whole industrial, business, and public life of the great centre with its population of one and a half million was paralysed. The proletariat showed by deeds that modern civilisation owes its existence to it and to it alone, that its labour creates wealth and luxury and that upon it rests our whole “culture”. The city found itself without newspapers, without lighting, and without water. And the general strike bore a clearly defined political character; it was a direct prelude to the revolutionary events.

An eyewitness thus describes the eve of the historic day in a letter addressed to us:

“Beginning with January 7 the strike in St. Petersburg became a general strike. Not only all the big factories and mills, but many workshops came to a standstill. Today, January 8, not a single newspaper, except for Praviteistvenny Vestnik[2] and Vedomosti S. Peterburgskovo Gradonachalstva,[1] has appeared. The leadership of the movement   is still in the hands of the Zubatovists. We are witnessing an unprecedented scene in St. Petersburg, and the suspense makes one’s heart contract with fear as to whether the Social-Democratic organisation will be able to take the movement into its own hands, at least after a while. The situation is extremely grave. Throughout these past days mass meetings of workers are daily taking place in all city districts at the headquarters of the ’Association of Russian Workers’. The surrounding streets are filled with thousands of workers. From time to time the Social-Democrats make speeches and distribute leaflets. They are received on the whole sympathetically, although the Zubatovists try to set up an opposition. When the autocracy is mentioned, the Zubatov people shout: ’We don’t care about that, the autocracy doesn’t stand in our way!’ On the other hand, the speeches which the Zubatovists make at the ’Association’ headquarters contain all the Social-Democratic demands, beginning with the eight-hour day and ending with the convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. Only the Zubatovists assert that the granting of these demands implies, not the overthrow of the autocracy, but the bringing of the people closer to the tsar and the elimination of the bureaucracy, which stands between the tsar and the people.

“The Social-Democrats address meetings, too, in the headquarters of the Association, and their speeches are listened to sympathetically; but the initiative in practical proposals comes from the Zubatovists. Despite the objections of the Social-Democrats, these proposals are adopted. They boil down to the following: on Sunday, January 9, the workers are to go to the Winter Palace and, through the priest Georgi Gapon, hand the tsar a petition listing all the demands of the workers and ending with the words, ’Give us all this or we must die’. Those who direct the meetings add: ’If the tsar refuses, then our hands will be untied; for it means that he is our enemy, and then we will come out against him and unfurl the red banner. If our blood is shed, it will be upon his head.’ The petition is being adopted everywhere. The workers swear that they will come out into the square on Sunday ’with their wives   and children’. Today the petition is going to be signed by districts, and at 2 o’clock all are to assemble at the ’People’s House’ for the final meeting.

“All this is taking place with the full connivance of the police, who have been everywhere withdrawn, although some buildings have mounted gendarmes hidden in the yards.

“Today the streets are placarded with notices from the City Administrator banning meetings and threatening the use of armed force. The workers tear them off. Troops are being drawn up into the city from the environs. The tramway employees (conductors and drivers) have been forced to go to work by Cossacks with drawn sabres.”



[1] St. Petersburg City Administration News.—Ed.

[2] Praviteistoenny Vestnik (Government Herald)—a newspaper, official organ of the tsarist government; published in St. Petersburg between 1869 and 1917.

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