The failed leader of the revolution. Why was Gapon killed?

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The failed leader of the revolution. Why was Gapon killed?
The failed leader of the revolution. Why was Gapon killed?

For a short time, the revolutionary priest gained immense popularity. Gapon believed that he would become the leader of the revolution. He called on Nicholas II to abdicate and surrender himself to the people's court.

The failed leader of the revolution. Why was Gapon killed?
The failed leader of the revolution. Why was Gapon killed?

Preparing for the revolution in Russia

The Westerners and the Japanese tried to unite various political groups hostile to the autocracy in order to arrange a revolution in Russia and ensure the victory of Japan in the war. A conference of various Russian opposition forces was organized in Paris. In October 1904, delegations of the Social Revolutionaries (Chernov, Natanson, Azef), the Union of Liberation (Milyukov, Struve, Dolgorukov), the future party of Cadets, from the Finnish, Polish, Baltic, Transcaucasian and other nationalists arrived in the French capital. Only the Social Democrats refused at the last moment. Plekhanov did not want to deal with the Japanese. The plan of the revolution was agreed upon at the conference: the socialist revolutionaries were to start a large-scale terror and cause unrest; liberals organize legal pressure on the government, to force it to make concessions.

Lenin, like Plekhanov, did not appear at this conference. However, he also had indirect contacts with the Japanese and British intelligence. In particular, he received money to publish his own newspaper, Vperyod (the Plekhanovites drove him out of Iskra), where he argued the need for the defeat of Russia and called for a revolution. There were sponsors of the revolution in Russia itself. Many rich, bourgeois capitalists were imbued with revolutionary ideas, financed revolutionaries. Among the representatives of the financial and industrial capital of Russia there were two wings that opposed the autocracy. The first are Russian national capital, representatives of the Old Believers, who hated the Romanov dynasty since the beginning of the split. For example, the largest manufacturer Savva Morozov. The second are representatives of international capital, mainly St. Petersburg financiers. They believed that autocracy was a brake on the development of capitalism in Russia.

The position of the Russian Empire was aggravated by the weakness of the government. In July 1904, the terrorist SRs under the leadership of Azef and Savinkov killed the Minister of the Interior Plehve. The government removed the counterbalance to the Western liberal Witte. Moreover, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (one of the most important in the empire) was headed by the liberal Svyatopolk-Mirsky. The tight control over the opposition, press and zemstvos immediately weakened.

In the fall of 1904, after the Paris Conference, the Union for Liberation began a "banquet campaign." The reason was plausible - it was the 40th anniversary of the Zemstvo reform of Alexander II the Liberator. Zemsky assemblies began to hold banquets in various cities, which resulted in political meetings. There, political demands were put forward, calls for constitutional changes began. Liberals begin to act in the same ranks with the socialists. An all-Russian zemstvo congress was held in November.

Thus, a “revolutionary situation” was being prepared in the Russian Empire. The opposition became insolent, believed in its strength and impunity. The Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists carried on revolutionary agitation. The labor movement intensified. Foreign centers of the revolution began to supply weapons to Russia. However, all outbursts of discontent were weak, scattered. A powerful provocation was required to trigger one revolutionary wave.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the priest Georgy Apollonovich Gapon gained considerable popularity in St. Petersburg. He was born in 1870 and was from South Russian peasants from the Poltava region. In childhood, he lived an ordinary life of peasants, worked hard, was distinguished by great religiosity. In elementary school he showed good learning ability, was sent to the Poltava Theological School, then to the seminary. Acquainted with the forbidden ideas of L. Tolstoy, which had a great influence on George.

He was ordained. He showed great talent as an orator and preacher already in Poltava, where crowds of people flocked to listen to the young priest. After the sudden death of his young wife in 1898, Gapon entered the Theological Academy in St. Petersburg. He continued his spiritual search, visited the Crimea, local monasteries. In St. Petersburg, he began to participate in charitable missions, education, and worked with workers. He worked in shelters, tried to help the inhabitants of the city "bottom". In his sermons, George proceeded from the idea that labor is the basis and meaning of life. Several times Gapon was invited to serve at solemn feasts together with St. John of Kronstadt, who made a strong impression on him.

Emotional, energetic, with the gift of speech, Georgy won great prestige among the workers and the poor. He soon became popular in St. Petersburg court circles. Gapon had a particular influence on the ladies of the capital. They saw in him almost a prophet who must discover new truths and reveal the secrets of Christ's teaching. The fashion for the priest began. Gapon developed several projects for the reform of workers' houses, on agricultural correctional colonies for the unemployed, beggars, etc.


In 1902, the head of the Special Section of the Police Department, Sergei Zubatov (a man of rare intelligence and ability to work), who was in charge of issues of political investigation, took the initiative that repressive measures were not enough. He proposed to create legal workers' organizations under the auspices of the police, through which it would be possible to carry out cultural and educational work, and to defend the economic interests of workers in front of entrepreneurs. Also inform the authorities about problems, violations of the law.

Thus, Zubatov wanted to tear the workers away from the revolutionary intelligentsia, to direct the labor movement into a professional channel. In the future, a social monarchy loomed. The workers, who became the leading political force in the country, could get everything peacefully, through the king and the government.

The organization of trade unions required leaders, bright educated people. In the fall of 1902, Zubatov also offered cooperation to Gapon. He agreed, but demanded complete independence. In his opinion, the connection with the police scares workers away from such organizations, making them an easy target for revolutionary agitators. George Gapon proposed to create a new workers' organization following the example of the independent British trade unions. Zubatov was against it.

After Zubatov was dismissed (because of the conflict with Plehve), Gapon received the support of the authorities. The "Assembly of Russian Factory Workers of St. Petersburg" was established; at first it adhered to the educational, religious line. By the beginning of 1905 there were about 8 thousand people.


Bloody Sunday

Without Zubatov, Gapon was left without control. The traffic grew rapidly. In the environment of the priest himself, dark personalities appeared, like Krasin and the Socialist-Revolutionary Rutenberg. They skillfully worked on the clergyman. St. Petersburg mayor Fullon, sensing that something was wrong, called Gapon and began to talk about the wrong direction of movement. Like, he was instructed to strengthen Christian morality among the workers, and he is breeding socialism. However, Gapon insisted that he stood on the principles of religious morality.

In December 1904, four workers, members of the Gaponov society, were fired at the Putilov plant. The priest asked the director to restore them. For some reason, he rested, refused. Then the workers went on strike. From meeting to meeting their demands grew. Workers from other enterprises also joined the Putilov workers. The strike became general, the city got up, was left without newspapers and coverage. Obviously, a certain mechanism of the beginning of the revolution worked, the sums for this required serious, as well as the organization.

Furious Gapon rushed from plant to plant, a talented orator he was very popular. “The masters are pressing you,” the priest said, “and the authorities do not protect you. But we have a king! He is our father, he will understand us!"

On January 6 (19), 1905, on the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, Georgy Apollonovich urged everyone to go to the sovereign, to submit a petition to him to improve the situation of the workers. This idea was enthusiastically supported by the people. On January 6-8, the petition was signed by thousands of workers (according to Gapon himself, more than 100 thousand). The police offered to arrest the rebellious priest. However, the mayor of Fullon, learning that Gapon's guards were armed, was horrified that there would be shooting, blood, a riot, and forbade any actions.

Revolutionaries of all stripes took advantage of this. Social-Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and Bundists were wiping around Gapon. They played on the priest's ambition, who, apparently, was blown away by popularity. He was called the people's leader, demanded to present political demands. Gapon's closest comrade, SR Rutenberg, said: "Just say the word, and the people will follow you wherever you go!" The priest himself has already spoken of a popular revolt if Nicholas II refuses the people. Economic demands were replaced by political ones: the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, civil liberties, a responsible government, political amnesty, peace with Japan under any conditions, etc. The leaders of the movement realized that everything would end in great blood, but they deliberately made this sacrifice. It was necessary to raise the whole of Russia, to destroy the people's faith in the tsar.

The tsar himself and his family were in Tsarskoe Selo. The government had two choices: to crush the movement by force, to arrest the instigators, or to convince the sovereign to go out to the people, to calm the people. Nicholas II was going to talk to the people, but his relatives convinced him not to do it. At the same time, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the secret police distorted the real data. The day before, the security department presented the rally as a peaceful procession, with families, icons, and royal portraits. But the troops were summoned, at night the soldiers took up positions in the streets near the palace. On the morning of January 9, 1905, crowds of workers moved towards the Tsar's palace. Among the workers with a high raised cross was also Gapon, next to him was Rutenberg. On the Obvodny Canal, a cordon of soldiers blocked the road. The workers were demanded to disperse.

When the shooting began (it is obvious that it was caused by a provocation on both sides), the experienced terrorist Rutenberg threw the priest into the snow and took him away from the dangerous place. Events everywhere took place according to a similar scenario: masses of people approached the outposts, did not react to warnings, and, on the contrary, went forward with volleys into the air. Stones flew from the crowd, and it happened that soldiers were shot at. The military responded, panic began, blood poured, killed and wounded appeared. As a result, soldiers, Cossacks and policemen easily dispersed the crowds. But this was what the revolutionaries, the “fifth column” and the West needed. The revolution has begun.

Gapon was changed, shaved and hid in Gorky's apartment. Already in the evening, having come to his senses, the priest called on the people to revolt "for land and freedom." This proclamation was printed in huge numbers and distributed by the Socialist-Revolutionaries throughout the empire. As a result, the provocation was a success. During the provocation, about 130 people died, and about 300 were wounded (including the "siloviks"). But the world community has greatly exaggerated the number of victims. The Western press was shouting about the horrors of tsarism (while in the West itself, all uprisings and riots have always been choked much harsher, bloodier). This topic was immediately picked up by the Russian liberal press. Thus, blood was shed, the sacred image of the tsar was blackened, the beginning of the revolution was laid.


Glory and death

Then Gapon was transported abroad. In February 1905, Georgy was in Geneva, one of the main centers of Russian revolutionaries. The noise was enormous. All European newspapers wrote about the execution and Gapon. For a short time, the revolutionary priest gained immense popularity. He tried to unite the revolutionary parties, but without success. On his behalf, a regular conference of socialists, nationalist separatists was convened in Geneva. True, it did not work to combine them.

Gapon became close to the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Even for a short time I joined their party, but it did not work out. Gapon, in fact, was himself an "autocrat", did not tolerate party discipline, believed that he would become the leader of the revolution, tried to subordinate the party to himself. He wrote revolutionary appeals, which were printed by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and imported into Russia. He actively prepared for a new revolutionary uprising, subjected the autocracy to the harshest criticism, saw himself in the role of the people's leader. He called on Nicholas II to abdicate and surrender himself to the people's court.

Various organizations helped Gapon with money; he received a large sum for the book of memoirs "The Story of My Life". By the fall of 1905, Gapon's relations with the revolutionary parties deteriorated markedly. The Social Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries feared his idea to create a labor movement on a non-partisan basis. The revolutionaries already had their own leaders, they did not need a competitor. Then the former priest (the Synod deprived him of the priesthood and spiritual status) made a new sharp turn. Taking advantage of the amnesty, in November 1905 Gapon returned to Russia. I again established contacts with the police, negotiated with Witte. Received money and began to rebuild workers' organizations. Gapon was supposed to campaign against the armed uprising and revolutionary parties, to promote non-violent methods. Now he advocated peaceful reforms.

Thus, Gapon broke with his revolutionary reputation and took the path of confrontation with the revolutionaries. This was dangerous for the "fifth column". Therefore, Azef ("Azef. The main provocateur of Russia and an agent of the West") suggests Rutenberg on behalf of the Central Committee of the party to eliminate Gapon. On March 28 (April 10), 1906, in Ozerki, militant SRs led by Rutenberg kill the failed leader of the revolution.

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