The Soviet account of Bloody Sunday (1938)

The official Soviet account of Bloody Sunday can be found in the History of the CPSU (Short Course), published in 1938:

“On January 3rd 1905, a strike broke out at the biggest of the St. Petersburg plants, the Putilov Works. The strike was caused by the dismissal of four workers. It grew rapidly and was joined by other St. Petersburg mills and factories. The strike became general. The movement grew formidable. The tsarist government decided to crush it in its earliest phase.

In 1904, prior to the Putilov strike, the police had used the services of an agent-provocateur, a priest by the name of Gapon, to form an organisation of the workers known as the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers. This organization had its branches in all the districts of St. Petersburg. When the strike broke out the priest Gapon at the meetings of his society put forward a treacherous plan: all the workers were to gather on January 9th and, carrying church banners and portraits of the tsar, to march in peaceful procession to the Winter Palace and present a petition to the tsar stating their needs. The tsar would appear before the people, listen to them and satisfy their demands. Gapon undertook to assist the tsarist Okhrana by providing a pretext for firing on the workers and drowning the working-class movement in blood…

At these meetings, the Bolsheviks explained to the workers that liberty could not be obtained by petitions to the tsar, but would have to be won by force of arms. The Bolsheviks warned the workers that they would be fired upon. But they were unable to prevent the procession to the Winter Palace. A large part of the workers still believed that the tsar would help them. The movement had taken a strong hold on the masses…

Early in the morning of January 9th 1905, the workers marched to the Winter Palace where the tsar was then residing. They came with their whole families—wives, children and old folk—carrying portraits of the tsar and church banners. They chanted hymns as they marched. They were unarmed. Over 140,000 persons gathered in the streets. They met with a hostile reception from Nicholas II. He gave orders to fire upon the unarmed workers. That day over a thousand workers were killed and more than two thousand wounded by the Tsar’s troops. The streets of St. Petersburg ran with workers’ blood.

The Bolsheviks had marched with the workers. Many of them were killed or arrested. There, in the streets running with workers’ blood, the Bolsheviks explained to the workers who it was that bore guilt for this heinous crime and how he was to be fought.

January 9th came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. On that day the workers received a bloody lesson. It was their faith in the tsar that was riddled by bullets on that day. They came to realize that they could win their rights only by struggle. That evening barricades were already being erected in the working-class districts. The workers said: “The tsar gave it to us; we’ll now give it to him!”

The fearful news of the tsar’s bloody crime spread far and wide. The whole working class, the whole country was stirred by indignation and abhorrence. There was not a town where the workers did not strike in protest against the tsar’s villainous act and did not put forward political demands. The workers now emerged into the streets with the slogan, “Down with autocracy!” In January the number of strikers reached the immense figure of 440,000. More workers came out on strike in one month than during the whole preceding decade. The working-class movement rose to an unprecedented height. Revolution in Russia had begun.”