Russian priest, politician George Apollonovich Gapon (1870-1906). Portrait of an unknown artist
Preparing the revolution in Russia
Westerners and 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, Nathanson, Azef), the Union of Liberation (Milyukov, Struve, Dolgorukov), the future party of the Cadets, from Finnish, Polish, Baltic, Transcaucasian, and other nationalists arrived in the French capital. Only the Social Democrats at the last moment refused. Plekhanov did not want to deal with the Japanese. The plan of the revolution was agreed at the conference: the socialist revolutionaries had to start large-scale terror, cause unrest; liberals organize legal pressure on the government, 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 for the publication of his own newspaper Vperyod (the Plekhanovites survived him from Iskra), where he proved the necessity of defeating Russia and called for revolution. Sponsors of the revolution were in Russia itself. Many rich, bourgeois capitalists were inspired by revolutionary ideas and financed revolutionaries. Among the representatives of the financial and industrial capital of Russia there were two wings that opposed the autocracy. The first is Russian national capital, representatives of the Old Believers who hated the Romanov dynasty from the beginning of the split. For example, the largest manufacturer Savva Morozov. The second - representatives of international capital, mainly St. Petersburg financiers. They believed that autocracy was a brake on the development of capitalism in Russia.
The situation of the Russian Empire was aggravated by the weakness of power. In July 1904, the Socialist-Revolutionary Socialist-Revolutionaries, under the leadership of Azef and Savinkov, killed the Minister of the Interior Pleve. In the government, the counterweight to the liberal Westerner Witte was eliminated. Moreover, the Ministry of the Interior (one of the most important in the empire) was headed by the liberal Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Tight control of the opposition, the press and zemstvos immediately weakened.
In the fall of 1904, after the Paris Conference, the Liberation Union launched a “banquet campaign." The reason was specious - it was executed 40 years from the day of the Zemstvo reform of Alexander II the Liberator. Zemsky meetings began to hold banquets in various cities, which resulted in political meetings. Political demands were put forward there, calls for constitutional reforms began. Liberals begin to act in line with the socialists. In November, the All-Russian Zemstvo Congress was held.
Thus, in the Russian Empire they prepared a “revolutionary situation”. The opposition became insolent, believed in its strength and impunity. The Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists led revolutionary agitation. The labor movement intensified. Overseas revolution centers began deliveries weapons in Russia. However, all the outbreaks of discontent were weak, fragmented. To provoke one revolutionary wave, a powerful provocation was required.
At the beginning of the XX century in St. Petersburg, priest George Apollonovich Gapon gained considerable popularity. He was born in the 1870 year and was a native of southern Russian peasants, from the Poltava region. In childhood, he lived the ordinary life of peasants, worked hard, was very religious. In elementary school, he showed good learning abilities, was given to the Poltava Theological College, then to the seminary. I got acquainted with the forbidden ideas of L. Tolstoy, which had a great influence on George.
He took the priesthood. He showed great talent as a speaker and preacher already in Poltava, where crowds of people flocked to listen to a 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 charity 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 on solemn holidays along with St. John of Kronstadt, who made a strong impression on him.
Emotional, energetic, with the gift of words, George won great authority among the workers and the poor. Soon he became popular in St. Petersburg court circles. Gapon had a special influence on the ladies of the capital. They saw in him almost a prophet who was to discover new truths and uncover the secrets of the teachings of Christ. The priest began fashion. Gapon has developed several reform projects for work houses, on agricultural penal colonies for the unemployed, the poor, etc.
In 1902, the head of the Special Department of the Police Department, Sergei Zubatov (a man of rare intelligence and capacity for work), who was in charge of political investigation, put forward the initiative that repressive measures are not enough. He proposed the creation under the auspices of the police of legal workers' organizations through which cultural and educational work could be carried out, and to defend the economic interests of workers in front of employers. 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 direction. In the future, a social monarchy loomed. Workers, who became the leading political force in the country, could get everything peacefully, through the king and the government.
For the organization of trade unions leaders, bright educated people were required. In the fall of 1902, Zubatov proposed cooperation with Gapon. He agreed, but demanded complete independence. In his opinion, communication with the police scares workers away from such organizations and makes them an easy target for revolutionary agitators. George Gapon proposed the creation of a new labor organization following the example of independent British trade unions. Zubatov was against it.
After Zubatov was dismissed (due to a conflict with Pleve), Gapon received the support of the authorities. The "Assembly of Russian factory workers of St. Petersburg" was established, it first adhered to an educational, religious line. By the beginning of 1905, there were about 8 thousand people.
G. A. Gapon and I. A. Fullon at the opening of the Kolomenskoye department of the “Assembly of Russian Factory Workers of St. Petersburg”. Autumn 1904 of the year
Without Zubatov, Gapon was left without control. The movement grew rapidly. Dark personalities appeared among the priest himself, like Krasin and the Socialist-Revolutionary Rutenberg. They skillfully crafted a cleric. Petersburg governor Fullon, sensing something was amiss, called Gapon and began to talk about the wrong direction of movement. Like, he was instructed to strengthen the Christian morality of the hearts of workers, and he is cultivating socialism. However, Gapon claimed that he was on the principles of religious morality.
In December 1904, four workers, members of the Gapon society, were fired at the Putilov factory. The priest asked the director to be reinstated. He somehow rested, refused. Then the workers began a strike. From assembly to assembly, their demands grew. Workers from other enterprises joined the Putilov workers. The strike became universal, the city stood up, was left without newspapers and coverage. Obviously, a certain mechanism of the beginning of the revolution worked, the sums required for this were serious, like the organization.
The frantic Gapon rushed from plant to plant, a talented speaker he was very popular. “The masters are crushing you,” the priest said, “and the government does not protect. But we have a king! He is our father, he will understand us! ”
6 (19) January 1905, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, George Apollonovich urged everyone to go to the sovereign, to submit a petition to him to improve the situation of workers. This idea was enthusiastically supported by the people. On January 6-8, thousands of workers signed the petition (according to Gapon himself, more than 100 thousand). The police offered to arrest the rebellious priest. However, the mayor of Fullon, learning that the guard of Gapon was armed, was horrified that there would be shooting, blood, a riot would begin, and forbade any action.
This was used by revolutionaries of all stripes. Around Gapon, the Social Democrats, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the Bundists were screaming. They played on the ambition of a priest, who, apparently, tore off the "roof" of popularity. He was called the people's leader, demanded to present political demands. Gapon’s closest comrade, Social Revolutionary Rutenberg said: “Just say a word and the people will follow you anywhere!” The priest himself already spoke of a popular revolt if Nicholas II refused the people. Economic demands were replaced by political ones: the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, civil liberties, a responsible government, political amnesty, peace with Japan on any conditions, etc. The leaders of the movement realized that everything would end in great blood, but they consciously made this sacrifice. It was necessary to raise all of Russia, to destroy the faith of the people in the tsar.
The tsar himself and his family were in Tsarskoye Selo. The government had two options: to defeat the movement by force, to arrest the instigators, or to convince the emperor to go to the people, to calm the people. Nicholas II was going to talk with the people, but his relatives convinced him not to. At the same time, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the secret police distorted real data. The day before, the security department presented the rally as a peaceful procession, with families, icons, and royal portraits. But the troops called in, at night the soldiers took up positions in the streets near the palace. On the morning of January 9 1905, crowds of workers moved to the royal palace. Among the workers with a high cross, Gapon also walked, and Rutenberg was near him. On the Obvodny Canal, a cordon of soldiers blocked the road. The workers were required to disperse.
When the shooting started (it was obvious that it was caused by provocation from both sides), the experienced terrorist Rutenberg threw the priest into the snow and took him out of a dangerous place. Events everywhere took place according to a similar scenario: the masses of people approached the outposts, did not respond to warnings, and, on the contrary, went forward with volleys into the air. Stones flew from the crowd, and it happened that they shot at soldiers. The military responded, panic began, blood was pouring, dead 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 dressed, cut and hid in Gorky’s apartment. Already in the evening, having come to his senses, the priest called on the people to revolt "for the land and the will." This appeal was printed in huge print runs and distributed by the Social Revolutionaries throughout the empire. As a result, the provocation was a success. During the provocation, about 130 people died, about 300 were injured (including the "siloviki"). But the world community has repeatedly exaggerated the number of victims. The Western press voted about the horrors of tsarism (at the same time, in the West itself, all uprisings and riots were always crushed much harder, bloodier). This topic was immediately picked up by the Russian liberal press. Thus, blood was shed, the sacred image of the king was blackened, the beginning of the revolution was laid.
Gapon reads a petition in a meeting of workers. Unknown artist. Source: https://ru.wikipedia.org
Glory and death
Then Gapon was transported abroad. In February 1905, George was in Geneva - one of the main centers of the Russian revolutionaries. The noise was huge. All European newspapers wrote about the execution and Gapon. For a short time, a 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, to combine them did not work.
Gapon became close to the Social Revolutionaries. Even for a short time he joined their party, but it did not work out. Gapon, in fact, was an "autocrat" himself, did not tolerate party discipline, believed that he would become the leader of the revolution, tried to subjugate the party to himself. He wrote revolutionary appeals, which were published by the Social Revolutionaries and imported into Russia. He was actively preparing for a new revolutionary speech, subjected the autocracy to the harshest criticism, and saw himself in the role of people's leader. He urged Nicholas II to abdicate and betray himself to the people's court.
Gapon was helped with money by various organizations, for a book of memoirs "History of my life ”received a large sum. By the fall of 1905, Gapon's relations with the revolutionary parties had noticeably worsened. The Social Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries feared his idea of creating a non-partisan labor movement. 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. Using the amnesty, in November 1905, Mr. Gapon returned to Russia. He again established contacts with the police and held talks with Witte. He received money and began to restore workers' organizations. Gapon was supposed to campaign against armed rebellion and revolutionary parties, to promote non-violent methods. Now he advocated peace reform.
Thus, Gapon broke with his revolutionary reputation and took the path of confrontation with the revolutionaries. It was dangerous for the “fifth column”. Therefore, Azef (“Azef. The main provocateur of Russia and an agent of the West ") invites Rutenberg on behalf of the Central Committee of the party to eliminate Gapon. 28 of March (10 of April) 1906 of the year in Ozerki, the Social Revolutionaries, led by Rutenberg, kill the failed leader of the revolution.