Prepared for Presentation to Nicholas II
"Bloody Sunday" (January 9, 1905)
workers and inhabitants of the city of St. Petersburg, members of various sosloviia
(estates of the realm), our wives, children, and helpless old parents, have come
to you, Sovereign, to seek justice and protection.
We are impoverished and oppressed, we are burdened with work, and
insulted. We are treated not like
humans [but] like slaves who must suffer a bitter fate and keep silent. And we have suffered, but we only get pushed deeper and
deeper into a gulf of misery, ignorance, and lack of rights. Despotism and arbitrariness are suffocating us, we are
gasping for breath. Sovereign, we
have no strength left. We have
reached the limit of our patience. We
have come to that terrible moment when it is better to die than to continue
so we left our work and declared to our employers that we will not return to
work until they meet our demands. We
do not ask much; we only want that without which life is hard labor and eternal
suffering. Our first request was
that our employers discuss our needs together with us. But they refused to do this; they denied us the right to
speak about our needs, on the grounds that the law does not provide us with such
a right. Also unlawful were our
other requests: to reduce the working day to eight hours; for them to set wages
together with us and by agreement with us; to examine our disputes with
lower-level factory administrators; to increase the wages of unskilled workers
and women to one ruble per day; to abolish overtime work; to provide medical
care attentively and without insult; to build shops so that it is possible to
work there and not face death from the awful drafts, rain and snow.
employers and the factory administrators considered all this to be illegal:
every one of our requests was a crime, and our desire to improve our condition
was slanderous insolence.
there are thousands of us here; outwardly we are human beings, but in reality
neither we nor the Russian people
as a whole are provided with any human rights, even the right to speak, to
think, to assemble, to discuss our needs, or to take measure to improve our
conditions. They have enslaved us
and they did so under the protection of your officials, with their aid and with
their cooperation. They imprison
and send into exile any one of us who has the courage to speak on behalf of the
interests of the working class and of the people. They punish us for a good heart and a responsive spirit as if
for a crime. To pity a downtrodden
and tormented person with no rights is to commit a grave crime.
The entire working people and the peasants are subjected to the proizvol
(arbitrariness) of a bureaucratic administration composed of embezzlers of
public funds and thieves who not only have not concern at all for the interests
of the Russian people but who harm those interests.
The bureaucratic administration has reduced the country to complete
destitution, drawn it into a shameful war, and brings Russia ever further
towards ruin. We, the workers and
the people, have no voice in the expenditure of the enormous sums that are
collected from us. We do not even
know where the money collected from the impoverished people goes.
The people is deprived of any possibility of expressing its wishes and
demands, or of participating in the establishment of taxes and in their
expenditure. Workers are deprived
of the possibility of organizing into unions to defend their interests.
Sovereign! Does all this accord with the law of God, by Whose grace you
reign? And is it possible to live under such laws? Would it not be better if we,
the toiling people of all Russia, died? Let the capitalists--exploiters of the
working class--and the bureaucrats--embezzlers of public funds and the pillagers
of the Russian people--live and enjoy themselves.
this is what we face and this is the reason that we have gathered before the
walls of your palace. Here we seek
our last salvation. Do not refuse
to come to the aid of your people; lead it out of the grave of poverty,
ignorance, and lack of rights; grant it the opportunity to determine its own
destiny, and deliver it from them the unbearable yoke of the bureaucrats.
Tear down the wall that separates you from your people and let it rule
the country together with you. You
have been placed [on the throne] for the happiness of the people; the
bureaucrats, however, snatch this happiness out of our hands, and it never
reaches us; we get only grief and humiliation.
Sovereign, examine our requests attentively and without any anger; they
incline not to evil, but to the good, both for us and for you.
Ours is not the voice of insolence but of the realization that we must
get out of a situation that is unbearable for everyone.
Russia is too big, her needs are to diverse and many, for her to be ruled
only by bureaucrats. We need
popular representation; it is necessary for the people to help itself and to
administer itself. After all, only
the people knows its real needs. Do
not fend off its help, accept it, and order immediately, at once, that
representatives of the Russian land from all classes, all estates of the realm
be summoned, including representatives from the workers.
Let the capitalist be there, and the worker, and the bureaucrat, and the
priest, and the doctor and the teacher--let everyone, whoever they are, elect
their representatives. Let everyone
be free and equal in his voting rights, and to that end order that elections to
the Constituent Assembly be conducted under universal, secret and equal
is our main request, everything is based on it; it is the main and only poultice
for our painful wounds, without which those wounds must freely bleed and bring
us to a quick death.
no single measure can heal all our wounds.
Other measures are necessary, and we, representing of all of Russia's
toiling class, frankly and openly speak to you, Sovereign, as to a father, about
following are necessary:
Measures against the ignorance of the Russian people
against its lack of rights
Immediate freedom and return home for all those who have suffered for their
political and religious convictions, for strike activity, and for peasant
Immediate proclamation of the freedom and inviolability of the person, of
freedom of speech and of the press, of freedom of assembly, and of freedom of
conscience in matters of religion.
Universal and compulsory public education at state expense.
Accountability of government ministers to the people and a guarantee of lawful
Equality of all before the law without exception.
Separation of church and state
Measures against the poverty of the people
Abolition of indirect taxes and their replacement by a direct, progressive
Abolition of redemption payments, cheap credit, and the gradual transfer of land
to the people.
Naval Ministry contracts should be filled in Russia, not abroad.
Termination of the war according to the will of the people.
Measures against the oppression of labor by capital
Abolition of the office of factory inspector.
Establishment in factories and plants of permanent commissions elected by the
workers, which jointly with the administration are to investigate all complaints
coming from individual workers. A
worker cannot be fired except by a resolution of this commission.
Freedom for producer-consumer cooperatives and workers' trade unions--at once.
An eight-hour working day and regulation of overtime work.
Freedom for labor to struggle with capital--at once.
Wage regulation--at once.
Guaranteed participation of representatives of the working classes in drafting a
law on state insurance for workers--at once.
sovereign, are our main needs, about which we have come to you; only when they
are satisfied will the liberation of our Motherland from slavery and destitution
be possible, only then can she flourish, only then can workers organize to
defend their interests from insolent exploitation by capitalists and by the
bureaucratic administration that plunders and suffocates the people.
Give the order, swear to meet these needs, and you will make Russia both
happy and glorious, and your name will be fixed in our hearts and the hearts of
our posterity for all time--but if you do not give the order, if you do not
respond to our prayer, then we shall die here, on this square, in front of your
palace. We have nowhere else to go
and no reason to. There are only
two roads for us, one to freedom and happiness, the other to the grave. Let our lives be sacrificed for suffering Russia.
We do not regret that sacrifice, we embrace it eagerly.
Translated by Daniel Field
Here and elsewhere in the petition narod,
a singular noun.