January 22, 1905, was known as bloody Sunday in Russia. On that day, workers and their families began to gather at 6 a.m. at different points throughout the industrial outskirts of St. Petersburg. The crowd of more than 3,000 proceeded without police interference towards the winter palace, which was then the Tsar’s official residence. The people intended to converge in front of the palace at about 2 p.m. In the beginning, women, children, and elderly workers were supposed to lead to emphasize the demonstration’s united nature.
The Tsar was not in residence at the time. However, he did receive reports on the measures being taken to control the marchers. Units of the Imperial Guard and other infantry regiments, which totaled about ten thousand in number, were stationed at the palace. They were ordered to halt the marchers’ columns before reaching the palace square. However, the reactions of government forces were inconsistent and confusing. Some saluted the religious banners and portraits of the Tsar that were being held in the crowd, while others told marchers that they could proceed in smaller groups. Still, other soldiers told the marchers to disperse or ordered the troops to fire at people without provocation. The first shootings took place between 10 and a.m.
In a series of separate instances, shootings begin to break out. To this day, no one is sure just how many people died. The Tsar’s officials recorded ninety-six dead and three hundred and thirty-three injured. Anti-government sources said more than four thousand were killed. Modern estimates average that about a thousand people were either killed or wounded.
Many marchers were killed because of a lack of communication and consistency. In a literal sense, they were killed through shootings and stampeding. As news of what happened spread throughout the city, disorder and looting began to break out.