On April 10, 1906, priest Georgy Gapon was hanged by the members of a revolutionary group he was part of due to suspicions that he was spying and had ties to the tsarist secret police.
In 1903 Gapon was the leader of a legal organization, the "Assembly of Russian Factory and Plant Workers", sponsored by the Okhrana (Tsars secret police). This organization was a conciliator between the workers, factory owners, and officials of St Petersburg. In the beginning, Gapon was very popular among the workers. During that time he widely promoted the idea that the monarchy, by no means, was opposed to the demands of working class people. He argued that workers must call for improvements in their working conditions in an organized way and not become involved in politics. The worker’s demands were – salary increase, reduced working hours (from the average of 11 hours a day at the time), and improvements in sanitary, hygiene and other working conditions. In this way his campaign had a conservative-democratic nature, but by the end of the 1904 its meaning changed and became revolutionary.
In early January 1905 four members of the ‘Assembly of Russian Factory and Plant Workers’ were dismissed at the Putilov Factory, which sparked a huge strike involving nearly 150 000 workers in St Petersburg. On Sunday, 9 January 1905, Gapon organized a massive parade of workers to the Winter Palace (Tsar’s residence) to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. The petition was written by Gapon and included extensive economic and political demands: an eight hour work day, freedom of speech and the right to strike (strikes were then illegal). Crowds of workers, with their wives and children marching in front and carrying the tsar’s portraits and singing “Lord save your people”, headed towards the Winter Palace with Gapon at their head. They were met with gun shots by the police and hundreds of people were killed and wounded. This day became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
Gapon himself was saved that day by his closest friend and collaborator, Pyotr Rutenberg. Shortly, they both escaped abroad and joined a political party, the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP or Esers). In autumn of 1905 Gapon secretly returned to St Petersburg and was in contact with Count Sergey Vitte, a member of the Council of Ministers. He supposedly received money from the government and again was in contact with the secret police. When the Revolutionary members discovered that Gapon secretly cooperated with the police and spied for the government, they gave the order for him to be murdered. Pyotr Rutenberg was assigned to carry out the death sentence on the traitor.
And on this day in 1906, Rutenberg lured the priest to a house close to St Petersburg for a private conversation. During their talk, other members of the revolutionary party were hiding in an adjacent room behind a thin batten wall. Gapon began persuading Rutenberg to cooperate with the police, offering him money for betraying secrets of the SRP. On hearing this, the workers stormed into the room where the conversation was proceeding. One of them carried a thick clothes line. On seeing it, Gapon understood everything. Mad with fear he fell to his knees and started babbling:
“Dear brothers…brothers…for old times sake…forgive me…”
“We are not your brothers, you sold our blood to the police, for that there is no forgiveness.”
Rutenberg, unable to stand by and watch the execution, escaped to another room. Meanwhile, they twisted Gapon’s hands behind his back and threw the line around his neck. Gapon hardly resisted. And in a few minutes it was all over.