Lena massacre

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Bodies immediately after the Lena massacre.

The Lena Massacre or Lena Execution (Russian: Ленский расстрел) refers to the shooting of striking goldfield workers by soldiers of the Imperial Russian Army on 17 April [O.S. 4 April] 1912 in northeast Siberia near the Lena River.[1]

Background[edit]

The incident took place at the goldfields of the Lena Gold Mining Joint Stock Company (Lenzoloto), located along the shores of the Lena River about 28 miles northeast of the town of Bodaybo in northern Irkutsk . The venture produced large profits for its British and Russian shareholders, who included Aleksei Putilov (a director), Count Sergei Witte, and Empress Maria Fyodorovna. Working conditions were harsh with miners having to work fifteen to sixteen hours a day. For every thousand workers, there were more than 700 accidents.[2] Part of the meagre salary was often used to pay fines. The other part of it was given in the form of coupons to be used in stores at the mine itself. All this led a spontaneous strike at the Andreyevsky goldfield on March 13. An immediate cause for the strike was distribution of rotten meat at one of these stores.

On March 17th, the workers established their demands: an 8-hour workday, a 30% raise in wages, the elimination of fines, and the improvement of food delivery. None of these demands were agreed to by the administration. With the Central Strike Committee and Central Bureau (P.N. Batashev, G.V. Cherepakhin,[3] R.I. Zelionko, M.I. Lebedev, and others) in charge of the strike, it had extended to all the goldfields, and included over 6,000 workers, by mid-March.

The massacre[edit]

The tsarist government sent troops from Kirensk to Bodaybo, and on the night of April 17, all members of the strike committee were arrested. The next morning, the workers demanded their immediate release. That afternoon, some 2,500 people marched towards the Nadezhdinsky goldfield to deliver a complaint about the arbitrariness of the authorities to the prosecutor's office. The workers were met by soldiers, who began shooting at the crowd by the order of Captain Treshchenkov, resulting in hundreds of dead and wounded. The local newspaper Zvezda reported 270 dead and 250 wounded. These numbers were used for propaganda purposes during Soviet times. However, one of the reports from the mine dated 18 April mentions 150 dead and 100 wounded.

Reactions[edit]

The massacre triggered a wave of strikes and protests.[4] Soon afterwards, the administration offered its workers a new contract, which failed to meet their satisfaction. News of the massacre provoked nationwide strikes and protest meetings totalling more than 300,000 participants, with 700 political strikes during the month of April, and 1,000 strikes on 1 May in the St. Petersburg area alone. The strike continued until August 25, when the last of the workers withdrew from the mines and moved elsewhere. Altogether, an estimated 9,000 employees and family members abandoned the goldfields. The number of strikes in Russia had sharply declined from 14,000 in 1905 to just 222 in 1910. Next year it increased to 466 and 1,918 in 1912.[5] Lenin argued that the massacre had 'inflamed the masses with a revolutionary fire'. [6]

Commission of investigation[edit]

The public demanded the government send a commission to the goldfields to investigate the incident. Interior Minister Maklakov dismissed the massacre, "So it was. So it will be."[7] The Duma commission on the Lena massacre was headed by Alexander Kerensky. His colourful reports of the incident greatly promoted widespread knowledge of the event, and also advanced his career from a backbencher to a popular leader of the Duma, as well as head of the Provisional Government of 1917. Joseph Stalin declared: "The Lena shots broke the ice of silence, and the river of popular resentment is flowing again. The ice has broken. It has started!"[8]

Lenin[edit]

It has been suggested that Vladimir Ulyanov adopted his more popular alias after the river Lena — Lenin — after this event, although he had in fact started using it years earlier.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Russian Lenzoloto strike in 1912
  2. ^ Russian Documents site about Lena execution in 1912
  3. ^ Russian G.V.Cherepakhin personal memoirs
  4. ^ Zelnik, R Revolutionary Russia 1890-1914 in Freeze, GL (ed) (2009) Russia, a history, Oxford University Press, Oxford P263
  5. ^ libcom.org/history/1912-lena-massacre
  6. ^ Melancon, MS (2006) The Lena Goldfields Massacre and the Crisis of the Late Tsarist State, Texas A&M University Press P167
  7. ^ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, page 210
  8. ^ Montefiore, SS (2007) Young Stalin, Weidenfeld & Nicolson P210
  9. ^ Lenin's note written August 10, 1904 in the Swiss mountains

Coordinates: 58°11′07″N 114°35′01″E / 58.18528°N 114.58361°E / 58.18528; 114.58361