Iconic Photos

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Bloody Sunday, 1905

with 21 comments

The 20th Century opened with Russia slowly teetering towards disenchantment and chaos. Emancipation of serfs in 1861 left many landowners at a loss — unable or unwilling to implement better administration and more efficient farming methods, they rapidly ran up crippling debts. Directly or indirectly, this led to series of poor harvests and a widespread famine in 1891, which revealed the inadequacies of the Tsarist government. Demonstrations, strikes and general unrest were slowly gathering momentum as Russia commenced a long anticipated war on Japan in 1905.

The war was initially viewed as an opportunity to improve Russia’s domestic situation, but its navy suffered humiliating defeats in the Far East. The Interior Minister Vyacheslav Plehve, who predicted that the impeding war with Japan will be a ‘victorious little war’ was assassinated. In January 1905, as military disaster unfolded, dissatisfaction erupted into revolution in St Petersburg. The immediate spark was the dubious dismissal of three workers, and the leader of the demonstration was the factory chaplain named Father Georgi Gapon. Gapon was himself no revolutionary, though he was subsequently represented as one. He wrote, “I went to the Tsar in the simple-hearted belief that we would receive pravda …. I went … to purchase with my blood the renewal of Russia and the establishment of pravda.”

At the Winter Palace, the protestors were met not by the Tsar, who was in his retreat outside the city, but by the Preobrashensky Regiment which opened fire on the procession. Above photo of the line of soldiers in their long winter coats taking aiming at a crowd on the other side of a brilliantly white square was thought to have been the only photo taken that fateful day which would go down in history as Bloody Sunday. The protestors had approached the regiment believing that the soldiers would not fire upon people carrying religious icons and images of the Tsar. They did. In the photo, demonstrators scrambled to safety as a sole isolated figure intriguingly was left alone in the no man’s land.

At the end of the Bloody Sunday, Gapon had fled, 130 demonstrators had been killed and 300 wounded according to official estimates. Foreign journalists reported as many as 4600 casualties. Its consequences were even more far reaching: as the news of the massacre spread, strikes broke out all over Russia, demanding shorter hours and higher wages. Aboard the battleship Potemkin, indignant sailors hoisted the red flag because of maggots in their meat. In Volokolamsk, peasants formed their own successionist ‘Markovo Republic’. Elsewhere, peasants looted and burned down their landlords’ residences, or cut down timber from landlords’ forests. For the first time since 1721, a Russian Tsar was forced to create a legislative assembly, the Duma. Although this Duma would prove to be ineffectual and short-lived, the other legacy of the Bloody Sunday was more indelible: before 1905, socialists, anarchists and many members of the bourgeoise had no possibility of breaking the hold of nobility and clergy in Russia. After Janaury 1905, it finally seemed their time had arrived.

(N.B. Even as I wrote this, I was aware of the controversy over the authenticity of the image. Some contend that the all-powerful Soviet TASS news agency took a still from a 1925 film by Vyacheslav Viskovski called Devjatoe Janvarja (The Ninth of January) — which was also known confusingly by another title Krovavoe voskresenje (Bloody Sunday). However, it is unknown whether the scene was created for the film, or the film used an earlier still photograph. Most scholarly books I have encountered view the photo as authentic.)

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 24, 2011 at 10:57 am

Posted in Society, War

Tagged with , ,

21 Responses

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  1. *teetering* towards disenchantment?


    February 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  2. fantastic photo and cut line summery of events prior to Russian Revolution. Who owns photo, or controls its use?

    Howard Romaine

    February 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm

  3. Today if the Governor of Wisconsin tried to use his National Guard against the protesters half of his troops would refuse and perhaps spark off a REVOLUTION!

    Dave Blalock

    February 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    • Dave, comparing the Governor of Wisconsin and the Tsar, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias is quite a stupid thing to do.


      February 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      • You’re right PJack. Compared to Russia today Wisconsin is only one state which is part of a much larger sick & dying empire. I guess the only comparison is that they’re both pushing closer to collapse.

        Dave Blalock

        February 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      • It’s not the only stupid thing, as exhibited below.

        I guess David Blalock hsould go back to 5th grade exercise of “find 10 differences” before uttering his idiotic nonsense – but that’s what probably passing off as “rebellious anti-capitalist talk” in certain circles. Important thing is to strike a pose, man!


        February 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      • I wouldn’t know, Dave.🙂 Being from Eastern Europe, I don’t know what’s going on in Wisconsin


        February 25, 2011 at 12:01 am

    • Dave, I went to high school with you. You never stood for anything. What has corrupted your mind so bad?

      Bruce Sanborn

      March 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm

  4. Hmm, I guess multiple dave blalocks are for a nasty surprise, as their spoiled union goons will be put in the place they belong: behind bars.

    listen, you ignorant red-brown scam: you lost. hard-working people no longer agree to support your and your union parasites’ sweet unearned existence. go get begging at the charity.


    February 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  5. TQ,
    Gapon was neither revolutionary, nor an honest idealist.
    He was a police spy, a provocateur, one in a long series.


    February 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm

  6. I don’t know who ETat is, but as a member of a union and a state employee, I won’t stand for this. I’ve enjoyed this blog; it’s one of my favorites.

    I think Etat is confusing union members with hedge fund managers. Anyway, I’m unsubscribing. So long.

    "Catherine Oliphant"

    February 25, 2011 at 4:08 am

    • Oh if ALL public union members unsubscribed! Not from this blog, that is, but from their so called “jobs”, i.e. – from fishing in our pockets!


      February 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

  7. But this photo is not documental. It’s still from the Soviet propaganda movie Devyatoe yanvarya (1925).
    Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BloodySunday1905.jpg
    More info about the picture is in German wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petersburger_Blutsonntag#Das_gestellte_Foto_von_1925

    Juan Brujo

    February 25, 2011 at 7:32 am

  8. For the most part I find the images here and the stories just facinating. I will often go looking for more info about the incident in question.

    I figure that no blogger is responsible for their commentators.

    As for myself I’m off to a deminstration in support of the workers in Wisconsin.


    February 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    • As a lawguy I guess now, that the Gov. Walker’ Bill passed I guess you will support the Law. Right?

      The misuse of language by the socialist Left is disgusting. Be a man. Don’t call yourself “a progressive”, when all you do is fighting for the return of the 1930s. Don’t camouflage the issue with false slogans like ” support of the workers” – it never was for workers, because real workers – those who work in private sector and support parasites in the public one with their tax dollars – are never considered by so called “progressives”.

      It has always been about the money. Money to fund Democrats. Money they dictated to be paid on mandatory basis by any union member.
      Everything else is a lot of hot air.


      March 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

  9. Americans are nothing like Russians. Americans would rather sink themselves than fix the issues they face. Your captain led you straight into an iceberg and the patriotic thing to do was attack the immorality of your neighbor. As companies continue to move jobs overseas, you better think long and hard about the direction this country is headed. As long as your voices remain silent, what do you expect to happen?

    What separated America from Europe was this country’s ability to grow, and it did so at the grassroots level. In today’s America, a man like Lincoln could never become president.


    December 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

  10. […] Bloody Sunday, 1905, Iconic Photos, [online photograph] (1905) <https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/bloody-sunday-1905/&gt;, accessed 20 Mar […]

  11. Revolution is in the air… Perhaps this photo from Russia 1917 is a ghost immage of today’s OCCUPY MOVEMENT!!

    Dave Blalock

    May 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm

  12. This photo wasn’t taken on the actual Bloody Sunday. I believe this is a shot from a Russian movie that was made when Russia was already a communist country. The photo becomes basically irrelevant

    Margriet M

    December 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm

  13. This photo shows people running away from the soldiers. Note the large distance (75 yards?) between the soldiers and the protesters. Also note the soldiers’ guns are angled up over the crowd and not shouldered. Looks like bayonets were fixed and they were in defensive positions (back legs planted). IF the protesters were shot, where are the bodies? Bloody Sunday casualties were not as large as the winners (Bolshevics) ended writing up in history. Great Propoganda story! You can not have 4600 casualties (sounds like the press were communist supporters back then, too..) with 3000 protesters. BTW the man in left in no-mans’ land looks like he is carrying over his shoulder with a strap a rifle (not a peaceful protester…)


    June 24, 2014 at 8:23 pm

  14. […] Bloody Sunday, 1905 […]

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