Illustration of a snowy street, with a line of soldiers firing upon a group of men.

Russian soldiers fire on peaceful protesters in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in January 1905. This event came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

The Road to Revolution

When war broke out between Russia and Japan in 1904, Nicholas II called on his people to fight for “the Faith, the Tsar, and the Fatherland.” Despite patriotic slogans and great sacrifices, the Russians suffered one humiliating defeat after another.

Bloody Sunday

News of the military disasters unleashed pent-up discontent created by years of oppression. Protesters poured into the streets. Workers went on strike, demanding shorter hours and better wages. Liberals called for a constitution and reforms to overhaul the government.

As the crisis deepened, a young Orthodox priest, Father George Gapon, organized a peaceful march for Sunday, January 22, 1905. He felt certain that the tsar would help his people if only he understood their sufferings. Marchers flowed through the streets of St. Petersburg toward the tsar's Winter Palace. Chanting prayers and singing hymns, workers carried holy icons and pictures of the tsar. They also brought a petition for justice and freedom.

Fearing the marchers, the tsar had fled the palace and called in soldiers. As the people approached, they saw troops lined up across the square. Suddenly, gunfire rang out. Hundreds of men and women fell dead or wounded in the snow. One woman stumbling away from the scene moaned: “The tsar has deserted us! They shot away the orthodox faith.” Indeed, the slaughter marked a turning point for Russians. “Bloody Sunday” killed the people's faith and trust in the tsar.

Photo of a parade of protesters walking through the streets in dark clothing, holding signs in Russian.

Protesters march in St. Petersburg in 1905. Bloody Sunday led to uprisings against the tsar throughout Russia.

Unrest Explodes into Revolution

In the months that followed Bloody Sunday, discontent exploded across Russia. Strikes multiplied. In some cities, workers took over local government. In the countryside, peasants revolted and demanded land. Minority nationalities called for autonomy. Terrorists targeted officials, and some assassins were cheered as heroes by discontented Russians.

At last, the clamor grew so great that Nicholas was forced to announce sweeping reforms. In the October Manifesto, he promised “freedom of person, conscience, speech, assembly, and union.” He agreed to summon a Duma, or elected national legislature. No law, he declared, would go into effect without approval by the Duma.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments